Community Review: Continent of the Ninth Seal (c9)

steam review quote:
Continent of the Ninth Seal brings much to the table despite being a relatively obscure title which flew under the radar. Exciting action based combat and intense PVP are to be found in this asian mmo thriller.

Official website - Link Unofficial Wiki - Link More Photos - Link


Continent of the Ninth Seal, often referred to as c9 by players, is a fantasy action mmo roleplaying game from developer Webzen which was released in 2012. The game features a very action-based combat system which does not rely on auto-attacks and lock-on which gives both pvp and pve a decidedly different and more engaging feel than most other games of the genre. The game is completely free to play although there are a few definite perks which can be gained via the cash shop, however it is also possible to buy most of these items from other players using in game currency which makes it completely possible to play through the game without spending a nickel. C9 is often overlooked when compared to other mmo giants and new releases in the genre but has much to offer and is certainly worth checking out.

In this laid back review of c9 i will attempt explain my first impressions of the game after playing for a few weeks.


the mystic class kicking some butt

System Requirements

Despite being a release from only a few years ago, the requirements to play are quite light and most any laptop or desktop made in the last 8 years will play it. It should be noted that running close or near minimum recommended specs will result in some stuttering or lag in some situations and decent computer and network connection are suggested, but not required.

Minimum:
Cpu - Intel Pentium 4 2.4ghz or Amd xp 2400+
Ram - 512mb
Video card - Nvidia Geforce 6600 or Amd Radeon 9800 pro
Hard drive - 4gb
Direct X - 9
OS - Windows XP

Recommended:
Cpu - Intel Pentium dual core e5700 3ghz or Amd 64 x2 6000+
Ram - 1gb
Video card - Nvidia Geforce 8800gs or Amd Radeon x1900
Hard drive - 4gb
Direct X - 9
OS - Windows XP

Hardware reviewed on:
Cpu - Intel i7 920 3.21ghz
Ram - 6gb 1600m
Video card - Nvidia Geforce GTX770
Hard drive - 512gb
Direct X - 11
OS - Windows 7



The beginning...

Continent of the Ninth Seal flew under my radar for quite some time. After trying out some recent titles and being unsatisfied I did some deeper digging and eventually uncovered this little gem on the Steam network which i had never heard of before despite actively looking for new titles. I read up on the game, read some user reviews and decided it may hold some promise despite being a relatively little known title so decided to give it a try. A quick install later and i was at the title menu ready to start an adventure and little did i know i was in for a pleasant surprise.

Previously I had tried some other well known titles such as Dragons Prophet (which had a neat concept and failed on execution), Neverwinter (with had a nice feel but overly complex town and upgrade system as well as heavy emphasis on cash shop), Archeage (which pushed too hard for cash shop) as well as a few other titles which just did not seem to fit my playstyle.


Character creation screen

At first i was a bit miffed about having gender locked classes but since i gave Vindictus a try which also had gender locked classes i could not fault this game for something so trivial so i played on. I briefly had a look at all the classes but being the mage-enthusiast that i am the choice was quite simple so i went with shaman. The introduction quest was informative enough to be helpful (it can be skipped as well) but not long enough to be irritating. Once in town, which acts as a hub to launch into dungeons, i was finally thrown into the world of c9's players and npcs. Gradually i would get a grip on the games mechanics which do take a little getting used to but are far less complex than other titles i had tested in the past. One thing i noticed straight away and liked was the action based style of combat in the game which felt to me more like the kind you would find in a console title like Dragon's Dogma or even Tera Online for PC. This was quite a relief as this is exactly the type of combat i love.


dungeon map for the third town

Pretty early on i figured out an ideal keybinding setup which on some games can be awkward because i'm an arrow key movement user not wasd which makes me atypical. The game handled most of my remap requests with ease with the exception of a few game system keys and no native support for using keys like appmenu and alt (which most games can not handle anyways). The games graphical user interface is suprisingly good though some elements are not adjustable (the text input bar and minimap). Overall while not perfect the gui and keybinds system worked well enough for me to be happy.

