The Xbox One has two MMORPGs to its name: Elder Scrolls Online and the free to play Neverwinter. But in Japan – a territory not known for its affinity for Microsoft consoles – another free to play MMO has been out for quite some time now. That would be Onigiri (which means demon slayer), from Japanese publisher Cyberstep.
Onigiri is a uniquely Japanese game, steeped in that country's mythology and featuring anime-style character designs and story tropes. The gameplay itself has a universal appeal that MMO and action-RPG fans should catch onto pretty quickly. And it turns out English gamers will have their chance soon. Onigiri is making the trip to English markets this month.
Update 09/07/2015: Cyberstep just notified us that Microsoft has delayed Onigiri's release at the last minute over scheduling issues. They expect to clear those up and release it very soon, though we don't have a new date yet. Please sit tight and we'll report as soon as we hear of a new date!
Joining a team of demon slayers
Last week, we published a detailed preview to let gamers know exactly what to expect from the English version of Onigiri. We've been fortunate enough to have access to the game for a while now, exploring its ins and outs and even helping squash a few bugs along the way. You guys will soon be able to join us online as well because Onigiri launches in English markets very soon (date retracted due to last minute delay). And it's free!
The Onigiri experience begins by creating an account within the game. This account will permanently be tied to your Xbox Gamertag (for now), so take some care with its creation. Next you'll create your character – a heroic Oni (demon), with the option to create two additional characters as well. After a short tutorial, you'll arrive in the game's first hub city Onegashima and begin your adventure.
Many MMOs can be played either solo or with others, but few are quite as single-player friendly as Onigiri. Gamers can explicitly choose between Single-player and Multiplayer modes. Opt for solo play and you won't run into anybody else, but the game will also be a lot harder without help. AI partners will join up over the course of the game, evening the odds somewhat.
Teaming up with friends is the real way to play. Even if you don't have any friends playing, finding party members is a snap. The person who creates a party enters a recruiting phrase and selects the requirements and goals for the party. Other players then see all of that info in a "Party box" floating above the leader's head. It's a bit visually distracting (and we hope Cyberstep adds an option to hide the box), but nobody ever has to look hard for a party to join.
Taking on monsters and dungeons
Once you're in a group, you can set out into the world of ancient Japan to hunt monsters and complete quests. Teaming up to take out a horde of Kappa and other mythical beasts certainly make things easier, but a divide and conquer approach works as well. All party members in the same area earn XP from other members' kills. Item and gold drops are shared for everyone too, so the whole crew gets their fair share of the loot.
The most useful purpose for partying up is to take on dungeons together. Onigiri offers many, many dungeons, each with three difficulty levels. To handle the higher difficulty levels, you'll want a skilled group on your side. Dungeons actually scale based on the number of players, though, adding extra enemies and bosses to keep heroes on their toes. Achievements for clearing dungeons with perfect SS ranks and on Hell difficulty will keep dungeon-minded players in demand.
Speaking of dungeons, players get three free revives per dungeon. If you want to revive more than that (or without a penalty against your rank on that dungeon), you'll have to buy Soul Eggs with premium currency. Other than that, premium currency is suitable for inventory upgrades, a few buffing items, and premium clothing. You won't find many free to play games monetized as fairly as Onigiri.
To learn more about Onigiri's gameplay, read our original preview!
First Xbox One, then PlayStation 4
Cyberstep plans to launch the English Xbox One version of Onigiri very soon (date retracted due to last minute delay). Some players have managed to download the game in advance, but the actual server won't open up until release day.
Onigiri is also coming to PlayStation 4 in English markets shortly after the Xbox One version. Cyberstep will announce the PS4 release date on the Onigiri Facebook page in the weeks to come. No, the console games won't be cross-platform with each other, nor the PC version.
Are you looking forward to playing Onigiri? Leave a comment to let us know!