Smooth as silk

Silkroad Online

By Joel S. Tan

Ignorance is bliss, as the saying goes, and this is exactly how I describe my first encounter with Silkroad Online, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game developed by South Korean company Joymax.

    While revisiting the world of Priston, exploring the facets of online life on the path to my Supreme Destiny, and reliving the wonder days in Rune Midgard late last year, I stumbled across a group of adventurers heading for the portal that would take them to China, circa 2 B.C. to the 8th Century.

    Nothing was out of the ordinary; just a bunch of kids playing Tantra—or so I surmised. So I went on my merry way and continued playing Netgames’ Fly For Fun while drumming up witty lines for my stories on Netplay’s Priston Tale and IP e-games’ Supreme Destiny.

    When I dropped by the friendly neighborhood Internet café, Tribu ni Miso, a few days later, I saw the same group and, as expected, they were engrossed in playing the game of their choice—Tantra … no, not Tantra but something else.

    I suddenly found myself drawn to the group (composed of four boys and two girls) and their game, which featured oriental-looking avatars riding horses, battling monsters with dazzling elemental energy cascading down the length of their weapons, and beckoning to passersby to look at their wares from behind, uhmmm, podiums.

    So much for ignorance and bliss. Curiosity ruled the day.

    After a short interview with the two girl players, I found out that, first, the game is based on real-world history; second, that it is free to play; and third, that the Filipino community in the game was growing. Being a consummate playtester and game critique, I registered right then and there and entered the game.

Welcome to the Real World

    The first factor that hooks players to Silkroad Online is its real-world charm, meaning its storyline is grounded primarily on historical data, both factual and imaginary. Second is, of course, the stunning graphics matched only by newcomers to the genre like Perfect World and Granado Espada.

    Like most massively multiplayer role-playing games, you and your avatar are thrust into the role of would-be heroes—or so I once thought. The lack of jobs or classes and encountering high-level monsters in fields supposedly for newbies both piqued and deflected my curiosity.

    During the character creation process, a player is asked to customize his avatar, including hairdo and color, and armor or dress. Choose carefully the way your avatar looks for this determines the defense set—whether Armor, Protector, or Garment—he, she or it will wear from Day One.

    Weapons selection at the start of the game is also crucial as it determines the path your avatar takes in mastery of both offensive skill sets—weapons and elements. Players are given the option to wield a sword (bicheon), a spear (heuksal), or a bow (pacheon). Needless to say, the advantage of wielding a sword, a one-handed weapons, over a spear or a bow is leaving the left hand open for a shield that can add to defense.

    The Bicheon Technique, which maximizes the use of sword or blade and shield, is further divided into eight series: Smashing, Chain Sword Attack, Shield Technique, Blade Force, Hidden Blade, Heaven Blade, Sword Dance, and Shield Protection.

    The Heuksal Technique, on the other hand, makes the most out of the spear and glaive (or poleaxes)—the most powerful groups of weapons in the game. Like Bicheon, Heuksal is subdivided into eight subtechniques: Annihilating Blade, Fanning Spear, Heuksal Spear, Soul Departs Spear, Ghost Spear, Chain Spear, Flying Dragon Spear, and Cheolsam Force.

    The Pacheon Technique is the path to bow mastery. Despite being weak compared to its melee counterparts, this technique more than makes up for it with equally effective and devastating subtechniques like Anti-Devil Bow, Arrow Combo Attack, Hawk Training, Autumn Wind Arrow, Break Heaven Arrow, Explosion Arrow, Strong Bow, and Mind Concentration.

Lightning Mastery

May the Force be with You

    As you go through the usual level-grinding associated with games of this genre, your avatar will also grow in skill, not only in the use of weapons but also magic. Since there are no set jobs (ie. mage, archer, etc.) in Silkroad Online, customization usually leans heavily on what skills you choose for your avatar.

Because weapon skill sets are more or less determined at character creation, this leaves choosing the best path for your weapons in terms of force or elemental skills. There are four types of elemental masteries: Cold, Lightning, Fire, and Force (or, from my point of view, psionics).

    Without going into too much detail, here’s a summary of the most poignant advantages of each mastery. Channeling cold energy into your weapons allows your avatar to freeze enemies, thus robbing them of precious movement and defense. Lightning, on the other hand, delivers strong shocks enough to rattle enemies and stop them from moving or attacking. Fire is more defensive, though, giving its wielder a “force field” of heat. Force or psionics, meanwhile, is more akin to what priests in other games cast, ie. healing, resurrection, protection.

Worlds Apart

    What sets Silkroad Online apart from other games in its genre, however, is its gameplay at higher levels. In more established massively multiplayer online role-playing games, the road to an avatar’s fame and glory lies in establishing a reputation in player versus player or guild versus guild combat. In others, its race versus race, like the popular Rising Force Online published locally by Level Up! Games.

    In Silkroad, a player will be asked to choose a profession when his avatar reaches Level 20. The choices? Merchant, Hunter, or Thief. I mentioned earlier that there are no jobs or classes in Silkroad. What I mean is players can shift freely among the three professions, unlike in other MMORPGs which restrict an avatar to a job or class that has already been chosen.

    Each profession plays a role in what developer Joymax terms “The Triangular Conflict,” which imitates the life of people plying the 8th Century Silkroad. Merchants profit from running a caravan from city to city and buying and selling their wares. Thieves, meanwhile, earn by raiding these caravans and selling their loot in the black market. Hunters, on the other hand, gain fame and fortune by guarding the caravans.

    Now that the Silkroad is open to Filipinos, courtesy of Level Up! Games, jump on the bandwagon and choose to play the part of an opportunistic trader, a heroic guardian, or a malicious thief.

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