Zenith – The Last City: A proper VR MMO

If you bought VR hoping for a proper VR MMO experience, or just want to swing around dual swords like Kirito from SAO, look no further! We’ve finally got a promising VR MMO game, built from the ground up for the VR experience, that isn’t just a gimmicky little minigame; Zenith – The Last City.

So far the game is probably what I would consider the first proper, fun to play, non-gimmicky VR MMO. The launch on the 27th is going to be the start of the game. The level cap is 40, the world is quite large and has a lot to do, but this is the starting point. The devs will be releasing much more content regularly to build upon this base hopefully for years to come. At launch, I’d recommend just exploring the world and having a good time, not just trying to rush to endgame, because while there’s loot grinding and an endgame world boss, there’s not a lot of endgame content yet. You can join us at discord.gg/EoG in the Zenith channel as well!

While I was unfortunately unable to play in the alpha or earlier beta access periods, I finally was able to get a hands on experience with the game in its most current state through the Beta 2 phase, just before its launch date of January 27th. On this page, I’ll be going over my experience with the game, and describing the systems in place. I’ll also link to a comprehensive feature log from the discord community at the end. If you want to join the Zenith official discord, consider using my referral link and typing the /referredby command to confirm it so I can look like Kirito. https://referrals.zenithmmo.com/v3c

Now for the detailed breakdown based on my experience

Platforms: PCVR (SteamVR), Rift, Quest/2, PSVR – All crossplay enabled

Combat System
Combat is pretty fun and well thought out, though you can still cheese it to a certain extent with the ranged class if you want to. The AI is decent at finding ways to path around to you, and will chase quite far if you occasionally tag the enemy to keep aggro up. If the AI determines there is no path to you, it will heal and run away, in an attempt to prevent cheesing from unreachable platforms, and this does work against the melee class.

The stagger system is similar to FF13; attacks build stagger that stuns the enemy for a set amount of time depending on the enemy and increases damage by a base 200%. Certain skills can further increase the stagger damage boost. There are also abilities that increase the duration of the stagger. Glowing red weak points periodically appear on random locations on the enemy, and inflicting a set amount of damage (generally a couple of hits) to these points significantly increases the stagger meter. It’s definitely more intuitive to hit these as the melee class, but ranged and exploit them as well.

Rangers can, at least in beta 2, out damage the healing of a running AI and keep it around by stepping in and out of its AI pathing range by abusing the fact that stagger accumulates even when the AI is in retreat mode due to cheese. Given that players have reported the cheese, it will probably be removed at launch. The devs have been pretty great about quickly implementing fixes based on player feedback.

Unfortunately, the game does currently use level-scaling. In low level zones, your damage is scaled down, so while you can still kill things very quickly with little danger, you can’t one-shot. You also can’t realistically fight very high level gap enemies, regardless of your gear. The devs may or may not change this, as players have expressed their discontent with the system.

Only two classes will exist at launch. All classes have 3 specs that can be swapped between: DPS, Tank, and Support, with unique skills (and sometimes weapons) for those classes. There’s about a 2 minute cooldown on swapping classes to prevent abuse, but otherwise you can freely swap, anywhere. Sub classes level separately, which means you’ll need level appropriate gear for each subclass, in your inventory. The devs are looking into storing equipment outside of the player inventory on the classes so you don’t have to re-equip every time you swap. Subclasses also have a catch-up leveling mechanic that lets them gain XP faster to catch up to your highest level class and make up for the lack of main quests. More classes will be added over time.

Blademaster: The melee class, your Kirito dual-wielding sword user, is probably the more fun of the two currently available to play. You get in close range (or throw your sword from a distance to aggro, though aiming that takes some getting used to) and slash away using skills and proper attack timing. The main factors are waiting the appropriate amount of time between swings (there’s an audio and visual cue, this delay prevents just flipping your wrist to cheese like a lot of melee VR) and the size of your swing. You also have to be aware of the position of your swords, as they will collide with each other, stopping your attacks.

