The world of MMOs is vast, with a cavalcade of fantasy realms offering players a chance to live a new life as the mage, bard, or ranger they’ve always dreamed of being. A new contender coming to PS5, Xbox, and PC is NCSOFT’s Throne and Liberty. Seeking to harness the genre’s popularity and give players a new and expansive world to immerse themselves in, Throne and Liberty hones in on customizability and dynamic traversal to freshen up the space and draw players in.
In a hands-on gameplay demo at Gamescom 2023, I played through Throne and Liberty’s combat tutorial and got an in-depth look at the game’s impressive character creation tools, getting to grips with this new MMO ahead of release.
Before diving into the campaign, I caught an expository but cinematic cut scene that grounded me in the world of Throne and Liberty. The game takes place in the fantasy realm of Solisium. As part of a flashback sequence, a cruel army laid siege on a fort, harnessing a vague dark magic to reanimate an army of fallen soldiers. In the final moments of the battle, this violet essence bonded with a small child, and it’s implied that an undisclosed amount of time passes before we shift to the character creator screen. So, it’s safe to say that this chosen child is our protagonist.
I spent considerable time playing with Throne and Liberty’s impressive character customization tool, molding this digital avatar to my tastes. One of the best aspects of MMORPGs is often the process of generating a unique avatar that speaks to the player, and the team at NCSOFT clearly understood the mission when they built this system. Like other avatar creators, you’ll choose between masculine and feminine looks before being unleashed into the nitty-gritty of it all, and oh boy, did I get into the nitty-gritty.
You can play with a full-color wheel when it comes to makeup and hair, allowing me to perfectly match my character’s cut to my clumsily box-dyed IRL color. A personal highlight was the manipulation of facial features. I used a variety of sliding scales to tweak aspects like mouth protrusion and cheekbones, allowing me to conjure the ultimate chubby-cheeked warrior.
After some extensive avatar tweaking, I was ready to take on Throne and Liberty’s tutorial, which took place in a gloomy high fantasy forest clearing. The combat system is relatively straightforward and gives players multiple attack types to leverage against enemies. Brightly lit particle effects flew out from my sword as I swiped at my target, which added some fun fantasy flair to my fights. Better still, a timed riposte system brings a kinetic feel to battles – even dancing to the death with a single early-game mob felt full of drama.
The most compelling aspect of the tutorial came when trying out the game’s shifting mechanic, which alters your avatar into an animal form with its own unique benefits. There are many in the game (even a swan!) but the animal I had access to was a wolf, whose speed and size allowed me to run from encircling hordes of undead soldiers and fit through tight environmental hazards like collapsed buildings.
As I started to juggle the animal shifting, combat, and movement, I found my finger dexterity struggling to keep up with the slightly awkward nature of the key positioning, which made for a few uncomfortable fights. However, the full version of the game will be released with controller support as well as the option to rebind keys, and this will be a boon for PC players who may struggle to manipulate its extensive inputs.
It’s hard to judge how an MMO will shake out without access to online servers. Even so, Throne and Liberty offered an impressive cinematic opening to its fantasy campaign, with a character customization system that rivals many of my favorite RPGs. With the promise of dynamic combat and huge maps to explore, I’m intrigued by what NCSOFT has shown off in Throne and Liberty so far, and I’ll be watching for more over the coming months ahead of the Throne and Liberty release date this year.