For quite awhile i took to solo play and ran through some various dungeons on my own. It was a bit refreshing that each zone has various difficulties which range from Normal to Hard to Expert to Masters and as one might have guessed there are more monsters spawned with more defense as well as having harder mini boss spawns on higher difficulties. What i was not expecting however is that the actual game pathing through the dungeons changed as well as growing in size and complexity which made moving through various difficulties more enjoyable than repetitious and is something many other games could learn from (heres looking at you diabloIII). As with other games the harder the difficulty the better the rewards though.


random loot generator after picking one of the boxes

The way the loot system works in c9 is that gold and crafting materials are found from chests and monster drops throughout the dungeon, rare crafting materials (and rings, bracelets) are found from special rare spawn enemies and boss drops while all armor and weapons are found by taking your chance at the random loot generator which gives you a number of keys based on the difficulty of the map as well as how much you participated. From there you can select (typically 2) boxes which contain random items. Once all player selections are made all boxes open showing you what the boxes you did not open contained.

Besides randomly generated loot there is also a fairly robust crafting system which allows you to craft equipment if you are rather unlucky on random drops or want to complete a matching set. For higher level equipment you might need a few special combination materials which can be created by leveling up the artisan class you may pick. Common items can also be purchased directly from merchants however at much increased prices which makes crafting the ideal way to create the equipment you need.


shaman reaperess dungeon running

I quite quickly hit level 10 within an hour or so of starting and after a few tries succeeded in passing the test which unlocked the Elite Shaman class for my use. Once i was familiar with the game this test became easy but at first it was a little challenging though there is no set level you need to take the test at so can wait for another level or two if it seems hard at first. While i am not quite sure if my damage output grew by a small margin i am sure that my at the time meager selection of skills at the trainer grew by quite a significant number which allowed me to finally start to get a feel for how the game and class was going to play. While the skills so far were not the most original i've seen in RPG games they were at least practical and fun to use and had decent animations. Your proficiency with said skills also increases with the more points you push into them.


skill trainer menu

From levels 10 through 19 there were much better damage and effect skill unlocks and by this point i was playing very proficiently with my chosen class. From distance as expected a mage class really shined however an added bonus was that in close quarter fighting you were not completely helpless. It was fun to to wade directly into combat to take foes head on and the class handled this as long as you did not get overwhelmed. After perhaps 5 - 6 hours into the game I finally hit level 20 and was given the quest for a class change which is where the game really starts.

The reason level 20 is so important is because this is the level when choosing your final (advanced) class is first available. You can think of the first 20 levels as a sort of primer for this point however it feels like you are actually playing the game (and you are) instead of a tutorial class. During the first 20 levels you learn the basics of how to play your class effectively which will carry over and help you once you have chosen an advanced class. If you enjoyed the original starter classes then one of the advanced class choices you can choose from plays the same and is essentially the next step up from the original starter class. The other options all take different paths and give you more choices to better suit your playstyle.

Now the game truly begins...

After briefly reviewing my given options I decided that instead of sticking with a pure mage the close ranged melee scythe wielding Reaperess class may be a good fit for me despite my affection for ranged magic classes. I would be giving up both ranged attacks and the ability to block but gain quite formidable wide ranged sweeping AOE attacks (plus, how can you say no to a scythe wielding class). What was not expected is that all skill points reset and you unlock a totally new set of skills to put points into once you pick a class which gave a sort of "fresh start" feel to the game. While some skills were different but recognizable carry-overs from Shaman most of the skills were brand new which meant much more fun trying to use them effectively.


reaperess aoe in hard mode

Shortly after, at level 25, i was able to make my way to the second town of Vimpeli which offered a whole new change of scenery both inside town and out. There were a slew of new more difficult enemies as well as new interesting dungeons to fight through. The way things work in c9 is that once you reach a certain level you can access new towns to travel to which gives you access to more and more dungeons. The different dungeons also all have certain minimum and maximum level ranges for monsters (depending on difficulty) and you cannot enter a dungeon until you at least are equivalent to the lowest level range for that particular dungeon.

