Where once the free to play game was an online, persistent world RPG with quests and dungeons and PvP arena, it seems more and more these days that it’s evolving into something different; something more like the FPS.
Short, sweet, round-based sessions filled with all the carnage and progression of an MMORPG. That’s the ticket, it seems, and Panzar is offering exactly that - choose a class, create a character, join a match, beat a team of opposing players, gain experience and crafting materials, upgrade your character - rinse and repeat for eternity.
Harnessing The Essence
It’s probably got more to do developing games for less cost than anything else, or maybe gamers are generally looking for shorter experiences to fill gaps in their day, but these types of games are popping up all of the place - diluted MMORPG experiences that harness the essence of the PvP arena concept and RPG mechanics, ripping them out and ditching the grind.
I’ll come out and say it right now: they’re not my type of games. I prefer my PvP with meaning and depth, and the idea of simply joining a game and killing a group of other players over and over again just doesn’t stimulate my entertainment muscles in the right way - that said, it’s the bread and butter of the FPS genre, and therein lies the heart of the concept: these games are the meeting point of the RPG and the FPS, and I think they’re going to do really, really well.
It’s not a new concept, by any stretch of the imagination. However, with the new free to play movement, it’s one that you’re likely going to start seeing all over the place. I remember old Quake mods that blended Warcraft 3 heroes into them - the idea being that you levelled up as you played, gaining access to new powers and abilities from the heroes featured in WC3. And it was incredibly fun to play.
Panzar is basically a polished, stand-alone, free to play version of that concept - and it’s very well executed. You begin by selecting your class - there aren’t any character customisation options or anything like that, only the most basic of RPG elements have been extracted (though, you can change the way you look by crafting gear - more on that later) - from a host of typical offerings: Healer, Engineer, Mage, Assassin, Warrior, etc. They all have different names, but you know what they are and how they work, and they all have typical talent trees to reflect their obvious cliche nature.
A Dash of Innovation
After you’ve created a character and played a few matches you’ll increase your level, choose a new skill to increase your character's arsenal and be well versed on the nature of the gameplay. It’s simple, yet elegant in its own way: combat is fluid, yet floaty, and the environments, though limited, are gorgeous and varied.
Though, it’s the crafting system that I enjoyed most - after each game, you’re awarded with a collection of crafting materials that, much like an MMORPG, can be used to build items and equipment after the recipe has been obtained. This is great, because it’s another reference to the fantasy RPG roots, and adds another dimension to the progression of your character.
Sadly, it’s in the crafting that the real currency system shows it’s true colors: while it’s definitely possible to use in-game gold to purchase recipes and materials, doing so with gems would get you there a LOT faster - meaning, if you’re not willing to drop some cash down, expect to be grinding away a lot of hours.
Corsual Conclusion: CORE
Panzar is definitely not a casual game, but it’s great for a quick bash here and there. It’s difficult to learn and hard to master, but there’s not enough variety to keep you playing for longer than a few hours. That said, the progression mechanics will likely have many players grinding away for much longer than that to upgrade their characters... unless they’ve got a good credit rating.