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2029 Online is, obviously, an online MMORPG featuring “dark and intense gameplay” that is “not just about killing, but about fame and faith.” Set on a war-stricken alien planet called Helen Continent, the game centers around an ongoing battle between different species. The game was developed by IGG, a three year-old company that has already been responsible for 11 titles including Galaxy Online, Tales of Pirates and Angels Online. 2029 Online is the most recent release from IGG, billed as somewhat of a sci-fi interpretation of Diablo or WoW.

2029 has received much attention as a free online game and as a result of its quick development cycle.


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Specifications:

2029 Online

Game client installer: 339MB

Minimum System Requirements
CPU: Pentium III 800MHz or above
RAM: 256MB or more
Graphics Card: 32MB, DirectX7.0 or above
HD: 2GB
Internet: 56K Modem

Recommended System Specifications
CPU: P4 1.6GHz or above
RAM: 512MB or above
Graphics Card: GF4, 32MB or more
HD: 2GB
Internet: ADSL or above

Summary from 2029.igg.com:
2029 Online is a sci-fi based MMORPG. The story of 2029 Online centers around a galactic inter-species discord on an alien planet called Helen Continent. Conflict has become entrenched, as each culture refuses to back down and fights for its own survival and domination. As the foundations of justice and order crumble, a mass of brave people have risen up to defend peace on this war-stricken planet. As you progress in the game, you can easily develop your skills and gain a reputation as a raider of unique skill. If you hit a high level, you can run feral raids to solidify your heroic reputation, but remember, this MMO is not just about killing, but about fame and faith.

This review is based on an installation on a Windows Vista PC.

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Installation is a snap. Downloading the executable file, going through the standard motions and letting the installer do its work is all that is required. The game’s folder will assume about 1.65GB of hard drive space once installed. This is a pretty big free game.

Speaking of free, it is important to stress this game is entirely without charge, without limitations on game play. That’s a good starting point, no?

So what is 2029 like? IGG takes typical game models and interprets them into MMO format. Most people measure the game play style of 2029 against Diablo, with an online twist. It features an isometric design – aerial 3D visuals placed on a 2D axis – just like Diablo and other throwback RPGs and RTSs.

When you boot up the game for the first time and connect to the server, you’ll be asked to create a character. In doing so, you can choose from one of three classes that will greatly influence how you play the game. Human is the first option, which utilizes guns and rifles to defeat others. Second is the Dryad race, which uses swords and cannons as their weapons. Last is the Elf race, which attacks with wands and magic and has pretty low health.

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Conflict on Helen Continent is a constant, and each race refuses to back down and surrender. Right away, you start meeting people, taking on quests and exploring the world. As you play and complete tasks, you can choose particular rewards and build skills as you see fit, customizing your character’s strengths and weaknesses and designing them to your own image. This helps shape your character’s reputation and procedures within the game.

But before all that, let’s take a look at the interface and HUDs on-screen.

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Character and enemy names float above their head when greeted with your mouse, which is a handy way of identifying who is who and what is what. A row of icons at the bottom brings up all the necessary menus: backpack, quests, mail, auctions, guilds, and more. These are the central location for managing your tasks, your relationships and equipping your character. The bottom row is a bunch of slots you can customize based on the items to which you want quick access. Above them, messages appear, telling you when you’ve completed quests or picked up items. On top of it all, an occasional scrolling text bar appears across the middle of the screen to tell you about random game happenings from IGG.

On the top left of the screen is your character info, featuring your current level, experience to next level, mana and health. Bottom left is a live chat with other online players. On the right, we have the map options at the top and the mail and mercenary info on the bottom. Nearly all these buttons and menus can be hidden or removed from the screen as you desire. You’ll likely do that, because there can often be too much on the screen, and it is not uncommon for text to lay over other text and make reading very complicated when the game gets busy. The world map suffers from this problem, too, where names of places often overlap and become sloppy.

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When given a beginning quest, you have the ability to auto-navigate to the target. This can be handy, as you won’t spend all sorts of time aimlessly wandering the map trying to find the enemy. At the same time, it takes away that element of exploration and makes things a bit too obvious. Of course, you’re not required to auto-navigate, so you can always hunt at your own leisure if you want.

Along those same lines, there is an auto-attack command that sticks with you throughout the game, and will have your character automatically fighting any enemy that wanders within proximity. At the beginning of 2029, enemies won’t attack you unless you attack them first – because they are endlessly respawning, as is the nature of 2029. This mode allows you to go away from your keyboard for a few minutes and still beat up some goons if you are in an effort to gain XP.

