Phantasy Star Universe

Phantasy Star Universe Review for PC

On: PCXbox 360PS2

Phantasy Star Universe includes a 40-hour plus single-player adventure as well as robust online team-play.

Review Verdict Read Review
7Out of 10
Back to game info
It's got big issues, but it's easy to become hooked.
It's got big issues, but it's easy to become hooked.

It's got big issues, but it's easy to become hooked.

The similarities are startling. Five years ago I had my life slowly devoured by the Dreamcast's seminal Phantasy Star Online, easily clocking up 500-plus hours on the game in six months. My only break in all that time? The few weeks I spent ploughing through Zelda: Majora's Mask on N64. Fast forward five years and my obsession with Phantasy Star Universe - PSO's fully-fledged successor - is developing to alarming degrees, but Nintendo's Wii is out in under a week, with Twilight Princess looking too tempting to ignore. History definitely has a habit of repeating itself.

My first stint in the Gurhal System may end up being short, but it's already proven memorable. Having said that, my first experience of PSU was far from positive; Sega's decision not to offer UK 360 users the chance to pay for the monthly Guardian's Licence subscription with Live Points (something that isn't a consideration with the PC and PS2 versions) seems frankly stupid - especially when American users can do just that. Get those Visa accounts in credit, folks, or you, like me, will find yourself unable to play online until you do.

If you can't, however, there's still the single-player mode; something I won't spend too much time on here, as it's largely the online mode's basic gameplay with a manga-style story. What it does well, to its credit, is present an accessible sci-fi tale with all the trappings of the best '80's cartoons; a colourful cast, a stylised future setting, cheesy voice acting and some impressive boss battles. The real draw here, however, is the episodic presentation. Each hour-or-so chapter boasts its own 'Next Time on PSU' TV-style ending, so those with less free time will be able to pick up and play in short bursts.

That's not something I'd level at the online game, which, (when you finally manage to access it) boasts the same addictive qualities as its forebear. That said, PSO is over five years old now, and online RPGs have certainly evolved. Indeed, World of Warcraft is a far grander proposition than PSU, while Guild Wars has had considerable success with no monthly fee.

'Phantasy Star Universe is far closer in format to Guild Wars than WoW.'

Phantasy Star Universe is far closer in format to Guild Wars than WoW. Both are instanced RPGs with an action-heavy focus. On PC the subscription may be the real sticking point, but on consoles there's really only the more expensive FFXI and Everquest to challenge Sega's latest online offering. PC and PS2 players can even play with each other, while Xbox 360 adventurers have to play amongst themselves.

PSU's distinct selling point is the speed of its gameplay. The fighting engine isn't the most sophisticated by any means, and the monsters themselves are amongst the dumbest you'll come across in a game, but when tens of the things fill the screen and you have a well-versed team to despatch them, the core mechanics come together to form a compulsive, addictive hack-and-slash boasting a surprising amount of depth.

Visually, it's pretty drab.

Visually, it's pretty drab.

Indeed, it's when playing in a team of six fully tooled-up players that PSU really comes to life. The three character classes, Hunters, Rangers and Forces, each boast respective specialities in melee, ranged and magic-based attacks, and therefore each plays a vital role. The Hunters are potentially the most devastating close up, the Forces are relied on heavily to heal compatriots, and the Rangers are almost exclusively responsible for taking out flying enemies. This separation of skills means that you'll really need to work as a team to get anywhere, whilst striving to improve your character's skills at the same time.

Areas also boast their own very individual feel, ranging from a very PSO-esque Forest-like Parum, to the oriental style of Neudaiz, and the forebodingly barren plains of Moatoob. You'll even visit a few unnerving technological fortresses reminiscent of later areas from Xbox and GameCube PSO - something which fans will no doubt recognise and appreciate.

It's sad, then, that the game's opening area, the Linear Line Platform aboard the Guardians Colony space station, is so bland and uninviting by contrast. The visuals themselves feel decidedly current-gen, no doubt because the PlayStation 2 was the lead platform. Other than some HD sheen on the 360 and PC, all versions look practically the same.

New stuff to check out

12 Comments

To add your comment, please login or register

User Comments

Mark_S's Avatar

Mark_S

What can I say, I guess I'm just a hopeless roMMOmantic. :-p
Posted 15:28 on 02 October 2008
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister@ Mark_S

Subscribe for one month then cancel if you don't enjoy what you see, is my advice. I think I've cancelled PSU 3 times now, I'm cancelling again in November for when I go back to WoW.

I prefer to think of my mmo's as ports in storms rather than one true loves, commitment isn't one of my strong points :)
Posted 15:18 on 02 October 2008
Mark_S's Avatar

Mark_S

If I'm committing to an MMO then the cost of the monthly sub is hardly an isue, really.

It's more that, having loved PSO so much, and being underwhelmed after a few months on PSU, the thought of giving it yet another try is something akin to revisiting a really great relationship that suddenly went stale.

PSO holds such a fond place in the gaming part of my heart that it's actually something of a problem. :-/ And yet, my heart says to give it a shot.
Posted 14:31 on 02 October 2008
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister@ Mark_S

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark_S
Good stuff, cheers for that. :)

Although it's not exactly inspiring that you'd just switched back to WoW when you wrote that - especially since they're the two titles I'm currently deciding between!

I play both :) Currently I've got WoW on ice until the next expansion and am working my way from level 122 to 140 in PSU.

Check out Warhammer Online also, a lot of ex-WoW players seem to like it, including Wes.