There are free skills that activate by making three valid swings (waiting for cues) in a row either horizontally or vertically, mana-consuming power skills that activate by swinging in a direction while holding the triggers, master strike that activates on the next swing after a power skill when you keep holding the trigger, thrown skills by throwing the sword into the ground (AoE), and the ability to block by holding the trigger and blocking an enemy basic attack. There is also a dash that can be used to dodge or close distance while increasing damage for 3 seconds. It holds up to 2 charges with no mana cost, though has a 10 second CD. Ultimate abilities exist, though I didn’t get that far due to trying to play a little bit of everything and bug hunting.

Essence Mage: The ranged/caster class. This class uses two charge launchers (or sustained lasers as tank spec) to shoot enemies from a distance, and casts ranged spells. You can rapid fire, or hold down to charge up and fire stronger bullets. For the tank lasers, you have to hold triggers to fire and hold on a target for at least 1 second before damage begins. There is ammo, with the lasers having significantly more ammo due to lack of charged shot. The ammo restocks automatically over time, at a rate that rapid-firing will have downtime (for spell casting), while using only fully charged shots will not.

You cast spells using hand gestures while not holding your weapon. While holding grip, swipe your hand up, down, or left to charge the skill, then aim and release the grip to fire it. You can cast spells on two hands at a time, so long as you have the mana for it. Casting with one hand and shooting with the other is also viable, of course. There’s an additional thrown spell by holding the right hand trigger, which costs no mana, though comes with a cooldown. All other spells cost mana, and some have cooldowns, while others don’t. The movement skill is a short ranged teleport that is better at vertical distance gain. There’s no mana cost, only a cooldown, and they have combat effects as well depending on your spec.

Each character has somewhere around 25 unique skills between the 3 subclasses at the moment. You can equip 7-9 at a time right now depending on your class and spec. There are also slots for more skills that will likely be added later on. After you reach the level to unlock a skill, you’ll be granted the basic tier “god stone” of that skill. You can then also find upgraded versions with random additional effects based on their tier from chests and enemy drops. The god stones gain experience as you do, unlocking skill points to invest in the additional effects. God stones always drop with 1 skill point.

Enemies and chests around the world drop loot (you open chests by hitting/shooting them) that you can simply grab from a decent distance by pointing your hand toward them and pulling the grip trigger, then placing it into your body or back and releasing the grip. Gear of varying rarity and random extra stats/skills can drop in this way. The game does very much have a gear grinding component at the moment, though the introduction of equipment crafting may change that to some extent. You also need to do high level public events at the moment to loot synthesis material to craft high level synthesized gear, which also rolls random extra stats/skills. Most of the current late game will be gear grinding to be able to stand against the World Boss.

PvP will not be implemented at launch, though it is planned to be implemented at some point post-launch. There are also potential plans for GvG combat systems in the future.

Questing is your standard fare MMO quest system. There are kill quests, exploration quests, a few gather quests (mainly associated with the cooking system or drops from mobs in the questing area), and group quests for the sparse “dungeon” areas currently in the game. There are also gliding quests, similar to Genshin.

Public Events (PEs) pop up around the world frequently, which you can join by attacking an enemy in the event, and then generally participate with other players to complete. Loot/XP is given to everyone equally, regardless of participant numbers or personal contribution, though when you joined the event does affect your final reward. These are the best way to grind levels at the moment. The Public Events are: Kill waves of enemies, Defend a point from waves of enemies…by killing them, gather items, and World Bosses, which are significantly higher difficulty than the other public events. They pay out a good amount of experience and synthesis materials for the region they’re in.

Production Skills
The production skills system in this game is actually one of the most fun and unique mechanics for me, at least for the cooking system. There should also be a crafting system at launch using the same premise as the cooking system.

To cook, you spawn a cooking station into the world from your menu, and select a recipe. You then read the recipe, insert a fuel rod into the station to activate it, and physically cook the recipe per its instructions. You chop ingredients, heat liquids with a little minigame, and fry solids on a pan by flipping them so they don’t burn, then put everything in a cauldron to get the final product.

The quality of your product is determined by how well you prep the ingredients. At the time of Beta 2, quality has no impact on cooking. Ingredients spawn in the world and you physically gather them, either from plots on the ground, random little growth nodes, or climbing trees to pick them. There is a significant range you can pull loot from as well, which works with gathering. Gathering nodes are global, not local, so you are competing with other players to get those resources.