At around this time i also started looking for a half decent guild to join since playing solo or joining randoms just was not enough for me. After quite a bit of searching i randomly happened upon a fairly small but active and helpful guild which was looking for more members. After a little back and forth with a guild officer i decided to give it a go and accepted an invite. Besides just having a group of people to converse with, most guilds also have some various buffs and enhancements available in the guild hall which can provide minor stat boosting.


guild members goofing off for a group photo

I sure was missing out. I thought that i was doing pretty decent in terms of progressing through the game, gathering equipment and gaining some in game currency but it seems that there was quite a bit that i did not know. Many of the members were very helpful and explained the parts of the game which i was still unsure on but perhaps the biggest help was introducing me to the trade office where you can sell items to other members and make much more in game currency than using the merchant which i had been avoiding up to this point. From then on if i was ever in a bind it was always much easier to get a group going to push through some dungeons just a bit faster and easier or for some extra company when solo just was not cutting it anymore. Leveling up and questing also went much quicker and smoother in groups than the solo play i had been doing before. Also, having a common group of individuals to converse with also gave the game quite a bit more heart.


the trade office, inventory and stat page

At around the same time i also started to realize that the storage and inventory spaces were quite limited due to the vast array of items i was receiving. While this may be a negative point, considering that the game was completely free and inventory space is not that expensive of an upgrade it really is a non-issue. For the moment i made due with creating a few spare characters to hold some extra items which seemed to work out well, if a bit less convenient. I am a hoarder and generally pick up almost everything, hence my dilema.

Each character has a small item inventory and also much larger quest item and cash shop item inventories. Item storage is shared between characters and most items (except ones which are noted) can be traded between characters with ease. As i had mentioned before, one of the most popular cash shop items are increased inventory and storage space scrolls and it is possible to get quite a bit more space for a relatively modest investment. It is possible however to get these scrolls from other players trading for in game currency. Most items can stack up to a maximum of 300 per stack except armor and weapons which do not.


My reaperess at level 44

After about a week or two of playing i eventually leveled up to 44 and had been thoroughly enjoying the class i chose. By this point in time i had a good idea how to play the Reaperess class effectively and was picking up some rather good skills. All i can say is that the game was as fun to play now as it was when i had first started. At this point in time i thought it would be a good idea to look into some other class choices and start a few more characters to get a better feel for how some other classes played and get a better feel for the game at large. After giving the other classes a try and leveling a few up to 20 for the sub class options i found that i very much enjoyed the mystic (and even more so the evolved form of battle maiden).

In fact, i liked the class so much that I ended up playing it quite a bit and at the time of this review was level 51, surpassing my original character by quite a few levels. I still have quite a ways to go before maxing out on levels and equipment (max level of 67) however i can honestly say that i still look forward to each new town and dungeon unlock just as much as i did on day one. Since learning the specifics of the game i have also had a much easier time with equipment and in game currency and leveling up with a party makes quick work of gaining levels and doing difficult quests.


Unlike some other games, c9 has a very broad and diverse class system though this is not readily apparent when first loading up the game. There are a total of 5 different gender locked classes you can pick at the very start of the game. Once you reach the required level each of these classes however, it branches out into different class options with unique skills while maintaining a similar feel to the original class. Despite being gender locked the game features a decent (but not spectacular) editing system to allow you to personalize your avatar so there is a decent amount of customization.


class promo art

How the progression system works in c9 is simple. from levels 1-10 you will play as the starting class you chose at the main menu. At level 11 you will have the option of completing a skill test which when passed will advance you to the next level which grants you more skills to choose from. At level 20 you will have the option of completing a quest which will allow you to pick your final, advanced class. At level 49 you will have the option of completing a quest which allows the use of a powerful class ability, called an ultimate fury. The highest level you can obtain in the game is 67.

