Yet in many ways Sword is also the smartest hack-and-slash MMO I’ve played. It doesn’t punish you for dying, it works hard to keep the dull bits to a minimum and it gets you back to the action as rapidly as possible. There are instant teleport features built into some quests, plus a system of warp points between key locations and a readily available means of saving specific dungeon or wilderness locations and teleport to them instantly. This comes in extremely handy if you need to return to town quickly to rebuild health or re-equip, but don’t want to trek through a cavalcade of creatures on your way back. Once you get the hang of its quirks and eccentricities, Sword gives you very little to distract you from the task in hand. And with missions that come down to killing 250 dungeon-dwelling hunchbacks in return for a certificate, you pretty much know what that task entails.
That sort of thing isn’t for everyone. Like Diablo, there’s something about Sword that makes it slightly tedious yet utterly compulsive at the same time, and all that keeps it going is its attractive looks, a growing sense of family pride and its sheer, unstoppable energy. The great thing is, however, that you don’t actually need to part with the cash to make up your own mind. While there will be a retail release later this month, you can simply download the game now, play until your characters hit level 20 for free, and decide whether to go on with the monthly sub from there ($8.95, or roughly £4). Sword isn’t the year’s best fantasy MMO by any means – and we still have Age of Conan and Warhammer Online to come – nor is it the ideal starting point for novices. If, however, you just fancy something different or a good, old Diablo-style ruck with some chums, then it does the job in its own weird style.
One Korean MMO import that you shouldn’t be scared to sample. It might be a little dumb and combat driven for some tastes, but the relentless hack-and-slash action will keep you playing long past any sensible bedtime.