Yslandia: Hands-On Preview

All is not well in Yslandia — but, hey, that means it’s ripe material for a videogame. Thanks to a row among capricious gods the world’s denizens are gearing up in their respective homelands to duke it out for control of Yslandia’s central island. As such, once the player sets up an account his or her first order of business is to decide which little minion’s shoes to step into.

Yslandia divides character creation into three layers: Clan (there’s two, a “Good” Clan and an “Evil” one), three races per Clan, and three classes per race. There’s no gender selection, with all player characters appearing male or androgynous, and this is the first quick clue that appearance customization beyond basic class individuality isn’t on tap yet. Nevertheless, 18 classes to choose from provide a fair bit of variety as is.

After establishing a character the player winds up in a training room where he or she can get a feel for the controls before stepping into the wider world. I’m really excited to see that Moving Player implemented a very smoothly functioning Tap and Go system, although one can also summon a virtual joystick by tapping and holding anywhere onscreen.

Interaction with various objects is a piece of cake: just tap on the NPC, enemy, or shop keeper and confirm with a virtual button to initiate whatever interaction is applicable. A chat window can be expanded or collapsed at will, surely making use of finely honed texting skills as players peck out messages to one another on the iPhone’s miniature virtual keyboard.

Adding to the overall smoothness of Yslandia‘s interface is a drag-and-drop shortcut feature, which is crucial here but would also find a comfortable home in other genres on this platform. The action in Yslandia doesn’t stop when the player ducks into a menu, so it’s best to tap and hold on the icons of items and spells that could be put to good use in future battles. Doing so creates a custom virtual button the player can move to a convenient area of the screen and make use of when the going gets tough.

As one would expect of the genre Yslandia has plenty of quests for the taking, and these will occupy much of the player’s first few hours on the home island of the Clan he or she decided to ally with. Thankfully the island maps are littered with icons indicating where quests can be initiated and resolved, taking tedious guesswork out of that process.

Battle in Yslandia is classic MMORPG fare, with the player’s character strolling over to a selected opponent and repeatedly swiping at it. If the player character’s class has access to an offensive spell this can be cast at a distance, but automated enemies quickly close in once struck from afar. Clearly the major appeal of Yslandia will come from organizing and executing massive player-versus-computer and player-versus-player battles. The Yslandia website appears to maintain a calendar of planned special events; check out the crowd that showed up for Moving Player’s “Rise of the Dead” beta testing event on September 9:

Yslandia starts the player out on a different home island depending on the Clan chosen during character creation, and I was very excited to discover just how different the starting experience is for “Good” and “Evil” characters. One account on Yslandia‘s servers supports up to three characters at a time, encouraging players to give both sides a go and see which environment they find more appealing. The player is barred from leaving the home island until his or her character reaches the 10th experience level, so the player’s early focus is on questing, level grinding, and forming or joining guilds that foster multiplayer cooperation.

Once the leveling goal is reached it’ll be off to Yslandia’s central island, where it appears players affiliated with the “Good” Clan will face off against their “Evil” peers for territorial conquest! Moving Player hints that new islands will arise from Yslandia’s seas in the future, so players can expect the long-term developer support concomitant with this genre. What’s not entirely clear yet is how much post-release material will come in the form of free updates and how much will be packaged as paid expansion packs. Otherwise the Yslandia experience will be a one-time purchase (probably at a moderate Appstore price) with no monthly fee.

In terms of interface quality Yslandia promises to be as close to perfection as a 2D RPG can get on this platform. Its long-term liabilities from my perspective are its current lack of a “run” option for faster travel and the player’s own aesthetic preferences, as Yslandia‘s cutesy in-game visuals are an acquired taste and character animations leave a bit to be desired on average in the build I played.

Anyone looking specifically for a fantasy MMORPG with a richly detailed and evolving world should keep an eye on Yslandia. If you’re unsure whether MMORPGs are right for you to begin with, you might want to give this one the honor of being your introduction to the genre if you’ve already developed a taste for single-player RPGs like Zenonia 2 or Chronicles of Inotia.

No word on a specific release date yet, but judging from the current build the English translation is coming along very nicely. Keep an eye on the developer website for the most up-to-date news and check back with iFanzine for a full review when it releases! In the meantime, the release trailer for the French version should give you a pretty good idea what to expect.