After twelve years of development, NCSOFT’s highly-anticipated MMO Throne & Liberty is preparing for its Korean release, but early feedback suggests a rocky journey ahead for its impending Western launch.
Initially conceived as a sequel to Lineage, Throne & Liberty evolved into its own IP during the lengthy development process. Speculation is rife that the game will make its Western debut in October, but if early reactions from the game’s final round of closed beta testing are anything to go by, NCSOFT may have a challenge on its hands.
Many Western gamers who got their hands on the Korean beta have expressed profound disappointment. Billed as a potential “Black Desert Online killer,” Throne & Liberty has let down expectations by swapping the promised action combat for a static tab targeting system.
To make matters worse, the combat animations are perceived as mediocre, and the inability to move during combat further contributes to the sense of a dated combat experience.
But it’s not just the combat system that’s drawing criticism. A key feature of the game, Astral Hunting, allows players to grind mobs automatically, a practice known as Autoplay, which is familiar to Eastern and mobile gamers, but less appreciated in the Western PC market. Coupled with a grindy playstyle, this system has left some players feeling as if they are playing a mobile game ported to PC, rather than a dedicated PC MMO.
The fact that premium season pass holders can continue grinding while offline has only added fuel to this fire.
In addition, the game’s user interface (UI) has come under heavy scrutiny for its lackluster design. Similarly, the rewards system, where quest rewards are obtained by simply clicking a button on the UI, is seen as another concession to mobile gaming sensibilities.
Further concerns are raised around the game’s premium marketplace, which operates using a real-world cash currency, raising potential pay-to-win issues. Whether this mechanic will carry over into the Western release remains to be seen.
Graphically, Throne & Liberty is disappointing. Despite promising trailers, in practice, the game’s visuals don’t measure up to its main competitor, Black Desert Online, despite the latter being eight years older. Reports suggest the game is poorly optimized, forcing players to run it on low settings, even on powerful PCs.
YouTubers and streamers alike have been vocal in their criticism. Jay Evenly branded the game “Truly Awful” after sampling the beta, while Neeko2lo donned a clown costume to mock the game’s developers and awarded Throne & Liberty a score of 0/10 while calling it the “worst game he had ever played”. Popular streamer Asmongold also took a look at the game during a stream which ended in him laughing hysterically of how bad it looked.
Despite the backlash, Throne & Liberty has found some supporters, notably among old-school Lineage fans who enjoy grinding and aren’t averse to autoplay features. However, the game faces the danger of following in the footsteps of Elyon and Bless Unleashed, both Eastern MMOs that struggled to establish a Western player base and faded within months of their release.
As the Western release of Throne & Liberty looms, the apparent shortcomings have served as a stark reminder of the existing merits within the MMO landscape. Many players are highlighting the enduring appeal of Black Desert Online, a game that continues to stand as an excellent example of the genre, boasting the best action combat on the market. Amid the controversy stirred by Throne & Liberty, a notable number of gamers have voiced their intention to return to the tried and true experience offered by Black Desert Online.