RF Online seems like just another MMORPG, but it should be more aptly labelled a Massively Multiplayer Online PvP (player-versus-player) game.
It's similar to Guild Wars, except instead of individually attacking each other, RF Online promotes unity within your race of choice and attacks against other races for victory. There are three races available for your satisfaction, and each race fulfils a different aspect of power.
The Accretia is a robot race, made for melee; the Cora is a mystical, elf-like race, best for spell-casting and ranged classes; and the Bellatio is the kid-like race, full of intelligence and engineering skills. In the beginning, players are faced with relatively easy levelling (experienced gamers could get to level 10 in their first night). Nonetheless, "grinding" (performing repetitive tasks to gain experience) seems to be the dismal reality for the beginning stages of RF Online. For those who are used to the interface of World of Warcraft, where levelling is smooth and quick in the early stages, RF Online will seem like a disappointment.
One of the main reasons anyone would play RF Online (besides to gawk at the pretty elf girls) is to participate in the Chip Wars. These occur every eight hours and last for three hours. There are chips for two opposing sides, and the goal is for your race to hack away at that chip and destroy it before the other team destroys yours.
These chips are incredibly resilient and have an obnoxiously high amount of HP, so you'll need a fairly buff group to destroy the chip. The reward is access to the rich mine, as well as more money and materials to upgrade weapons until the next Chip War.
RF Online's best feature is its elaborate in-game economy. There are two ways for players to gain money: through ores and through gold, both tradable for your race's currency. Mining will yield ores that are either traded for currency or processed for materials that upgrade your equipment. Gold is the universal currency, upon which the economy is based. To exchange your gold for a race-specific currency, players must pay a tax. The tax is based on the ratio between currency in circulation and the amount of gold in circulation. The more gold players hold, the higher the tax will be. It's a balanced economy that prevents one race from becoming too powerful. Such a system seems to work well in this world.
The anime-inspired graphic engine is gorgeous and the music is an interesting mix of electronic pop and ambient melodies, depending on what your character is doing. You get a choice between mouse and keyboard character control. The latter is more suited for PvP battles, while the mouse-based control scheme is better for levelling/grinding. There's no jumping over objects and at times there are pathing issues, but overall the controls feel solid, once you get used to them.
All in all, RF Online is an MMO that focuses more on battles and less on stories and quests. Those who lust after solid plots and definitive quests can stick to World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XI. For those who just want to log on and kick butt, RF Online is the prescription for you.
Verdict: Great anime-inspired graphics and an accessible virtual world. Definitely not one for the story- and quest-based role-playing gamer, but it is a PvP arena that lets you log on and kick butt in no time at all.
Score: 4 out of 5
Price: $99.95 + $US14.99/month