Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis (Closed Beta) – A Glimpse Into the Future of PSO2

New Genesis closed beta cover art and live times

Full Release Date: June 2021

Available Platforms: PC

Availability Range: May 14 2021 – May 16 2021

Developed by: Sega Published by: Sega

Last year, Phantasy Star Online 2 finally came out for PC in North America. Before that, the Xbox One got the North American version, and before that, it was only available in Japan (albeit, it had a pretty good fan-made English patch). Even though we only got the game last year, Phantasy Star Online 2 released in Japan in 2012, making it almost ten years old. As such, while the gameplay is engaging, its graphics looked archaic by today’s standards. Thus, it only makes sense to want to give the game a fresh new look.

Sometime last year, Sega announced that they were giving Phantasy Star Online 2 a much-needed facelift. It promised to deliver new visuals and a unique gameplay experience. The title for this new game? Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis. I was skeptical at first since the original Phantasy Star Online 2 was supposed to be released globally much sooner but took nine years to release in North America. That quickly changed to pure excitement, as they announced that it was coming globally as well. Since the announcement, I kept my eyes peeled for news on New Genesis.

Around a couple of weeks ago, the official PSO2 (Phantasy Star Online 2) twitter announced a closed beta where anyone could apply to try out the game before it comes out in June of this year. I got into the beta the day before it went live, barely squeezing in. Through the Microsoft Store, I downloaded New Genesis to try it out for the
weekend. Is New Genesis the fresh new take PSO2 needs?

New Genesis Closed Beta Title screen

One thousand years after the events of PSO2, New Genesis takes place on a new planet known as Halpha. During their exploits, the ARKS make peace with the habitants of the planet: the Meteorn. However, there is no peace on Halpha as a dark, mysterious, alien threat looms over the planet known as the DOLLS. Heading down to Halpha in droves, it’s up to ARKS to ward off the imposing threat of the DOLLS.

Other than the silly name for the enemies, I like the story so far. While we see glimpses of the ARKS making contact with alien lifeforms, they are hostile or treated like mascots most of the time. It’s nice to see an actual connection between the ARKS races and another sentient species. I hope we get to see more of the Meteorn or other sentient alien lifeforms in the full version of the game.

One of the most significant features New Genesis offers is a whole new set of
visuals, and by golly did they deliver. The characters, while still a little doll-eyed, look much better than they did in PSO2. The hair looks more natural, and even the outfits from PSO2 look better too. The environments are where New Genesis shines. Not only is the draw distance much farther than it was in PS02, but the water also looks much more realistic, and all of the environment assets got some well-needed polish. The character creator got some shiny new stuff added to it as well. On top of all of the available options to the player in PSO2, New Genesis adds more hairstyles, new clothing options, and new ways to fully customize the player’s character. I could easily see someone lose a few hours trying to make their character.

It’s pretty cool to be able to look onto the fields of Halpha.

Other than the new facelift, New Genesis plays much differently than PSO2. Rather than having the quest-based system of PSO2, New Genesis opts for an open-world approach (similar to Elder Scrolls Online). Players can roam freely around gathering resources, hunting creatures, and exploring new areas. Halpha has muster points scattered around it known as Ryuker Posts, where the player can fast travel to at will. Ryuker Posts also allows the player to make food from the ingredients they gather while exploring Halpha.

New Genesis closed beta gliding
Movement in New Genesis feels so intuitive, quick and exhilarating.

The open-world approach holds a lot of potential for New Genesis. No longer does the world feel like a background to the constant monster slaying. I loved exploring new areas in New Genesis as it gave me more things to see and do. What’s more, players can wall jump, sprint, and glide, making the player much nimbler and exploration exciting. Not only can players upgrade their weapons as they could in PSO2, but New Genesis also introduces Multi-Weapons: the ability to combine two weapons types for maximum variety. My primary weapon in New Genesis was a rifle I combined with a sword to deal with enemies from afar and up close. I feel like the Multi-Weapon system will allow players to make truly crazy weapon combinations.

My experience installing PSO2 from the Microsoft store last year left me skittish about installing anything from there. I am happy to report I’ve had no issues with installing New Genesis from it this time. I hope that whatever was affecting PSO2 during its launch last year doesn’t happen to New Genesis, but the beat installed on my machine with no problems whatsoever.

Since this is a closed beta, there are still some things to iron out in New Genesis. Here are a few of my gripes:

While I fully acknowledge that there can only be a limited number of quests available in the closed beta, I did think that New Genesis felt devoid of things to do. By the second day, I already felt like I saw most of what New Genesis had to offer. I would also like more enemies in the overworld, as I’ve found vast stretches of nothing on several occasions. There are things to discover, weapons, and armor to upgrade, and they added Urgent Quests during the beta, but I feel adding a little more enemies and gathering points could spice up the game quite a bit.

This was the full map size of the Closed Beta. Pretty big, but the invisible walls were obvious.

One thing I regret not doing in New Genesis’ closed beta was spending more time upgrading my weapons. I was hoping I would find better weapons down the line, but that did not happen. I bring this up because I felt the enemies took a lot more hits than I found ideal. One example I can give was of a trial enemy with six players (including myself) shooting it, slashing it, punching it, and generally beating to a pulp for a good 10 minutes. The enemies hit the players like trucks, but I felt like we were annoying the enemy more than hurting it.

During my time with New Genesis, I noticed Just Attacks were absent. For those unaware, in PSO2, if the player times a follow-up attack at the right moment, they will deal more damage to their target. This is called a Just Attack. I’m not sure if they removed Just Attacks in New Genesis, but I feel it would help with the taking on the bullet-sponge enemies if they kept that in New Genesis.

New Genesis has a lot of potential. The new visuals are gorgeous, and the open-world idea is exciting. If they add more enemies, more quests, Just Attacks, and more gathering points, along with more areas to explore, New Genesis could be a force to be reckoned with when it comes out this June.

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