There are a lot of free-to-play MMOs that have come out of China in the last decade. In 2017, NetEase threw its hat in the ring with Revelation Online. It remains one of the better games when it comes to frequent updates and timely in-game events.
But, even with that on its side, Revelation Online is having a difficult time keeping its player numbers up. This is likely due to the game’s lack of focus on story, for all its gorgeous world-building.
Revelation Online itself is heavily influenced by Chinese fantasy author Jiang Nan and various pieces of Chinese mythology. The game takes place on Nuanor, a beautifully lush fantasy realm. In addition to human characters, you run into NPCs including pandas, tanuki, and characters who seem human but have the inhuman ability to transform into animals.
The game does a good job of easing you into a fantasy element without overburdening you with lore. You’re given a set of very simple fetch-and-do quests for your village, in preparation for a festival. The games introduces various factions when a visitor named Akuta appears alongside your uncle.
The game is every bit as gorgeous as you expect a fairy tale fantasy to be. Windmills spin against a backdrop of trees and colorful banners celebrating the sea god. Sparkling oceans bear boats made for journeys to the mainland. The boats carry goods for trade, as well as passengers seeking a world to explore.
The action is seamless as well. You dive from cliffs to make spinning landings on the docks below, offered a combination of keystrokes to secure your fall. Battles are far more than a sprite swinging an axe – you can spin to one side to avoid an attack, or slide back on your feet to regain your balance after a particular powerful swing. A lot of effort went into the visuals here, and it shows.
You have the option to create a player character with seemingly infinite body diversity options. It’s rare for an MMO to allow you to increase the thickness of a woman’s body, for example. You can also see the effect of all those options in the NPCs and other player characters throughout the world.
Unfortunately, the successes of Revelation Online are overshadowed by many flaws. Despite serving an English-speaking audience for years now, many of the scenes remain exclusively in Chinese, without any subtitles available. It’s a shame, as the NPC characters themselves, especially Akuta, are incredibly engaging when their lines are actually translated.
Furthermore, there isn’t a lot beyond the visuals to make the game compelling. The story doesn’t do more than drag you through an opening and then dump you in an open world where you aren’t very motivated to do much of anything with it. There are several factions you can work with and a few fetch quests, but honestly there is no real motivating end goal.
The quest system seems built to keep you from having to actually interact with the game. Hitting control + F has your character follow an automatic path towards your next goal point and even interacts with objects on your behalf.
You don’t have to read the quest text or even move your character to complete the game. It might sound nice to have a few keystrokes streamline your playing experience, but at the end of the day it reduces “gameplay” to about four button presses. It takes away what little challenge the game might have provided and renders it monotonous. This is a shame for an experience that gives you cool abilities like flight. It makes you feel like this game could have been a lot more than what it currently offers.
Simply put, Revelation Online is very behind the current market. It doesn’t offer anything that isn’t already available, which makes it hard to get into. It doesn’t have a large fan base or legendary guilds to keep you going like some of the other longstanding franchises do. Despite its frequent content updates, it rarely adds anything that does much more than encourage players to purchase in-game content.
Revelation Online doesn’t feel complete. For a game that’s been on the market since 2015, it ought to. Despite being free to play, Revelation Online is entirely missable.