The five starting classes are:

Fighter:

fighter promo art

The fighter is typical of many similar warrior type classes found in other titles. Quick, abrupt style moves and a heavy focus on short ranged melee damage. Higher hp and defense than other classes. Easy to play for beginners.

Lv20 Advanced Classes
Blademaster: Specializes in very fast technical attacks over defense.
Guardian: Lacks speed and agility but has high health and uses greatshields for very high defensive capabilities.
Warrior: The next evolution of fighter. maintains the jack-of-all trades adaptable nature of fighter.
Berserker: A master of an extremely large greatsword. Lacking in speed and agility but has high damage and knockdown capabilities.


Shaman:

shaman promo art

The shaman at first seems similar to just about any other mage class on the surface however plays more like a mix between both a spellcasting far ranged caster and a close ranged staff wielding priest. Instead of specializing in one form of magic the shaman instead is capable of many difference types and styles of magical attack. Certainly squishy but not so much a glass cannon.

Lv20 Advanced Classes
Elementalist: Takes shaman one step further with slower casting yet devastating spells.
Taoist: Focuses on high speed short range single target melee over spellcasting.
Illusionist: Adept in a party support role with higher defensive capabilities
Reaperess: Loses all spellcasting ability and trades for close ranged high damage scythe melee attacks and stunlocks.
Demonisher: Short to mid ranged aoe attack oriented. Has ability to transform into demon form for increased damage.

Hunter:

hunter promo art

Plays similar to other ranger / bowmaster / rogue-like classes found in other games. Has both short ranged sword attacks combined with long ranged bow attacks with a more laid-back less intense slower feel to combat.

Lv20 Advanced Classes
Assassin: High speed short to mid ranged melee class.
Ranger: Takes hunter one step further with many more damaging bow attacks and a focus more on ranged combat.
Scout: Specializes in laying traps to soften targets before melee.
Shadow: Focused on high agility closed range melee dagger attacks.
Gunslinger: Casts off blades and bows to wield dual guns and musket.

Witchblade:

witchblade promo art

Witchblade plays very similar to a rogue-like character. High speed and agility along with graceful sweeping twin blade attacks cut through enemies. Focused more on directional attacks over aoe.

Lv20 Advanced Classes
Warden: Specializes in ice style ranged attacks.
Slayer: Maintains a balance between close ranged combat and ranged techniques.
Bladedancer: Graceful combat techniques with a focus on close range simplistic skill combos.
Nightstalker: Has increased focus on the ability to summon pets to aid in fights which creates a more laid back adventuring experience.

Mystic:

mystic promo art

Mystic is the melee equivalent to a mage. They may be slow but they hit hard with considerable knockdown ability and are capable of mowing down large numbers of enemies in close ranged melee.

Lv20 Advanced Classes
Battle Maiden: Takes mystic one step further and adds a rocket booster to her hammer. Quick boost-dashing and flying techniques are a sure win.
Erta: Can shift focus from short ranged melee to ranged attacks
Valkyrie: Specializes in high damage ranged attack


As noted before, the combat is very action based. Most classes have 4-way dodge/roll for evasion with short super-armor frames if timed correctly. Many classes also learn some manner of dash skill/attack (some can even fly) and many even have a tactical retreat & parry style skill available to them. Most classes are capable of blocking attacks up to a certain power level while some even have special skills for defense. Avoiding damage in combat is highly dependent on mobility.


the battle maiden's flying air dash

The different classes have widely different styles of offensive abilities with some ranging from short abrupt one-off type attacks to some with wide sweeping chainable attack combinations. Performance is highly dependent on how well a player can chain together different attacks while avoiding damage with evasive techniques and skills which utilize super armor frames. The game also has a fury bar which slowly charges up as you fight through a dungeon and upon activation grants a large buff including increased damage, resistance, attack speed and movement speed which lasts for only a short period of time.

