Speaking of which, Crafting, or Coding in the world of The Matrix is yet again, a very simple and very rewarding sequence of events. You can assemble fragments of data code which can be found just about everywhere (Loot, file cabinets, desks, the marketplace, ect), or break down existing items such as clothing or weapons into data fragments, and then reassemble them to suit your purpose. The process is closer to World of Warcraft than anything else, with shades of it's enchanting profession. As usual, crafting is a very much in demand profession.
As for other professions, The Matrix Online is indeed chock full of them, yet they all seem rather the same at first glance. The difference between different styles of hand-to-hand combat training blur together a bit, though they do branch off from each other. There are a few different styles in weaponry to train in, ranging from akimbo styling to snipers. Filling in for your favorite mage-style character is the Hacker profession, which can go from a very supportive healing class, to a deadly virus infecting beast. At first look, the skill tree itself is fairly daunting, with multiple branches at every end. But thanks to the ability to re tune your skills at any point in time, you'll never feel as if you've completely boned yourself for going with the assassin tree when you should have gone rifles. After a bit of exploring your sense of style, you'll find yourself with a setup that is perfect for you.
Did you just say Deja Vu?
Since this is only a beta, I'm not going to nitpick at a few of the glitches in the system that have popped up over my playtime. As it stands, the graphical engine of the game is still not fully optimized, as my Radeon 9800 Pro video card struggles to keep pace, even with the game on it's lowest settings. The combat engine is also in need of an overhaul, as like I've said, while combat is a very enjoyable experience, there is really no way to fight more than a single opponent at one time. It also remains to see the staying power of the game, but I actually feel fairly confident about it. Monolith has made it clear that they are very dedicated in keeping an ever evolving story flowing to their users, as well as allowing them to get involved in how the world evolves. And while the game is still only in beta, it's scope is already huge and full of promise.
On a final note, it has to be said that the community for The Matrix Online is fantastic. From my experience, role playing is very encouraged and is a driving factor amongst many player guilds. There are some truly remarkable players out there who are just eating up this world and really wanting to make it a very immersive place for themselves and everyone around them. Coming from something as anti-role playing as World of Warcraft (Even on RP servers), this is extremely refreshing. The bottom line is that if you've ever wanted to live in a computer based reality of the late-90s, via a computer game that just reeks of delightful irony, this is it.
The Matrix Online launches on March 22nd, 2005. If you'd like to jack in early, Fileplanet will be handing out stress test beta keys this Tuesday, March 1st, starting at 12:00PM PST. Quantities are limited so get there early and mash your
F5 key like there is no tomorrow. The Matrix Online is possibly the most exciting MMORPG to be released in 2005, and you'd do yourself well to take the Red Pill.