As mentioned previously, there are also synthesis stations around the world that use mob/chest/PE drops from the region to craft weapons and armor in a very simple way, by pressing a button on the station, selecting the blueprint, dragging the ingredients into it, and waiting for it to craft. Gear can be upgraded at upgrade stations with upgrade dust, which comes from looting, or disassembling gear. Again, a simple system, you select the gear, verify you can afford the cost, and pull a level to upgrade. While there is a failure chance, I don’t believe there is any chance to break the gear.

The world is quite large, particularly for a VR game. It takes about 15-20 minutes to cross the map walking/gliding. There’s also not a lot of completely empty space aside from the out of bounds areas. The devs have also stated there are hidden areas to find. There’s a world map in the menu, as well as a compass that you can spawn on your left hand. The compass shows nearby objects/objectives relative to you, and also shows height offset. It’s a pretty neat compass.

Stamina: Running, climbing, gliding, and blocking in combat all consume stamina. Stamina can be permanently increased by collecting tears that are scattered around the world. The tears generate a windchime sound at a decently long range, so listen for that as you explore.

Gliding: One of your main forms of travel will be gliding. I highly recommend that you go into your comfort settings at the start and change gliding from “basic” to “sensitive”. Sensitive gliding mode allows you to control your speed and height by tilting your hands up and down. It makes the experience much more fun and immersive. You glide by simply jumping or stepping off a ledge with your arms held out. You can also gain extra speed and height using a somewhat difficult to learn method that most players call either “flappy” or, for some reason, “scooterboop”, where you move your arms rhythmically to quickly deactivate and reactivate gliding after gaining initial speed. This gives you a bit of a speed boost each time at the cost of an extra bit of stamina.

Climbing: You can freely climb most surfaces in the game. Just your hand on them, hold your grip key, and pull yourself up. It’s just like climbing in real life, if you were a gecko. You can generally pull yourself into the wall before running out of stamina and let go to stand on it. This allows you to regain your stamina and continue climbing as high as you want in most cases.

Fast Travel: Fast Travel points around the world are available once you visit an area and complete its starter quests. They can be access from the world map and warped to at any time.

The game has a nice visual aesthetic and does look pretty, but don’t come into it expecting photorealistic graphics. It’s a VR game, graphics have pretty heavy restrictions due to the tax that VR takes on a system. The PCVR version has superior graphics to the Quest/PSVR versions for obvious reasons.

Only a single human race exists at the moment, with limited character customization. A “Mineko” race was “confirmed at launch” during development, but was later confirmed to not be ready for launch. It’s a cat-person race. You can choose from a handful of face, skin, hair, and eye colors/presets, as well as male or female gender.

The devs have confirmed that real money cosmetics will be a feature, though not immediately available at launch.

P2W Features
There are no pay to win features in this game, and there will not be, according to the devs.

There is a basic guild system in place. Guilds are free to make, and your guild name is displayed under your character name. More functionality will be added in the future. Player housing is also planned.

For a fairly comprehensive community list of potential and planned additional content, check out this spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1s2jlOogrqG29eTxAqH2ADuiX1FfSx2BTH-xaKonVnjI/edit?usp=sharing

Finally, I’m going to re-iterated what I said at the start; The game is currently not really in a state where I’d recommend going full beater and rushing to the end. While there is an end game world boss and loot grinding, there’s not much end game yet outside of that. I’d recommend against burning yourself out early. If you really want to, the best way to do so is follow the main storyline quests. Grind the highest level public events in your farming area whenever you hit a level restriction. It’s best to grind the events with a party to clear them quickly, you don’t lose XP. It really is just that simple.

In conclusion, in the 5 days I played the beta 2, I played for around 40 hours. It really is a great use of VR, and I am itching to play it more. Make sure you come join us on discord.gg/EoG in the Zenith channel for discussion and future guides/information! We’ve already got a fair number of people that will be playing on launch, so hope to see you there!

About the Author

A potato. (Eternity#3674)