.hack Part 1: Infection

Review

posted 4/10/2003 by Matt Mirkovich
other articles by Matt Mirkovich
DotHack certainly shows a very interesting premise. A game that takes place in the world of an MMORPG but is not actually played online. Players assume the role of Kite, a young kid whose friend tells him to join The World, the “greatest selling MMORPG/game of all time” with a user base of 20 million and counting. Although during the course of the game you don’t see what looks like 20 million people playing, more like only a few hundred. Must be a small server or something.

Once Kite/the player gets his login and character set up then its time to go dungeon crawling with your buddy who is this massive level 50 character who bashes stuff good. Once you reach the bottom of a dungeon you encouter a ghostly image of a girl who is being chased by this strange red mech looking thing. Curiosity be damned you both follow until you reach what appears to be a new plane of the game. Before you can leave your friend gets the stuffing knocked out of him, and is later knocked into a coma by an attack called a “Data Drain” an ability which is passed to your character and becomes what everyone in The World is after.

Once all that has been completed you are ready to really start the game and figure out just what in the hell happened to your friend. In a strange twist you start off at a desktop when you start a new game or load your data. This is on the OS that controls The World called “Altimit” this is your platform from where you start the game. From here you can change the desktop color, desktop music, check email, watch movies, and essentially get to The World.

Once you launch The World you are taken to a new title screen, from here you actually log on or you can troll the message boards for some information as to what is going on. Most of the time you will find new keywords for getting into new levels inside The World. Keywords work in an interesting way here. When you reach a Chaos Gate, which is where you jump to levels from, you select three keywords that are strung together that determine the difficulty of the area you go to, the attribute of the area, whether it be fire, water, ice, lighting or some other element. Once you jump you are placed in an outdoors area where you can either run around and find all the gates that spawn enemies or items, or you can make a bee-line for the dungeon and get to some treasure hunting, or if there is a special weapon that people are looking for in a specific dungeon then it means you are on your way to picking up a new ally.

The allies in this game each have their own interesting quirks, many of which I remember fondly of Phantasy Star Online and some not so fondly. The AI for the most part is decent, although you will be calling a lot of the shots. Most of the time you’ll be telling them to heal constantly while you just hack and slash at the opponent.

Battling in dotHack is an interesting proposition and is probably the game's weakest point. Think Phantasy Star Online but at a much quicker pace. There are no combos you just swing like a madman at your enemies. There are also magic spells you can gain from your weapons, these can be either actual spells or they can be special attacks. Regardless they are quite damaging. There is also the obligatory elements system, ice beats fire, wood beats earth, common stuff here, but it also pays to be attentive, because when you score an elemental hit it does massive damage and will more than likely wipe out your opponent in one hit if not put them within range of being Data Drained.

This battle system is far from perfect though. Enemies can constantly gang up on you and kill you. Whats especially frustrating is getting hit with a confusion and sleep spell. Once you wake up you inadvertently kill your own allies and then the enemies will finish you off. Not a pleasent way to die to say the least. Couple this with the fact that you miss on a constant basis until you find a weapon with an accuracy higher than 50 and you’ve got for some slow battles.

The Data Drain is another cool feature to battle, what it does is reduce your opponent to their base level, it also gains you either a Virus Core which will assist you in hacking protected gates, or it will give you a special item and is key to getting the best weapons for each character. A word of warning though be sure not to over use the Data Drain, for the more you use it the more unstanble your character will become and if at any time your characters status is at “Danger” level then be sure to stop or else you’ll have a system crash and die. I had this happen to me before the final boss. I definitely learned my lesson since I had also lost three character’s best weapons.

Not all areas are immediately accessible, some are protected and need to be hacked. This will require virus cores which you will find throughout the game from bosses and large creatures. The actual hacking is nothing more than plugging certain cores into one of four sectors and once you’ve hacked the gate you are warped to the new area which will look radically different than most places. There is also a special area that you are told about in the anime DVD that is included with dotHack so be sure to check that out to get some clues on where to go.

Graphically this game is mixture of bland textures and decent character models. There is nothing particularly special in the graphics but they are servicable with one of the cooler things being the strings of code that fly through the air as you go through a protected area. The music is nothing amazing either, simply ambient music that picks up when a battle is initiated.

The best part of this game lies in its story and presentation. Without those this game is nothing more than a ripoff of Phantasy Star Online. There are three volumes left to this game. And hopefully they will address the battle system and perhaps give some attention to the graphics and music. But even if Bandai didn’t address these issues and kept the story going as it is it will still be a story that once you start you will definitely want to finish.





B-
DotHack certainly shows a very interesting premise. A game that takes place in the world of an MMORPG but is not actually played online. Players assume the role of Kite, a young kid whose friend tells him to join The World, the “greatest selling MMORPG/game of all time” with a user base of 20 million and counting. Although during the course of the game you don’t see what looks like 20 million people playing, more like only a few hundred. Must be a small server or something.