Game Review: Dot.Hack part 3 Outbreak

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

In the 3rd chapter of the .hack saga, "The World" continues to deteriorate as the virus spreads out of control. As the outlaw player, Kite, you must choose your strategy wisely. Not only is the OUTBREAK affecting "The World" in the game, but now repercussions are being felt in the real world too. Is there a way to stop this outbreak?

For those new to the series, Dot.Hack is a simulated MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roleplaying game). The game itself is called "The World". You play as Kite, who has been convinced to play by his friend Orca. Orca is attacked by a virus and falls into a coma. The virus spreads through "The World" corrupting it's servers and putting players into comas. The corporation behind the world is intent on covering it up, but as the virus runs rampant it is starting to affect the real world as well. Kite vows to find a way to help Orca and stop the spread of the virus. He discovers that this virus is more than meets the eye.

Outbreak is the third installment of the Dot.Hack line, the previous titles being Infection and Mutation. Each disk also comes with a episode of the tie-in DVD Luminality. Luminality covers the events that happen in the real world of Dot.Hack during the same time line. The Dot.Hack line does a great job of simulating an online game. You start at a desk top where you can either read the news, check your email or log into "The World". Once you are logged in you can either read the boards or play in "The World". "The World" consists of servers that represent different cities. These servers also represent the different levels that can be accessed from them.

Each game can be played separately or as a series. Although starting later in the series means facing tougher monsters and missing some of the event items. It also means missing the best feature of Dot.Hack, being able to continue your player from one game to the next. This allows for a level of familiarity that pulls your further into the game. It's also a feature that has been little-used in gaming.

The style of game play doesn't change much with Outbreak. As Kite you move through the servers, warping to dungeons and clearing them out. All while searching for the origin of the virus and a way to stop it. Kite still has his Data Drain and Gate Hacking abilities that he gained in Infection. Kite gained these by being able to used the ablility to rewrite monster data. Unfortunatly Kite has an infection level himself and by using Data Drain to often his infection can have negative results on the game world. Data Drain allows you to pull code from sprites and drastically decrease their levels while pulling out items for yourself. Kites ability to do this increases with the addition of Data Drain 2128. Data Drain 2128 pulls out rare items at the risk of higher infection. This also a way to collect Virus Cores which can be used to gate hack. Gate hacking allows your to access protected and off limit areas.

The level of difficulty ramps up in Outbreak. The AI for the monsters seems to operate a little smarter in this installment. They will operate as a group and even attack your strongest character en-masse or your healer. The AI of your other players was not so lucky. At times you have to repeatedly tell them what to do. At times they seem to have little initiative to do things that would have been obvious to a real player. Outbreak also continues the Grunty line by introducing two new gruntys.

Overall Outbreak is another great title in the Dot.Hack line. Fans of the first two will no doubt love this installment as the storyline really ramps up for its conclusion in Quarantine. The concept for the game is pretty solid and the additional information given both in the news and on the boards adds to the overall tone. Also the ability to invest time in a character and continue that same character through a series is a great idea. The idea of playing a guy playing an online RPG is a little strange at first but once you get used to it it's a great ride.

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