Monday, July 18, 2011

Lucent Heart First Impressions

Find your Soul Mate and fight to win in this dating-themed fantasy MMO.
Many things about Lucent Heart, Gamania’s “free-to-play social MMO,” will be familiar to most any gamer, from character classes to fantasy lore loosely inspired by Greek mythology. There’s fighting, revenge, monsters, chases, escapes, true love… Wait--true love? Is this a kissing MMOG?

A Match Made…By Cupid

Actually, it is a kissing MMOG, sort of. Lucent Heart uses a unique matchmaking and dating system that rewards players for finding their Soul Mate and interacting and adventuring together. (Although the term “soul mate” implies that you’ve found your one and only, characters can actually have up to three different soul mates. Talk about playing the field!)

There are a couple of ways for players to make a match. If you already have someone in mind, you can purchase a Cupid Key from the game’s item mall, which enables you to pair up with the person of your choice. Or, if you’re flying solo, you can use the game’s matchmaker, Cupid, the god of love. At specific times of day, players can queue up to be matched by Cupid. Each character has a daily fortune, determined by their zodiac sign, and your fortune level in the Love category determines your position in the queue and affects your chances of finding a match.

By now you’re saying, “Hold it, hold it, hold it…where’s the fighting? What’s with all the gooey love stuff?” It’s not just fluff. In Lucent Heart, pairing up plays an important role if you want to be successful. By putting their compatibility to the test daily, paired players can earn a 2x experience bonus for adventuring together. They can tend flowers with their Soul Mates, and the flower petals can become special accessories while the nectar serves as mana and health potions. Unique couples-only emotes give significant buffs. (There’s even a “tent” emote which creates a tent with the couple inside, which then bumps up and down. In other words, if this tent is rockin’…don’t come knockin’.)

Cupid takes some of your attributes and desires into consideration when making your perfect match--things like your age range, level, zodiac sign, and other special characteristics such as gender preference. (Yep, same sex pairings can happen in this game.) Matches are calculated and announced 3 times a day, and if you’ve been matched with a player a glowing heart will appear above your character. There’s no complicated eHarmony-esque profile system and no need to make a corny (or scary) video bio. Just press O to open your community interface, select the Cupid tab, and see who you’ve been matched with.

If you and your Soul Mate really hit it off, you can even take the plunge and get married. Getting married is a big deal in Lucent Heart and involves some careful social coordination. You’ll have to set a date and time and send wedding invitations, which you personalize, to your guests. You can invite as many as 50 friends to attend your ceremony, but only three are necessary to witness this “bwessed awangement.” Guests can interact with special items such as balloons, and you and your newly wedded spouse will receive wedding rings.

Of course, not every match is made in Heaven. If you find that you and your Soul Mate aren’t hitting it off after three days you can part ways--it’s as simple as hitting the “delete” button on your Cupid List, which almost seems worse than breaking up via Facebook or text message. Divorce will be an option for married couples, and although we didn’t get the lowdown on divorce when we toured the game recently, we suspect it’s probably more involved than clicking “delete.” Of course, when you break up with your Soul Mate you lose any flowers the two of you have been growing. Ah, the heartbreak.

Beyond Romance

While social interaction is what makes Lucent Heart beat, the game isn’t just about dating and meeting the woman (or man) of your dreams. You can have pets (including battle pets). And you can have more than one. It’s possible to find yourself running around with a small army of virtual critters who aid you and do your bidding. And there are mounts, as well.

Lucent Heart also gives you the decidedly cool ability to create your own dungeon by gathering your group at one of three Prophecy Assembling Platforms throughout the world and using items called Star Cores. You’ll need to acquire three cores of the same level to open a dungeon--a Creature, Scene and Treasure core. The Creature Core determines the type of enemies you’ll face in the dungeon, Scene determines the dungeon type and number of levels, and Treasure, as you might imagine, determines loot. Star Cores drop from monsters and bosses in the game, and can end up being worth quite a bit of in-game coin depending on their rarity.

On our tour of Lucent Heart we were told that dungeons in the game were not easy to complete and that, in fact, the developers have seen hardcore WoW players wipe while trying to complete one. Mushy love stuff aside, dungeon crawling is not for the weak. Careful pulling and crowd control are key to success.

Lucent Heart also has crafting, and if you want to make some in-game kaching you’re going to find learning a trade important. You can choose from the following trades: Blacksmithing, Tailoring, Alchemy, Machinery, Jewelry, and Card Design. Once you have some crafting chops, and you’ve acquired some recipes, you can hit the OEM boards, the game’s crafting marketplace hub. Rather than selling already crafted wares, you’ll be showcasing the items you’re capable of making. When a player with the appropriate materials in his inventory comes across your listing, and finds your price acceptable, he can simply make the purchase and have his item instantly assembled whether you, the crafter, are actually online or not--a rather ingenious system.

And finally, the Eventure system lets players sign up for and jump into daily events. Throughout the day, system messages will alert you to upcoming events. To get in on an event, you’ll need to either visit an NPC or open the Eventure (EV) interface. You’ll also need some gold and event tickets (purchased in the item mall). If you meet the qualifications for a certain event, you can click the Sign Up button to participate.

You can win prize money for achieving specific ranks during the event. And you’ll also participate in pvp fighting over contested monsters--may the best toon win!

Whether you’re a lover or a fighter, there’s probably a little something for everyone in Lucent Heart. This MMOG pushes social gaming to an extreme that many Western players have abandoned in favor of a solo-to-the-level-cap-then-raid mentality. A lot of careful thought has gone into creating the systems in Lucent Heart, and the game’s mechanics bring some much needed innovation to the free-to-play arena. The cutesy anime-style graphics and theme won’t be everyone’s cup o’ latte, but if you’re looking for a novel game concept you have nothing to lose (and perhaps a Soul Mate or three to gain) by giving Lucent Heart a try.

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