Virtual reality MMORPGs have been a dream for many since VR became an at-home gaming reality. The idea has been a staple in media, with video games like Dot Hack, where notorious PKKER Haseo travels the virtual online environment called “The World” hoping to reunite with his love interest Shio. Anime and manga like Sword Art Online, even books and movies like Ready Player One by Ernest Cline have prominently featured persistent virtual-reality worlds. Everywhere you look, you can find some type of virtual-reality-inspired game, but the question remained: when will we have an MMORPG that can be our virtual playground?
RamenVR has found the answer to that question, with the anime-inspired MMORPG Zenith: The Last City, which actually hits the itch of two categories:
1. A new game into which you can sink hours and hours of time
2. A new MMORPG where you can grind your way to the max level.
Thankfully, there's no rogue AI or employee that plans to trap its players in the cartoon-like virtual world, well at least not yet. (I’m looking at you, Mika.)
Zenith the Last City was released on Oculus Quest, PSVR and Steam on January 27th, 2022. The game, as fresh as it is, has already carved its way into the history books as one of the first VR MMORPGs.
Even with the other well-established MMOs out there, Zenith The Last City, definitely holds its own. With max level 40 at the time of writing this and only one raid (dungeons to come at a later date), it’s best to go into this game thinking of it as early access, but don’t let that scare you away from this magnificent title.
There’s still a lot you can do and a lot that could make you forget your stressful day at work, at least for a little while.
Let's break it down.
In the Beginning
Like any MMORPG, your journey begins with creating your character and choosing your player name. With the game still being relatively new, there aren’t a lot of choices as of yet to optimize your character, but with the game in first-person view, is the usual level of decoration really necessary?
Currently, there are two classes of mage and the dual-wielding blade-master to choose from, with the third class the cyber ninja being released sometime this year. Once you choose the class however you can then choose your role from the relatively standard choices:
• Support- healing buffs and whatnot.
• Tank- the HEY LOOK AT ME enemy sponge.
• DPS - the "let's stand in an AOE when I do damage" class (sorry, flashbacks to FFXIV’'s DPS users.)
I chose the self-dubbed “Healy mage”. Healing doesn’t seem as daunting as it is with many other MMOs, at least with the Essence Mage
version. All you have to do is shoot your allies.
The great thing about these roles is you don’t have to make a new character to change your subclass or your main class. However, you will need to make a new toon completely. With your primary, role, and subclass decided you’re good to go!
You wake up dazed in the starting city with some relaxing music playing and your little robot friend giving you your first quests and tutorial.
This then introduces you to the main quest given by Mika, whom I believe is plotting to take over the AI world, but that’s just my opinion.
To find quests, you see the exclamation point on someone's head, and then you have to wave your controller to talk to the NPC. This prompts you with the quest objectives; some are repeatable and are usually of the fetch-quest variety, while some are just one-offs.
Thankfully, there are a decent-enough variety of quests where it doesn’t feel like a grind doing them. One quest that I have a personal hatred for has the player flying around a forest area (yes you can climb the trees!) and gliding in order to flip switches. On paper, the task seems easy, but with the game's immersive atmosphere it was difficult locating the switches on the map, as they are mostly high in the sky. Gliding is a huge aspect of the game allowing you to traverse the game's massive open world more quickly.
Now let's talk about what you actually do in the game.
Zenith is very immersive in its overall gameplay, allowing you to climb by reaching your hands out and grabbing onto something, much like an Assassin's Creed game. Gliding, which is accomplished by stretching your arms out in a T-shape, is the game's main mode of transportation.
Like most open-world games, the game relies on stamina, which allows you to do the aforementioned climbing and gliding. Now you may wonder if you can increase your stamina, and the answer to this question is yes! You can increase your stamina by finding a collectable called Tears which are scattered around the game's massive open world.
Combat in Zenith is interesting and varied based on your class. As a Blade Master, you swing your Quest controllers and hit the enemies with your dual blades. As a mage, the game plays more like a shooter, firing beams from your weapon.
Spells can be a challenge to pull off correctly. In order to cast a spell or skill, you have specific ways you’ll need to move your hands. For example, if I want to have boulders rain from the sky I need to point my avatar's finger down and move the AOE effect over the enemies and then you can proceed to drop stones on your enemy's head. (If I cast the first stone, that means I'm without sin, right)?
Kidding aside the game's combat is great, with enemies having their own AOE for you to dodge. This usually shows up in a red circle that surrounds the player. From exploring, questing, and combat, there’s a lot to keep you on your toes and paying attention. It will be interesting to see how the developers handle mechanics in future dungeons and boss fights.
With the groundwork laid, Zenith is indeed an open world, in which there must be things to do; so what exactly can you do in the game?
Well, the main thing, obviously is quests that are given to you by NPCs around the map (Mostly Mika who somehow travels to the next location at the speed of light). Now let me tell you, there are a ton of quests for a VR MMO, as questing is the main thing the player will do to earn expand level up. If you get bored with questing, there are what is known as Events (similar to Fates in Final Fantasy XIV), where your group has to complete a task in a certain amount of time, to get rewards and crafting materials.
