Phantasy Star Online 2: Why People Love It
The Phantasy Star franchise has a long and storied history, dating all the way back to the Sega Master System. Originally it was a single-player JRPG series that spanned four games, culminating in Phantasy Star IV on the Genesis/Mega Drive, a game that’s widely regarded as one of the best of its era. Since then it’s become a brand most closely associated with handheld spin-offs and a couple online RPGs.
The Phantasy Star Online sub-series began on the Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo Gamecube, eventually coming to PC as well – but its sequel has eluded release outside of Japan for nearly a decade until now.Similar in structure to something like Monster Hunter: World, but drawing more inspiration from sci-fi and anime, PSO2 helped lay the groundwork for more fast-paced action/MMOs like TERA, Black Desert Online, and ESO to move the genre away from slower tab-targeting games like EverQuest and WoW. This action-focused gameplay, combined with its unique flair and aesthetic, have helped PSO2 earn and retain a highly active fanbase over the years, and the Western release can only extend its longevity and (hopefully) live up to its promise of a “never-ending quest.”
Phantasy Star Online 2 – North American Release Date
While there are ways to play the Japanese version of Phantasy Star Online 2 right now, including with English-language patches, it’s not a simple process. You have to create a SEGA ID from a Japanese web portal, navigate a Japanese downloader or access the game via bittorrent, and then apply a “PSO2 Tweaker” program (basically a mod) to access the English patch. The translation isn’t perfect, there is no English VO, and you’ll be connected to servers overseas, but technically it is possible. With all those extra steps, it’s unsurprising that the impending North American release is what most fans have been waiting on all these years.
As of now, there is no specific US release date set for Phantasy Star Online 2, but SEGA confirmed it will hit Xbox One first in Spring 2020 after a closed beta that begins on February 7. PSO2 will then release on PC later this year with cross-play support, according to the E3 2019 trailer. An Open Beta is planned between then and full launch, but there is no date for that period yet. All progress between Closed Beta, Open Beta, and launch will carry over without server resets and without the need to re-download the game in full — you’ll just have to patch it.
When the Western version of Phantasy Star Online 2 does eventually release, it will be a free-to-play experience with an optional microtransactions.
Phantasy Star Online 2 Story
In Phantasy Star Online 2 players take on the role of a new ARKS Operative. ARKS – the Artificial Relict to Keep Species – is an elite task force focused on exploring foreign planets and wiping out dark, evil corruption across the galaxy known as Falspawn.
Just like in the first Phantasy Star Online, the story is split into multiple episodes that released over time. Sega announced all content is coming to the North American version, but it’s unclear if it will be all at once or if it will trickle out over time. The North American release will feature full English translations for all text, and English voice over for key characters and dialogue.
Phantasy Star Online 2 Gameplay and PvE
Compared to other, more traditional MMOs, everything is much faster, flashier, and more intense. Combat in PSO2 resembles a Platinum-style action game more than a traditional MMO, with fantastic combos, tons of bright flourishes, and plenty of special attacks to keep your thumbs busy. There are eighteen different weapon types to pick from and a flexible combat system that encourages experimentation with each new weapon you unlock.
In terms of comparable games, PSO2 is similar to other hub-based MMOs like Neverwinter, Guild Wars 1, or even Monster Hunter World to some degree. Players load into a lobby area first to go shopping, accept quests, and interact with other players, then venture out into the world(s) on excursions and raids. The majority of PSO2 can be played solo, but there are specific missions and events that require a large group to complete, especially in the end game. Most of those support queuing up for matchmaking if you don’t have a dedicated group to play with.
The vast majority of time in PSO2 is spent in instanced PvE areas. Leveling can be done with just NPC helpers, but players get a large XP boost for playing with other real people. Plus, larger-scale content like dungeons and quests usually involve fighting off lots of smaller enemies, gathering loot, leveling up, and defeating large bosses at the end that require coordinated group efforts, and typically require groups of players rather than NPC companions..
Phantasy Star Online 2 Races and Classes
There are four different races and nine different classes to choose from in PSO2. By the time you reach the end game, the race and gender you pick won’t end up making a huge difference on your stats due to all of the gear buffs and optimization that comes with a broader arsenal, but it can have a big impact early on since you won’t high-level gear to offset stat differences.
The four races, each of which can be selected as either male or female, are classic RPG archetypes injected with extra sci-fi flair:
Human players have balanced stats.
Newman, similar to elves in most fantasy, have a higher affinity for (and against) photon arts, which are PSO2’s equivalent of special attacks and power moves.
The CAST is a robotic race with higher strength and health than their organic counterparts.
Deumans are a horned race with higher raw damage and dexterity but lower health and defense abilities.
The nine different classes to pick from in PSO2 each specialize in different weapons and fighting styles, and boast their own skill trees to develop:
Hunter: a melee-focused class that specializes in using swords, lances, and gunslashes, and excels most at 1v1 combat,
Braver: versatile class that uses precision-based bow attacks and powerful katana melee attacks,
Ranger: a medium or long-range class that uses high-precision attacks with gunslashes, rifles, and launchers,
Force: the long-range caster class of PSO2, focused on elemental powers using a talis or rod,
Techter: support-oriented class focused on powerful healing and buffing techniques using a wand or talis,
Summoner: unique class that summons pets for combat rather than relying on raw power,
Fighter: aggressive melee fighters that use twin daggers, double sabers, or knuckles for close-ranged combat,
Gunner: standard medium or close-range class focused on assault rifles and twin machines guns,
Bouncer: an extremely mobile class that uses gravity-defying jet boots and soaring blades in combat.
In addition to choosing a main class when starting their adventure, players will also pick a secondary subclass in PSO2 once they reach level 20. Upon doing so, the skill tree and photon arts of the subclass become usable, but weapon requirements may complicate compatibility between some classes. Just like your main class, you can also change your subclass between quests.
Phantasy Star Online 2 PvP Battle Arena
There has not been confirmation that the North American version of PSO2 will have PvP competitive modes at launch, though it likely will. Even in the Japanese version, PvP content is relatively new – it wasn’t introduced until early 2017. PvP battles take place in 6-on-6 Battle Arena matches, which award cosmetic skins and costumes. The overwhelming majority of PSO2, however, is focused on PvE content, meaning PvP is a less integral part of the game’s structure and progression like in other action-MMOs like Destiny.
Phantasy Star Online 2 Closed Beta and Limited Rewards
The PSO 2 Closed Beta runs from February 7th at 5:00 PM PT until February 8th at 11:59 PM PT. To sign up for the Closed Beta, which is limited to Xbox One exclusively, you need to download the Xbox Insider Hub app and claim your spot. Pre-load is available now.
During this time period there will be scheduled Urgent Quest events that you can complete to try and earn limited rewards that will activate on your account when the full game launches. You can see the full schedule of Urgent Quests and limited rewards on the official Xbox website.
Will you be checking out PSO2 when it makes its way to the west? Let us know in the comments, and make sure to check back for our hands-on impressions with PSO2 on Xbox One very soon.
David Jagneaux is a freelance writer for IGN. Talk RPGs with him on Twitter at @David_Jagneaux.