This article is written in partnership with UNDECEMBER.
As the video game industry has developed, in-game freedom has become ever more popular. Some of the most popular titles throughout the past decade have held an emphasis on offering as much control and room for experimentation as possible — open-world games, 3D sandbox games, etc. With this trend in mind, developers have found success applying this idea to other genres.
With UNDECEMBER, LINE Games does so for the ARPG. The Korean developer has created a game that adheres closely to the philosophy of in-game freedom, while still having the same core elements that will satisfy even the most hardcore hack-and-slash ARPG fans. Off the bat, this game is worth it for anyone to try out. The fact that it’s free to play — it’s a no-brainer.
Before mentioning the multiple ways in which UNDECEMBER emphasizes an organic in-game experience, it has to be mentioned how great the atmosphere of the game is. In almost every respect, the world that has been created here is one any ARPG fan will be happy to explore. The 10-act story is both substantial and memorable — fun tokens of lore peppered throughout the main game. All of the cutscenes and dialogue have voice options that is solid as well — an important factor in driving how the dark fantasy world the developers wanted to create.
Other aspects of the game that would perhaps go unnoticed when initially playing make the hack-and-slash combat that much more exciting. The sound design is stimulating, the character designs are detailed and interesting, and the flashy animations will have you wanting to waste no time between battles.
This is doubly true because of how buttery-smooth the controls are. For most of my playthrough I enjoyed the game on the gamepad — the controls rapidly becoming second nature. There is no auto-play, so gamers can enjoy all the fun of properly their characters. What was more surprising was how smooth the transition was to other control types — touch screen on the smartphone and mouse and keyboard on PC handling well. What’s neat is that the game allows players to enjoy crossplay: friends on the PC and smartphone having the option to play together on separate platforms. Even out-of-game, the Zodiac system emphasizes freedom.
Of course, the key component of the game — and perhaps it’s most unique feature — is its classless combat setup. Compared to the somewhat restrictive nature of a lot of ARPG titles, UNDECEMBER’s primary focus is offering players as much freedom as possible to build out their characters. In a lot of ARPG titles, a player’s choice of class can put tight restraints on the rest of their adventure. They may want to learn the initial mechanics with something simple such as a melee sword. However, that decision often forces them to stay in that role for as long as they’re playing with that character.
In UNDECEMBER, it’s much different. A player could well have a similar start — beginning their journey swinging a melee sword. However, if they want to take that sword and move onto casting magic, they can. If they want to summon minions with that sword, they can. The name of the game is choice — and players of UNDECEMBER will find very few restrictions in building as unique of characters as they’d like.
The game possesses three main features: the Gear system, the Rune system, and the Zodiac system. The Gear system incentivizes the game’s farming mechanics — allowing players to potentially pick up some exciting loot. The Gear system prevents the game from ever deteriorating to mindless grinding, helping to keep you engaged throughout.
The game’s Zodiac is complex enough to give hardcore players enough room to try out crazy builds, while not being overwhelming to more inexperienced players. The First Growth Axis accounts for the character’s main attributes (Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence), while the Second Growth Axis allows players to build themselves out in more unique ways.
The Rune system is perhaps the most interesting mechanic of the game. Through a system of Skill and Link Runes — Runes that attach to one another in tons of combinations — players can create their own unique skill combinations (something relevant to battle). Considering there are more than one-hundred runes at launch — the combinations are almost infinite, and players can have fun simply experimenting with all the crazy combinations.
Overall, UNDECEMBER is a very exciting title. Not only does it hit the mark in being a very well-designed ARPG, its classless system makes it something worth trying for modern gamers not familiar with the genre, as well as hardcore fans of hack-and-slash ARPGs. Considering the game is free-to-play, it is definitely worth checking out.