You can even cook by activating the cooking station from the menu which then allows you to start putting the ingredients in a pan. For some reason, every ingredient turns into a dough-like substance that almost looks like you’re frying a pancake or hamburger. Then you have to boil the milk, which means you'll need to turn a knob and match it with a green rotating light which can get very annoying. There are other mechanics as well, like chopping certain fruits and vegetables. At times, you may even forget you're playing a game.
In order to cook, you need to gather ingredients. You make various foods that can increase your health and other stats. Oh, did I mention there are no potions in the game? So if you want to heal yourself as a tank, you better put on that chef’s hat! And hey if you don’t want to eat your cooking you can force-feed another player by shoving the food in their face. After all, someone's gotta eat it.
The game includes crafting as well, though, you may be asking yourself, "how do you craft in VR?”. In Zenith, crafting begins with finding a crafting station. Next, you just flip the switch located on the right of the station, choose armour or weapon, and then choose the levels of the item you want to craft. Provided you have enough of the materials required, you can select the armour/weapon and place the materials into the holographic version “to synthesize” your item.
In hindsight, the process is essentially the same as the replicator from Star Trek, just with extra steps. You can also enchant weapons as well, which works in a similar manner to crafting.
Enchanted items will show up with a +1 next to the icon, and having an enchanted item gives the player a decent boost to their damage or defence. To get the materials for enchantment, you need to go treasure hunting! These are actual treasure chests that will show up on your in-game minimap and contain the necessary items.
Here's a step-by-step on how to open the chests that are scattered around the game.
1. Shoot chest
2. Look at the pretty items
3. Absorb the items by grabbing them, and shoving them into your own chest
As with any online game, you have a variety of stats to keep track of. After all, what’s an MMORPG without numbers?
•Primary Stat - minimum level to use an item.
•Health - Your HP and how long you can survive damage. It’s represented by a heart.
•Attack - Damage done, represented by two swords used for melee.
•Armour - Your basic defence gained from the armour you’re wearing.
•Defence - How sturdy you are, how well you take damage, etc, represented by a shield.
•Magic - Your overall magic damage, represented by a little book.
•Critical Hit - Your overall percent chance to get a critical hit, represented by a percent sign with an explosion symbol.
With the game still fresh out on the market, there isn't a lot of endgame content going on right now. Most of what is there is comprised of Invasions, world bosses, cooking, and the grind for legendary gear. You can still craft in the endgame too, with various materials coming from monster drops around the zones and maps.
I've yet to make it to the end game so I can't be completely sure about Invasions, but they appear to be harder events with extremely detailed enemies where you take on mobs attacking the player party. For a VR MMO, the developers have put a lot of detail and attention into the enemies, from normal goblins to mythical tree people.
World bosses can be taken on and defeated to earn rare loot. As of writing, there is just one world boss, though it stands to reason that more will be added. There are plans for instanced dungeons as well.
With Zenith having cross-play between PSVR, Steam, and Oculus Quest, the developers had to find some way for players to communicate. After all, Discord is not on the Quest, and with no keyboard attachment either, there needed to be something different, so they implemented in-game voice chat.
Yes, games like Elder Scrolls Online have done this already, but it didn’t hit that sweet spot this did. There’s even a guild system and guildhall mechanic in place. And owing to the implementation of cross-play, you don't have to worry if you’re stuck with a Quest 2 and your mate is on PC you will still be able to get your squad together to take on the game’s challenges.
The community of an MMO game is one of its major draws. Occasionally you can run into a “bad egg” but the Discord community is over 120,000 members strong, so even if you’re the lone gamer you can probably find someone to talk to here, or even just someone to banter with. Want to set up the virtual party of your dreams? Look no further! Worried about playing the game alone? That won't be an issue here. Everyone is really kind and usually willing to lend a hand if there’s a question asked or if you need help.
As with any game, there are good and bad factors to take into account for Zenith.
If you already have a VR setup, or you're looking to go all-in because of this game, here are a few things to consider first:
- Great anime esthetics
- Extremely immersive world and environment
- Excellent combat that varies from melee to shooter-style.
- A substantial community where you can always find someone to talk with.
- Can be a great way to kill time, with a lot of content early on in the game.
- Great soundtrack that is very relaxing
- If you are a solo player, that can be rough in this.
- Casting spells can sometimes glitch with the motion controllers.
- Cooking can be annoying and time-consuming.
- Not a lot of endgame right now.
- Not a lot of variety in customization right now.
With the game being freshly released, you really shouldn’t try to rush it. Instead, players should really just take their time and enjoy the exploration. From the game's massive open world and relaxing music, to everything there is to keep you busy, it’s bound to keep you entertained for hours.
Are you looking forward to trying Zenith the Last City, one of the first VR MMOs? Let me know your thoughts on the game on SUPERJUMP's Twitter.
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