A sequel to the free-to-play MMO Cabal Online, developed by South Korea's ESTsoft, is quickly approaching beta. I got to take a short tour of one of Cabal 2's instances (with some of the game's developers leading the way and making sure I didn't get completely killed), which featured a number of increasingly more powerful boss monsters.
I typically prefer to tank, as I find hitting things with giant weapons is more fun than standing at the back of the crowd lobbing magical attacks, but the level 40 wizard I was given to play felt powerful as hell, particularly with his explosive, roaring, screen-shaking fire attacks and swirling ice vortexes. While I wasn't wielding enormous axes or blades, I still felt like I was seriously whomping on the monsters we faced.
The bosses had their own fire attacks, explosive pillars of flame that would target each of us if they weren't interrupted by our own attacks and debuffs. As one towering boss moved around the arena she left a massive trail of scorching lava, giving us less and less room to find solid footing as the fight wore on. The devs told me that if the battle lasted too long, players could find themselves with nowhere safe to stand.
Something I really enjoyed about combat was Cabal 2's combo system. I'd launch an attack, in this case, a fireball. Once the first fireball had been hurled, an icon appeared briefly on my screen. Tapping the fireball key a second time when the icon appeared launched the attack again, and if I chained these key presses together just right, the result was a four-move attack with extra damage dealt at the end of the combo (plus some cool animations for each stage).
It took a few fights to get the timing down, but once I did I got really good at it, and combos gave the combat a fun reflex-based challenge as well as the feeling that I was building and rebuilding on my own power, as opposed to simply selecting attacks from the hotbar and waiting for them to recharge.
There's also a special Battle Mode power I got to try, which briefly stripped me of my usual powers and abilities and provided me an entirely new hotbar with a handful of more powerful specialized attacks. With a short duration and long cooldown, Battle Mode is something to be used sparingly and only when you really need it—use it too early in a fight, and it might not be available if something bigger and tougher appears. In the instance we played, something bigger and tougher appeared every few minutes.
With my selection of powers, the timed combos, and Battle Mode powers, I felt like I had a healthy number of combat options at my disposal. There are even finishing moves: near the end of a battle, players all get an icon on their screen at the same time, and the first one to hit the key gets to see their character deliver the coup de grace.
While I didn't get to see it firsthand, the devs described their plans for Cabal 2's PvP. In addition to a tradition 6v6 PvP area, there will be one called Forgotten Desert, an 18v18 battleground that, interestingly, will feature MOBA-style play, complete with lanes and turrets, and merchants that sell upgraded gear.
Besides the glass cannon wizard I played, there are five other classes: the heavily armored warrior, a sort of all-around fighter; the force shielder who acts as tank with stuns, taunts, and the ability to soak up damage; the force blader who deals high damage but can't withstand a whole lot himself; the force archer who debuffs monsters and bosses; and the priest, who acts as a traditional healer. Each have their own combo moves and powerful Battle Modes.
Naturally, being a free-to-play title, there will be paid transactions for cosmetic gear and other items, but I was assured it would be nothing that would change the balance of the game or fall into a 'pay-to-win' category. As I said, I only got about a half-hour of combat in an instance and a little more time to see a few sights in the overworld, but I came away impressed: the art, sound, and animations are all enjoyable, and I found the combat more exciting than I have in my admittedly limited time in a handful of other MMOs over the years.
The developers of Cabal 2 told me they're planning a closed beta period towards the end of April, so hopefully some of you will be able to check it out for yourself. You can register for the beta on their site, where you can also find more info about the game and see some video.