Kite and his pals will once again be scouring the fields and dungeons of an MMORPG called “The World” in search of answers to all of the many questions that remain unanswered.
Let’s begin this preview by recapping just what went on in the first half of this series. Warning: If you have not played .hack//Infection or Mutation, you probably won’t want to read the rest of this paragraph, as it will contain several spoilers. Infection started players off by introducing them to “The World,” an MMORPG that has globally sold 20 million copies. The players stepped into the role of a player who entered “The World” under the name of Kite. After Kite was shown the ropes by a friend known as Orca, the two players were attacked by Skeith, who rearranged Orca’s data, and sent his real-world counterpart into a coma. From there, Kite made it his personal goal to find out exactly how his friend had become comatose. It didn’t take him long to stumble across the forbidden abilities of “Data Drain” and “Gate Hacking.” An infamous hacker named Helba assisted Kite in learning to use these abilities. Rumors of other players in similar situations would surface on the game’s message board, but quickly be deleted. The plot thickened. At the end of Volume one, Kite and two of his allies defeat Skeith, and players are left with the first images of Cubia. After using the same love-it-or-leave-it gameplay formula as the first game, Mutation sent players to the “Net Slum” as a final destination. Following a furious boss battle with another “Phase” monster, Kite and Black Rose realize that something horrible has happened. All of the game’s Root Towns now have the same appearance as the infected playing fields. A virus has spread. And so, we arrive in volume 3, .hack//Outbreak.
Just as players could continue using the same data from Infection to Mutation, those who’ve cleared the second volume can begin the third with all of their current items, contacts, and statistics intact. Meanwhile, players who do not carry over any data will be given a predetermined level, a lackluster collection of items and weapons, and a considerably smaller list of allies. The Ryu Books return to keep track of things such as how many types of monsters you’ve defeated, how many items you’ve found, and so on. Just like earlier, new background music files, movies, and wallpapers can be unlocked by playing well enough to earn them.
As should be expected, a new server will open in the new game. This time, the new server on the block will be Sigma. It is anticipated that the bulk of the game will take place on this new server, as the levels of the enemies in previous areas can no longer compare to those of Kite and his damage squad. While nothing is solid just yet, the level of difficulty is said to be significantly increased in the game’s newest areas. This should come as good news to most of the series’ diehard fans, as the low level of difficulty in the previous games led to some complaints.
“But Heath,” you ask, “what’s new with the Grunties?” Players probably remember the ability to race their Grunties in .hack//Mutation. Well, the new feature is called “Grunty Search.” Basically, this feature assists in the raising of future Grunties. Players will hop on a Grunty, and be able to seek out some of the more rare Grunty foods, such as Piney Apples and Twilight Onions. For those who enjoy clearing the fields of all enemy portals, the Grunties will also be able to search for those, and improve the player’s overall dominance.
While part two expanded one the story set forth by the original, part three will be where the plot absolutely explodes. .hack//Outbreak will be more cinematic that either of the two installments before it, and more will be revealed about “The World” and those behind it than ever before. This could mean that Outbreak will become the new favorite among the series’ followers.
Like the last two volumes, number three will come bundled with a .hack//Liminality OAV of the same number. This anime takes place in the real world at the same time the in-game events are unfolding.
This game was originally slated for an August 6th release, but now many websites, including retailers, are listing the game as a "fall 2003" release. So, to avoid inaccuracy, I'll end with this: this game will hit shelves some time in the future.