If I had to shoot one of my babies? I'd stay with WoW and put a bullet in PSU on the basis that I doubt I'll ever finish everything WoW has to offer. PSU is £2 a month cheaper though...
Posted 13:51 on 02 October 2008
Mark_S's Avatar

Mark_S

Good stuff, cheers for that. :)

Although it's not exactly inspiring that you'd just switched back to WoW when you wrote that - especially since they're the two titles I'm currently deciding between!
Posted 13:42 on 02 October 2008
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister@ Mark_S

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark_S
FantasyMesister - very interesting!

I've not actually played in over a year now. Are there any sites with user experience feature articles on PSU that you know of?

Best I can offer is going to the main press review sites and scanning through the user reviews on there. There are a few fan-specific sites like pso-world.com and the official forums over at phantasystaruniverse.com which you can use to try and get a 'feel' for how the game is doing but nothing specific on user experience feature articles.

When I wrote that review update above back in February I'd just switched back to World of Warcraft, since then PSU has had a lot more added, SEGA seem to be doing a great job supporting it, they're up to Episode 3, Chapter 5 and the player level cap increased to 140 back in July.

If I had more time on my hands I'd be very tempted to revive my old character and get grinding again, but October 24th has a huge amount of great console games hitting on the same day so I'm holding back. (For now).
Posted 18:17 on 19 September 2008
Mark_S's Avatar

Mark_S

FantasyMesister - very interesting!

I've not actually played in over a year now. Are there any sites with user experience feature articles on PSU that you know of?
Posted 17:05 on 19 September 2008
hey's Avatar
Delete Post

hey

So can i pay for my gaurdian pass using microsoft points and not a credit card? I live in the US.
Posted 03:23 on 12 July 2008
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister

Over a year after this review was published there have been some marked improvements to the game, so I felt it fair to update this from the 360 perspective.

Having recently downloaded the Ambition of the Illuminous expansion (1600 Microsoft Points) and reactivated an old character that retired when he hit the previous level 70 cap, I was delighted to find a wealth of new Photon Arts to collect and skill up with, I'd guess there are about 100 now and all are still pretty much situational so there's no real 'best' option. Having said that being able to pump out 30,000-40,000 damage with an Axe is quite appealing if you're into the melee aspect of combat. There's a ton of content that had been released over the previous months to investigate, a host of new missions, several new bosses, new regular events and so on.

Melee combat in particular has now been tweaked from the previous 'just whack 3 buttons to produce a combo' to 'time your button presses carefully to ensure your next hit has a chance of criticality', which makes the combat a little more cerebral.

There are two new Types to develop, AcroTecher and AcroFighter, new weapons (Slicers, Whips and Combat Support Machines), new ways to develop your Partner Machines and a host of new My Room decoration options, including an Ikea's worth of new furnishings.

Probably the biggest change is in weapon grinding to upgrade your weapons, previously if an upgrade failed you lost your weapon completely, now you don't lose your weapon at all, but if you fail 10 times you're left with an ungrounded weapon in the same condition you first found it. On the plus side you now get 10 chances to upgrade your weapon to a '+10' version.

The second biggest change is the addition of the Casino where you can spend all day playing Roulette and Slots with tokens (you're issued 100 tokens per day) which can be traded for a variety of rare items like music discs for your My Room Jukebox, S-rank weaponry, new outfits etc.

Other life-sapping extras include the current 120 level cap, new caps on both Types (raised from 10 to 15) and Photon Arts (30-40 for your main Arts, 10-20 for most of your secondary Arts), a current total of 45 Missions (it was only 18 missions a year or so ago) and the ability to shop till you drop because of the Makeover options (you can change your characters appearance from when you first created it) and the incredible number of clothing options, so you're unlikely to meet your double again.

The storyline can now be completed online up to the end of Episode 2 (the 12 offline Chapters are Episode 1) and, with the expansion, you can get cracking on Episode 3 of which the first two chapters are available. The storyline is very interesting, tackling race and holocaust issues. Episode 2 ends on a rather dark note whereas Episode 3 has a more 'renewed hope' feel about it so I'm looking forward to future Chapters being added.

Population-wise the game still seems comparable to a year ago, Server 1 is invariably full with the overflow populating Server 2, although there appears to be a marked drop in the Server 16 population which was traditionally used by the Japanese, maybe they've found something else to do with their time.

The demo for Phantasy Star Universe is still up there on LIVE if you want to try before you buy, but note that because of the updates in the main game there's a drastic difference in variety, the demo is very very limited in comparison to the full version. It's still basically all about hunting for phat-loot, so if that appeals I highly recommend PSU (£14.99 at GAME) and the AotI expansion (1600 MS Points from Marketplace) and a £6.99 monthly subscription (via Credit Card on Marketplace).


Overall, after my revisit I'm hooked again. If the original reviewer Mark Scott is still playing, I think he might agree with me that the game is now worthy of a pretty solid 8/10. Then again scores can be highly subjective...
Posted 15:06 on 09 February 2008
Faroe's Avatar
Delete Post

Faroe

How many Photon Arts are there and which are the best?
Posted 00:42 on 27 January 2007
mannik's Avatar
Delete Post

mannik

can you play two players split screen? on the PS2 version. like you could like with PSO on the gamecube?
Posted 18:51 on 18 January 2007
Caleb's Avatar
Delete Post

Caleb

How do i get my first free week on PSU for the PC
Posted 18:54 on 06 January 2007

Game Stats

System Requirements
Phantasy Star Universe
7
Out of 10
Phantasy Star Universe
  • Great team play
  • It's addictive
  • Online issues
  • Unimpressive visuals
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 24/11/2006
Platforms: PC , Xbox 360 , PS2
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega Europe
Genre: RPG
No. Players: 1 + Online
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 272 4
View Full Site