Help your favorite citizens of Quahog in Family Guy Online!
Freakin’ sweet! Seth MacFarlane and the Family Guy cast take their show into the world of MMOLOLs… the new genre coined by Family Guy Online (FGO). Does it live up to the promise of the shows, or the MMO genre at all? Beta is still coming out with updates, but we have the first look at this humor-based online game!
I chose a "Stewie class" character... named Exploitable. Herbert? You nearby?
I went to college during the first decade of the 21st century, and like every college student during that time, Family Guy was a staple almost every time the television was turned on. A decade on the air hasn’t slowed the series down, and their newest venture is in the form of an MMO; to be specific, an MMOLOL (Massively Multiplayer Online Laugh Out Loud) game. Family Guy Online is still only in Beta, and what has been offered seemed quite limited. While entertaining, the game will need MUCH more content to progress once it goes live… but that said, what I’ve seen, I’ve enjoyed.
Family Guy Online starts with a Key to Quahog right now; your Beta Key into the game world. The game itself plays out through your browser; a fair compromise between Facebook games and the mainstream MMO field. I noticed only slight downsides to this; the graphics are admittedly cartoony, but then again they come from a cartoon... it's a bit expected! They also tended to skip a bit on my computer, and lag was a bit of an issue from time to time. However, you eschew a several hour download and get to play instantly (and from any computer you’d like)… both definitely bonuses.
Each zone change brings up this screen... get used to it. FGO loves them some Shop features!
FGO sets itself up with 5 different classes, based on the characters from the show. The classes align with standard MMO archetypes for the most part. And while players may choose, say, the “Peter class,” their character is still unique in appearance and design… Peter Griffon will appear as a frequent quest-giver, but will not actually be playable. The classes are Stewie (ranged DPS), Meg/Chris (melee DPS, “Warrior”), Lois (Healer/support), and Peter (tank). There is also a Brian class which is melee DPS and focuses on avoiding enemy detection compared to being able to survive an onslaught like the Chris/Meg class. The Brian class is only available through purchase right now though; $10 if you only desire the class, or a slightly reduced rate if you buy more in-game Cash.
Like many MMORPGs, FGO follows a typical formula of questing and leveling up in order to progress. On the plus side, most of the quest givers offer humorous dialogue when you chat with them, and the quests often display a clip from the show: most veteran watchers will recognize several plot points, like Chris and bullies at school, or Quagmire and his attempts to… ahem… woo his dates. Quests will award experience and Clams, the in-game currency. As mentioned before, there is also “Cash” purchasable via real life money; which, so far as I can see, cannot be earned in-game. Clams and cash are both spent at the Store; Clams are primarily used for cosmetic equipment items and skills, while cash can be used to purchase additional character slots, new classes and upgraded skills. While most of the content can be bought through in-game means, it was disheartening to see some skills solely purchased via real life money… doubly so in a Beta, when for all we know, the progress could be wiped out tomorrow. An example of such a cash-based upgrade would be a power-up to the Stewie class's basic attack, the Laser Gun. It becomes the Laser Rifle, which does twice the damage and awards twice the energy (used for special attacks).
Collections can be tough to spot, but completing them gives a significant reward
Outside of the quests, I did very much enjoy Family Guy Online’s collection system. There are dozens of collections available from the start: these are unmarked and innocuous items that relate in some way to the Family Guy cast. For example, Chris’s collection contains the Evil Monkey in his closet, his dead turtle, and the hot dogs he won at a town fair food contest. Collections can be found under the main menu, in “Stuff to Do,” under the collections tab; each collection seems to award 100 Clams and 150 experience points. It is a rather simple matter to level from 1 to 5 without a single fight, by focusing on collections. As helpful hints, once you discover one piece of a collection the others will appear under the “Stuff to Do” tab. This will give hints on what to look for… if not their location. While most collections are primarily located in one area, there can be a piece or two spread out. Most of Chris’s items are in his room; however, the hot dogs are located outside the high school.
That said, combat still plays a key role with some quests. I played a Stewie class up to level 12 (the current level cap*), and strategies never really played a part until I started doing public quests with other players. Death in the game seemed to give no penalty beside a 10 second respawn timer and 40% health at respawn… but that’s more than enough for a boss fight; it even gives an achievement the first time you die! But as for combat, each character has its own unique abilities. The Stewie class, for example, builds energy through its basic Laser Gun attack, and then uses the energy for special moves: either stuns, a strong damage over time ability, or self-healing. Most of these extra abilities came through purchase in the Store, and that seemed to be the only upgrade for my character; higher levels didn’t seem to result in more health or attack, but only to unlock new and stronger abilities.
Honestly, combat is worth it just so you can set your enemies on fire... upgrade those skills!
The Quahog Police Station is one of the dungeons available in the Beta. Unique from other areas, it offers a quest when you zone in and features other players in the same area with common goals (ie, collect 20 codes and kill 40 escaped prisoners). Working together, several players advance through this introduction round to the boss round, where three very strong enemies wait to confront them. While players are technically on the same side, this dungeon never feels like a forced grouping mechanism; one of the first things I discovered was that my AoE damage and stun abilities hit my friends as well as the foes (edit: this seems to have been fixed in the latest update). I, ahem, maybe have executed several allies while using my strong AoE abilities… but, to be fair, I put this as a fantastic role-playing technique. Would Stewie allow others to survive and share in the glory? I think not!
It seems that during the Beta only two areas are open: Spooner Street and Downtown. While the quests and collections seemed ample to boost me up to level 10, it was only through the Police Station and a “Mega Collection” quest that I achieved higher than that. As stated, the Police Station quest provided experience per kill and a bonus of 200-400 at the end of the fight. However, the Downtown area also provided a huge collection in the form of stray cats. Hidden often in plain sight and more often in overlooked alleyways, the Downtown area houses stray cats. The collection itself requires 100 cats to complete; but after provides 150 experience every 10 cats. This provided another alternative to leveling… although the game also introduced time-based quests in the downtown area requiring 8-16 hours to refresh. I anticipate that at higher levels these will be the “daily quests” found in so many MMOs. For now, waiting for the subsequent days is not needed; within 4 hours of starting a character, I hit the Beta level cap of level 12*.
I don’t dare to even make predictions about Family Guy Online. It has a lot of positives going for it: as a browser-based game, it is immediately accessible. It’s also free-to-play, although even in Beta it requires money for the Brian class and several skills. While the graphics are poor, they’re far above many browser games, and they are fully 3-D. But like most browser games, it suffers the issues of the platform: lag, poor visuals, slow-down when you include multiple people. And while the collections and content are amusing, after playing for several hours I felt like I had seen everything currently released in the game. I don’t think that’s an understatement; I hit the level cap, ran the Police Station “dungeon” several times, and wound up thinking “Well, what now?” There are several other areas still locked down, but Family Guy Online strikes me as similar to the show: funny, attention-grabbing, and over within a short period of time. It’ll be interesting to see if the game will bring in more longevity through later content, and if they will loosen the restrictions between those who pay and those who have time to play.
Oh Joe, say it ain't so... Crippletron forms!
Note: As of May 17th, Family Guy Online released an update that did some of the following:
- Raised the level cap to 15.
- Gave classes some new skills (at levels 12 and 14, from what I've seen. There may be some more at 15).
- Introduced several new quests, and collections, including Dr. Hartman, Herbert's, and the Hotel.
- Introduced a new Public Quest area: Big Pete's House of Munch. This area requires killing 50 wheelchair-bound adversaries, then taking on a Joe-led Crippletron. I think my soul just died a little while writing that sentence.