End of The World

We grab some time with a near-final build of .hack//G.U. Vol. 3 to see how the final chapter is shaping up.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: August 26, 2007
The .hack series is something of a behemoth, and beyond ambitious; encompassing nearly every medium out there, from games to anime to manga, the idea was to create an entire world that could be experienced from multiple mediums that would come together to tell a massive story. The actual execution has been less than exemplary, however -- at least in terms of the video games, but with the seventh (yes, seventh) game in the series finally promising to wrap things up, we finally took the plunge to see what we could see.

Here's a tip, though: if you haven't played the games or seen the anime, do not just charge into Redemption without doing some research. The games have never been especially good at easing newcomers into the gameplay, and Vol. 3 is about as overwhelming as a game is liable to be for newbies (and yes, we're talking about us here). The barrier of entry is insanely high; there's no tutorials, no descriptions of how to handle combat or even what to do when "offline" in the game.

But maybe we're getting a little ahead of ourselves here. .hack's core storyline element is The World, an insanely popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (think World of Warcraft huge, but, uh, huge..er). Though the game is obviously not an actual MMO, you still log in and out of The World as if you were a user, and nearly all of the actual plot takes place inside the game. Yes, it's a game within a game, and excusing the sheer amount of catching up that's needed, it's a fantastically realized idea.

There's a problem, though: something in The World is attacking players and infecting the system on a core level. Players have been reporting a rash of black dots that appear on everything from items to enemies, and it's said that if the players see the dots, their real-life bodies will slip into a coma, leaving the online persona permanently logged in as something of a digital Zombie.

Haseo, the main character in the game, knows all too well what is going on with The World, as he's spent enough time in it to become something of a celebrity. He's also seen his former mentor turn out to be the very villain he's been trying to destroy and close friends have fallen victim to the black dots that are sweeping across The World. Worst of all, it seems the virus has spilled out of The World and is now starting to affect things and people in the "real" world, including car navigation systems and even an orbiting space station.

Yes, it's safe to assume things are bad.

Though we can't really comment too much on what's changed since the last game because we have no real frame of reference, we can at least supply the basics that are introduced at the start of the game. Haseo begins Vol. 3 at a whopping Level 93, meaning he's no stranger to ass kicking, but because of the events in the last game, he's also gotten an upgrade to what is effectively a guild house, the @HOME. He can now modify the @HOME himself, trade in items for cash at any point and now has access to a swanky new pad.

He's also gained the ability to upgrade the Lost Weapons that were uncovered in the last game, infusing them with Virus Cores taken from felled enemies when using the new Avatar Awakening skills to finish them off. There's a catch, though: because the AA attacks pull from multiple party members, Haseo's group must be at least three members strong. Though we haven't yet dabbled in it, there are apparently more missions and upgrades for the steam bike that can be used to travel around The World much, much more quickly.

With no real formal guide to understand the game, we're still slowly piecing through our experience with the final chapter in the .hack//G.U. saga, and should we actually figure things out, we'll be sure to update you again.