Sega confirmed on Monday that Phantasy Star Online 2 will arrive here in the States and in Europe in 2013 as a free-to-play PC gaming title. The open beta test for the Japanese version just concluded last week, and the game -- which is the official successor to the hit console-based MMOG released back in 2000 -- finally went live on July 4.
"The original Phantasy Star Online helped to usher in the age of the MMO while introducing SEGA and Phantasy Star to a new generation of gamers," Sega said on Monday. "Phantasy Star Online broke new ground while resolutely doing its own thing -- in particular, weaving action-based multiplayer combat through a deeply-entrenched story."
"Now, the story continues for a new generation of online games and new ways to play and explore, while embracing a free to play model and building the game around that," Sega added. "There are, of course, lots of details to be revealed about this model -- we know everyone has questions about how 'Free to Play' will work for the Western version of PSO2, so stay tuned!"
According to the blog, players will join the "Arks" organization as part of the Oracle Fleet – a group of spaceships traveling through the far reaches of the galaxy, with the mission to explore and research newly discovered planets. The game taps into what made the original so fun to play: adventure, discovery and teamwork -- but it is also designed to allow players to quest on their own, at their own pace.
As with the original, gamers start in a central hub -- a futuristic living space where they can learn about new missions, meet other players, and set off to explore new worlds. The game reportedly features an "insanely powerful" character creator: play as CAST and re-arrange your parts to your heart’s content to build the robot you want to be.
"The game features three different classes to start as: the Force class with their mastery of Photon Arts, the up-close-and-personal combat prowess of the Hunter, and the long-range tactical genius of the Ranger. Leveling in PSO2 is class-based: you level up classes as you choose, allowing you to try out different ways of playing," Sega said.
The player's exploration will include randomized dungeons and special random encounters – custom-event challenges that happen during the course of a mission, designed to test skill, nerve, and teamwork capabilities (for non-solo players). The MAG is also making its return, a customizable combat assistant that seemed to have disappeared in latter PSO installments.
Phantasy Star Online 2 will be the second time Sega's popular franchise has arrived by way of Windows PC here in the States. Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst was launched in June 2005 in North America and Europe, but it was a port of Phantasy Star Online Episode I and II for the original Xbox console published three years prior.
In addition to Windows PC, Phantasy Star Online 2 is slated to arrive on Sony's PlayStation Vita in 2013 supporting synched characters between the two platforms. The game is also slated to arrive on iOS and Android in 2013 as well.
For the full-blown report from Sega, head here.