I've always been somewhat skeptical of the whole MMO concept of gaming. The idea of paying a monthly subscription to compete with other (sometimes very rude) players for limited resources and bragging rights seemed to me like an online version of the less fun parts about living in today's off-line world. No matter where you are in such a game at any given time, its very likely that there are thousands of players richer, more skilled, with far more resources and experience than you, and beat all if they won't rub it in your face at every opportunity. Who wants to be reminded of something like that? Plus, not to mention the playing the actual game. Most of the time you run around and kill stuff. Or collect stuff. Or build stuff, or mine stuff, or take stuff to people in other towns in exchange for...more stuff. MMO's, I was convinced, were twisted masochistic and materialist fantasy versions of the middle eastern oil crisis, and I avoided them like the plague. Everquest? Please. Oblivion? Ha! WoW? Nooo way.
Then came ROSE. ROSE was not like other MMO's. ROSE was friendly. ROSE was simple.
ROSE was freakin' adorable.
“Freakin' adorable” easily sets the tone for most of the game. The art style is anime-inspired, with lots of cheery colors and big googly eyes. The environments are cute, and often look like something out of a stylized seasonal greeting card. The NPCs are cute. The playable characters are cute, the weapons are cute, even the death rattles emitted by saccharine sweet enemies as they are slaughtered is nothing short of precious. If there is nothing in this game that casts the barest flicker of warmth upon your stone cold heart, you are either in an emo band or Jack Thompson. Or both.
There are 4 initial classes of characters in ROSE. All players start out as Visitors and remain so until level 10, when the opportunity to pick a class opens up. There is a Soldier class, which is your standard melee and heavy weapons fighter type. There is the Muse, which is your standard magic and healer type. There is the Dealer, which specializes in making items, armor, and weapons with less focus on combat. Finally, the Hawker, which specializes in lightweight armor and weapons in order to move as quickly as possible. I scoffed at this until I found my Soldier running away a la Chariots of Fire from a hornets nest with no way to save myself because I wasn't fast enough.
As you may have guessed, this is not a game geared primarily towards the hardcore trash-talking, kill-em-all, PK-at-every-opportunity players. There is no graphic violence, no putrid streams of foul language, no grim armor adorned with animal skulls to aspire to at higher levels. Even as a soldier (the character type I played as), the most gruesome costume piece you have is a helmet with ridiculously big horns on it. Instead, players work to uncover mysteries such as who poisoned some local children, animal drug testing(I'm serious), cart building and racing (take a go-kart and multiply the cute factor by about ten gazillion), and some save the world stuff that I unfortunately did not get to. Where other MMOs may rely on raw competition to appeal to players, ROSE's appeal is that it is never quite predictable in what it asks of you, and in this regard it keeps you guessing. One mad scientist, for example, asked me to test his vaccine on some local monsters. Sure, its a standard beat-up-the-monster quest, but somehow its less tedious when its phrased as research. And just like in real life research, in this case your efforts are in vain. Oh no! What to do? Employ logic and try a different tactic in hopes that the path you're on will someday merge with that of the answer.
I had a lot of reservations initially when it came to dealing with other players. Anonymity sometimes gives people the audacity to be pretty mean, and I don't like mean at all. For the first few hours I would go and stand a ways off from other PCs and just observe what they did, whether it be talking with party members, leveling, or just standing around presumably looking back at me.
I found, to my surprise, that most people in ROSE are pretty decent people, at least online. No one tried to steal items or money from monsters I'd defeated, or tried to PK(player-kill) my character, or even heckle me all that much. So after I got over being all silent and broody and started talking with people, I had a lot more fun. ROSE has a nice, pretty laid back community of clans, and I chatted with a couple of clan members that seemed genuinely interested in what I was asking about the game and about how they felt about it. One random person who I didn't even know dropped me off some armor and a helmet from their cart while I was trudging across a desert, and yet another person made me a dashing beret to wear. Not because I had anything of value, just because. I think that's awesome. (Thanks, CrayolaFX and Random Cart Driver!)
The battle system in ROSE is pretty bare-bones. Left click enemies to select and attack, and utilize your F-keys(you have 4 sets) to cast special skills and spells. You can use items in the middle of a battle, which is nice, because you're going to need them: some of these monsters have almost unfair critical hit counters. More than once I've been left furiously clicking away at a piece of fruit because some dewy-eyed raccoon sucker-punched me after a long pattern of predictable hits.
This leads me to the other thing about ROSE that intrigues me: its storyline is set up in such a way that there is no neat and tidy one-shot answer to your quests. It is quite happy to string you along on one quest only to lead to an abrupt dead end in the story, with a few vague clues about what is to be done next. And string you along it will. Its disappointing at first to see that you've put in all that work for seemingly nothing, but the promise of a solution looming on the horizon is usually enough to encourage you to set aside your reservations and plunge ahead.
The time in between quests is by far the most tedious part. Leveling up without the addition of bonuses given at the end of certain quests is long, repetitive process, and can be frought with frustration if you're in an area with monsters that are a titch too difficult for one player. Just because this isn't geared towards hard-core players doesn't mean its mind-numbingly easy. I died several times before I settled into the controls, and on the newbie island I saw quite a few around me falling prey to initial clumsiness. Navigating ROSE is a trial at times since even tiny amounts of lag can send you doing 180s over the same spot of terrain until you settle in the right location. There is no easy way to move around at lower levels in ROSE. It's all click and go here, click and go here, until you get where you need to go. Which is a real shame, because it would have been a heck of a lot easier and less tedious to point a joystick in the direction you wanted to go. Alas, no luck.
I'd have to say I really learned something from this game. While its colorful and cutesy style might not be typical of all or even most MMOs, the enjoyment I had adventuring with other players is probably common. Most people, really, are pretty decent. The only real complaint I have about ROSE is that it stretches on and on with no end in sight. Which, I'm told, is the point of MMO's, but I'm half English major and I'd like a little plot resolution once in a while.
But I guess that perpetual adventuring is like real life too.