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Shining Lore

Preview - Korea's answer to the massively multiplayer role-playing game

Korea is a nation obsessed with computer games. Top Starcraft players earn hefty salaries and star in TV commercials, addicts spend days on end at LAN gaming centers, and rival gangs get into fights over in-game incidents. And yet to date very few homespun Korean games have had any success overseas. Phantagram are hoping to change that with Shining Lore, which is quite possibly the most completely off-the-wall massively multiplayer role-playing game we have ever seen.

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Shining Lore


Part of Shining Lore's charm is its anime inspired visuals, replacing the now traditional dank medieval worlds of most western MMRPGs with a bright and colourful cartoon land filled with bizarre looking creatures and cute characters with spikey hair. A world of edible slime, magical frying pans, gourmet princesses and armoured pandas. When Shining Lore launches later this year it will be set in the parched land of Enterole, with the landscape mostly made up of deserts, savannah, canyons and oases. As time goes on though, Phantagram will gradually add four more continents themed around the elements of water, earth, wind and lightning. Each of these continents will have its own unique climate and cultures, with differing terrain and at least five new cities for players to explore. This strange game world is presented from an adjustable third person camera view, with some eye-catching graphics to take in. Instead of simply throwing thousands of polygons at everything like most western developers, Phantagram have opted for a highly stylized look sporting blocky wide-eyed characters, gaudy special effects and angular architecture. Not only does it look great, it should also allow the game to pack more characters and detail on to the screen at once without overloading your graphics card's texture memory and grinding your computer to a halt.

Shining Lore Fashion Designer?

Classless Society

The other thing which should make Shining Lore stand out from the morass of American massively multiplayer games already on their way is the underlying gameplay and the sheer variety on offer. Phantagram want to offer more than the glacially slow combat and endless levelling of your character that most games focus on. An important part of this is the increased freedom offered by the character development system. Rather than forcing players to choose a class when they first start, Shining Lore lets you develop your avatar as you play, gaining skills in any or all of the game's five different professions according to your own in-game actions. For example, players who spend most of their time battling monsters will rapidly build up their fighter skills, but will lag behind in other professions. If you fancy doing something a little different, you could choose to focus on becoming a great cook, creating special dishes that can heal and give temporary stats boosts. You can even take advantage of "offensive cooking", such as spraying enemies with cooking oil or dumping truck loads of vegetables on them. Engineers can create more powerful weapons, either for their own use or for trade, while designers focus on defensive magic and the crafting of clothes and armour. Finally there are alchemy skills which can be used to create potions and magical dyes that will enhance the effects of items created by the other classes. And because you're not locked into a single career from the outset, you can always dabble in multiple professions simultaneously, or develop your character in a new direction without having to start over from scratch.

Nothing like a quiet night down the pub

How About A Nice Game Of Chess?

It's not just your skills that you can pick and mix either. Your avatar's appearance can be customised from a wide range of body parts when you start the game, and then fine tuned over time. A couple of hundred different clothing styles are available for the fashion conscious, not counting variations in colour, and you can even adjust your character's hair style and make-up. Having dolled yourself up, why not meet up with some friends down at the local café and have a few drinks? Shining Lore features its own special chat mode which gives you a close-up view of the conversation, complete with gestures and facial animations that players can trigger to express themselves. It might sound goofy, but given that most players seem to use MMRPGs as glorified chat rooms anyway, it may just turn out to be a groundbreaking development. And dining out isn't just a social occasion - along with the traditional health and magic gauges, players will also need to keep an eye on their hunger meter. As a great man once said, an army marches on its stomach, so make sure to keep yourself well fed. If you don't feel like eating out, chatting with your friends or messing with your hair, Shining Lore also features a variety of mini-games to play, including classics like Othello and Chess, complete with little animated 3D pieces beating the hell out of each other Battle Chess style. Or you could indulge in a little interior design, decorating and furnishing your house.

Look, just don't ask, ok?

Iron Chef

Of course, while Shining Lore offers plenty of variety in its gameplay, you can still just go out and beat up some monsters if you want to. As usual the game will feature quests which you can get from NPCs, as well as allowing you to set your own quests for other players. And if you go down to the woods you're in for a big surprise, as the world is filled with frankly bizarre "monsters". There are vicious little fluffy bunny rabbits, which look deceptively cute until they start punching you with their giant floppy ears, panda bear gangsters with Stetson hats and tommy guns, giant tortoises and flying cats. And that's just for starters. Luckily over a hundred different types of weapon will be available for you to clobber them with, including everything from axes, spears, hammers and crossbows to guns, darts and knuckle dusters. Specialist characters will even be able to use their tools as weapons, slapping a creature around with a magical spatula or wrench. The mind boggles. Compared to western MMRPGs, combat in Shining Lore is fast paced and colourful, with oddball characters and over-the-top Final Fantasy style special effects.


In a genre which tends to be rather formulaic, Shining Lore looks set to offer a definite change of pace and setting, and if it's half as fun as it looks it could offer a welcome break from the horde of dull hack and slash epics. Best of all, Phantagram are promising cross-platform support, with PS2 and Xbox versions to follow the PC release some time later this year if everything goes to plan. One to keep an eye out for.


Shining Lore screenshots