Some class choices are better suited towards PVP while others roll through PVE with ease. Many of the quicker, more technical single target classes have the upper hand against players but may find their skills lacking when dealing with large groups of foes in dungeons. Similarly some classes which have the large amount of AOE to effectively clear dungeons are sometimes at a disadvantage when it comes to player vs player in the arena. It should be noted however that PVP falls into two categories: Arena (fought in special zones) and intrusion (if set, hostiles can try and invade the host of a mission) and both play quite differently and have their own rewards for winning. What i liked about the game is that PVP is entirely optional depending on your game settings. It is even possible to disable getting duel requests in town from other members if you do not feel like playing vs players.



In short, continent of the ninth seal can be best described as an action style combat mmorpg with a decidedly console feel mixed in with a little old school classic rpg and some far-east mmo sprinkled on top. While it may not be quite as polished as more well known titles, it certainly does have its own charm provided you can look past a few of the things it does not do quite so well. For ease of review i've made a short list of some good and bad points i've found in the game. The list of neutral points can be either good or bad depending on your own personal preferences.


engaging the weeping ice dragon boss with a party

Pros:
  • Low PC requirements
    Quick, flowing, action based combat
    Lots of fun to play, diverse class options
    Not pay to win
    Built in video recording function
    Lots of costumes & ability to reskin weapons
    Easy to level up in the beginning
    Diverse and interesting landscapes and creatures
    PVP oriented play with interesting PVE elements
Cons:
  • A few known bugs & glitches
    Gold spammers (though much less recently, it looks like they are trying to combat this now)
    Lots of quests which aren't very interesting
    PVP is peer-to-peer based instead of server based
    Leveling up slows down the higher level you become
    Poor developer customer support
Neutral:
  • Instanced / Zone based combat with join-on-the-fly capability
    Somewhat dated graphics for the time, not horrible but not triple A title worthy
    There is a stamina bar required to play which limits playtime
    Skill damage increases depending on points while overall stats are equipment based
    Medium to high player count, worldwide players
*A short note about the stamina bar: it costs a certain value of stamina points to enter a dungeon with the amount varying by the difficulty level. You start each day with 150 points which recharges to this maximum every 24 hours. If you exceed this limit you run into the 250 points of extra stamina given which recharges every week on friday. Stamina can be recharged via special item drops or playing survival mode. PVP does not consume stamina. While on paper it sounds like a hassle i have been playing for weeks and never once have come close to hitting my zero stamina.


While c9 may not be the most well developed title, have the best graphics or be the most interesting of all choices currently available it certainly can be considered an underdog worth checking out for those tired of being let down by triple A titles again and again. After a few weeks of playing i've found c9 to still be as enjoyable as day one and the action based combat system is certainly one step above a few other titles. Despite being a free to play game funded on the cash shop i also appreciated how paying for items in the store or having a subscription (there is no subscription option in c9) is not required to actually accomplish anything of merit like in some other titles. Free to play characters and those which have paid for items can be considered on equal footing.


group photos at the guildhouse

Thanks for reading. I hope this brings to light an often overlooked title.

 

Vynavill

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FWIW, I tried it quite a while ago, and to be honest I didn't read through all the above (at this precise moment in time, I'm on a 5" smartphone...not exactly a nice device to read on :p ).

The game was quite entertaining and somewhat... diverse and unique. It was the usual repetitive instanced-dungeon styled game, yet it had that little spark of difference from its counterparts, and while graphics weren't exactly top of the line, it was a nice free MMO, and not even too much cash-dependent. I was eventually brought down by the lack of variety in classes, as I didn't fully like any of them at the time, but for the time, the game offered a nice, low-requirement alternative to Mabinogi Heroes (a.k.a. Vindictus), which I believe was still NA only.

I'm likely confusing it with another game, but I believe there was no weekly stamina and no ways to refill it besides the cash shop when I used to play; another factor that eventually killed my will to continue.

If you get enough time to play it, it truly is a tiny little gem that flew under the radar, but as any MMO it requires a modicum of dedication; one I unfortunately cannot give anymore.
 
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