Aah, Love! The solution to everything! While most MMORPGs already have some sort of marriage system in place, Lucent Heart dares to take it a step further and integrate it into the daily life of your in-game avatar. Want to make out with your partner? You can do that. Want to kiss in public? You can do that too. Want to make an awesome long bench in the streets? The guys can pull it off (with some cooperation).
Pretty much half of Lucent Heart's features rest on the couple (Cupid!) system - while you still can go solo and make your way around the game world, getting a partner will add more variety to the gameplay experience. Couple emotes, buffs, and instance dungeons are some of the bonuses you can get just by getting a partner. Of course, having someone else to play with makes -any- game fun.
But more on that later!
=The First Hour=
Character creation is standard, with an added feature: The Zodiac system, which is the other half of Lucent Heart's gameplay system. The interesting thing about this is that, unlike other MMOs, your horoscope stats will change each week, granting various bonuses and disadvantages each week (ie. Love, Wealth, Combat ability, etc.). Having a high Work stat, for example, will grant you a higher chance of being able to craft items.
In the Prepare for Love! beta, the game dumps me right into Thereall, the City of Peace, with but a single go-to-this-NPC quest. LH excels in the questing department - unlike other MMOs, I could simply click on a button next to the quest name, and the game automatically directed my avatar to the NPC or target monster. There's also a helpful beam-of-light if I preferred to manually direct my avatar. A slight drawback is that my avatar would run in completely random and unexpected directions, instead of heading right for the target. Combat is pretty straightforward - tab, shortcut, kill monster, rinse, repeat, complete quest, get consumable item. The game also provided me with four default skills everyone has - and only becomes available depending on the situation my character was in. If I was doing a good job and killing monsters a lot, "Good mood" skills became available (restore HP/increase attack). If I was being pummeled, "Bad mood" skills could be used (restore MP/increase running speed).
In addition to normal combat, I discovered life skills. Life skills are 'sidetrack' jobs you can adopt to give your character more bling, and access to normally un-available equipment you simply cannot find in stores. I picked Tailoring, and quickly began work on crafting my own clothes to use (and show off). While LH is forgiving and provides free equipment every five levels through a gift box you can open every level, I believed having your own made equipment adds personality (and extra stats) to my character.
=More on the Zodiac=
Other than providing weekly stat changes, the Zodiac system also comes into play in the form of Astrolabe. At level 10, Astrolabe became available to my character through completing a quest. What this does is simply adds a "limit break" of sorts to the gameplay. There are a variety of "traits" I could pick from in the Astrolabe (you gain more choices every 5 levels), and it influenced the type of bonuses I got when activating it. For example, the default "trait" I had picked out added 50-ish to my max HP and MP, and also restored 50% of both stats upon activation. Later Astrolabe abilities are far more powerful (level 30 gives you your "Zodiac Armor" and insane stats to go with it, ie. +3000 HP/MP), and I guessed it's most useful when bossing or being in a pinch. The drawback to this is the long recharge time, but that is to be expected.
Like I mentioned previously, getting a partner is one of the (loudly) touted features of the game. By speaking with Cupid, anyone aiming for love could submit their names to get "paired" with someone else, if you're fortunate enough. There's quite a number of criterion to pick from, and my guess is the systemCupid auto-matches people with nearly the same amount of interests or age group (under 10? SERIOUSLY?). He'll try to match you with a few people, so at least, one has choices. A few perks I've heard from being in a relationship is access to lover emoticons/actions, extra EXP, and... growing flowers! Yes, growing flowers grants flower petals that can be redeemed for cutish head accessories. Only the girls get to water their flowers - guys, stand back and provide "Charm" points when she runs out.
I was given the privilege of attending the wedding of Chikane and Tsuki - and I would forever remember it because of the excellent PK session the GMs "accidentally" activated during the ceremony. I somehow managed to avoid getting killed (Shield Barrier!) and lasted all the way to the end. Wanting to get married is an expensive affair - it costs a whopping 500,000 gold to host one, and all I will say is they both have very, very good guildmates.
=The Things They Don't Tell You...=
There are several strange quirks about the game system of Lucent Heart.
The UI, for instance. I had no idea I could manually adjust the size of the game window by clicking on its borders. I also had no idea using the Shout function would consume "Battery" power of my "Loudspeaker" item, until I found out mid-way through a conversation.
Another example would be Item Mall equipment - in your typical MMO, you would purchase these items, port them over to your inventory, and equip them there. In Lucent Heart, you actually leave these items in the Item Mall inventory, and equip them from there! What this means is you CANNOT MIX AND MATCH your normal equipment with your Cash Shop equipment, which I thought was a huge shame. Want to sport those White Wings you just got from a quest? You can't wear them with your normal equipment.
And then, to consumable items. There are just -way too many- consumable items. By the end of the beta, I've managed to collect up to 10 different items that could restore my HP in some kind of way. While this may be fun for some people to collect, it just adds clutter to an already limited item bag space. I ended up throwing/selling excess potions and items that provided pretty much the same effect.
=And last but not least, Official Desserts!=
And of course, any game can be good, but any good game is crap without interaction from the Game Masters/Community Managers. I've always stressed that making your community happy by frequent interaction is the best way to keep players around for a long time to come.
I would like to extend a big thank you to Churro, for giving me my Giant Potions and Craft potions - to Mochi for the "Batteries of Love", Tiramisu for being Tiramisu, and CoffeeCake for taking all those blows from Mochi, during my playthrough of this Beta session. I would also like to thank Chikane and Tsuki for inviting me to their eventful wedding. Other notable people I encountered in the game included (but not limited to) Chi, Steveroxyou, Prince, iYuji, Balmung, DestinedPromise, and the LH Star, Vanille.
Lastly, I would like to thank YOU for reading all the way to the end of this article - it makes me really happy to have your attention like this!
-Koko (or LH players may recognize me as "Shizuru")
+Excellent (but could be fine-tuned) auto-go-to-target system for quests.
+Life skills - Make your own equipment, save money, look different from everyone else!
+The perfect game for the online couple!
I'm fine with this!
+Mob changes according to the time of day, forcing you to plan your quest targets ahead of time.
+Free equipment every 5 levels from Level boxes.
+Insane Astrolabe abilities (after level 30). Zodiac Armor!
This just isn't going to work out.
-Clicking elsewhere outside the Buy/Sell window automatically ends the transaction. RAGE!
-Unclear quest requirements for some quests, forcing the player to go through trial and error.
-Way too many consumable items that do the same thing.
Lucent Heart does not fail at providing entertainment, and will last you for quite some time! I had a truly enjoyable time in Pre-Beta 2, focusing mostly on my drive to get to higher level Tailoring skills. Most importantly, I have to say that the GMs for Lucent Heart are a very fun bunch, and if they can keep this momentum going, the game will definitely give you a truly enjoyable experience (aside from the weird gameplay quirks, but they're mostly forgivable. In Beta.).
Beanfun! is due to announce the next session of their (pre?) beta, so keep your eyes peeled on the official website!