Speaking of experience, it seems there is a level cap of 90. That seems high, but it takes little effort to build your levels. After 90 minutes of play, my character was level 13.

You start off in a “newbie camp,” which is a training area of sorts. Anyone under level 40 can hang here, while players above level 40 can come to train new players and gain money. The combat here is interesting, but relatively monotonous and at times can be exceptionally boring. As mentioned, the enemies don’t fight you until you fight them in newbie camp, so you can stand in the middle of a horde of 20 beasts and be unharmed. Fighting them takes little effort, as it is basically a click-and-watch-them-die fight for most foes. The average assailant will be hard put to cause you any real harm, so there is little fear of actually dying, and thus little brainpower or management effort required. Every now and then you’ll attack a “boss” character that is insanely strong, but if they kill you, you’ll immediately respawn and can simply walk back to where they are to find them waiting for your next attempt. Oh, and any HP you took from them in your last life will still be gone, so it’s only a matter of time before you succeed.

The above changes if you play for a few hours and venture further into the world. You just need the patience to get through the initial stages. Make it out of newbie camp, and enemies will try and end you, give you an actual test of survival and turn this into a real game.

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Control may also be an issue for those too familiar with keyboard-based controls, as nearly everything in 2029 is done with your mouse. You’ll find yourself clicking on lots of things when you don’t mean to until you get the hang of it. Movement is mouse-based, menus are mouse-based, the in-game auction house and mall are mouse-based, combat commands are mouse-based… it takes some training.

Weapons all have a special attack and a cool-down period after their use. Health can be refreshed using tonics, and slowly recharges itself when you aren’t being harmed. Overall, the game really does boast a pretty complex structure and goes far beyond what you’re used to seeing in a free-to-play MMO.

One neat feature of combat is a mercenary system. Straight from the get-go, you can recruit other attackers or healers to join your party. This can give you an edge on some of the already simple enemies.

Leveling up and gathering skills in 2029 isn’t all about upgrading your character or their armor, but creating new things as well. There’s a lot of gear in this game. A lot. And you can collect parts and make even more. You can even build new weapons and customize your vehicles. That is part of the overall appeal of 2029 – deep customization of many aspects. Buying items is also possible, both from in-game NPCs and the 2029 auction center and item mall. There are also large quantities of random item drops to collect while fighting, and you can always barter with other players through the in-game chat/mail system.

Characters are able to join guilds and fight against other guilds over control over territory and guild superiority, which is fun. Things like this come along later, giving you more of a reason to continue playing. Teaming up with others can keep the game continually fresh as quests get accomplished and time moves forward.

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The world itself isn’t anything that will blow your mind. The graphics are good, particularly for a free game, but they aren’t spectacular. However, that comes in handy for those with lesser computers, as the game will run nicely on just about anything. The real-time world is well put together, smooth, and while the renderings and character designs aren’t sub-par, they won’t stand out as anything you haven’t seen before.

Another important element in games of this style is the music, and 2029 doesn’t fail to deliver in that area. The score is powerful, changes between areas, transitions seamlessly between areas and doesn’t get annoying. Solid stuff.

One thing is for sure – IGG really wants you to enjoy your 2029 experience. They provide tons of support and interaction for the community, including newbie guides, free items to new players, quest walkthroughs, and even 24/7 live chat support with their staff. That’s unusually notable service for a free product.


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Conclusion:

2029 isn’t going to bash your face in and leave a mark as the most epic, intense game you’ve ever played. While the battles and navigation can at times be enormously repetitive, the customization options and overall scale of the game is quite impressive for a free MMO. Development and promotion are constantly evolving, and there is a lot of potential for IGG to continue growing this into a pretty solid game. If the RTS / RPG / MMO genres aren’t your thing, you will absolutely have no use for 2029. But, if those genres are your field of choice, 2029 is worth looking into and dedicating a few hours of your time. It is free, after all, and you may just get far enough absorbed that you find guilds and customization procedures interesting enough to even out the often tedious combat situations.

Ultimately, give it a chance. Get into what the game provides. 2029 isn’t going to redefine the RPG/RTS genres, but if it shows you some simple entertainment for a while, then it is a success. If you don’t like it, the only cost is a little time.

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Pros:
+Great depth and customization
+Free!!
+Huge weapon and armor system
+Community / MMO play
+Solid sound and graphics for a free game

Cons:
-Mouse-centered control can be tricky
-Boring in the beginning – newbie area
-Often monotonous

Grades:  
Overall score 7 10 thumb1 2029 Online
Design score 6 10 thumb1 2029 Online
Performance score 8 10 thumb1 2029 Online