In high school, I was well-versed in Japanese media and decided to teach myself the language as it has kept my interest for a long time now. By year 10, I didn’t have to wait months or years for a translations. I could immediately get my hands on the game or manga as soon as it was released in Japan and I felt a little proud of myself because of that. I felt as if I conquered something.
During high school I also had an interest in MMOs that were coming out in South Korea. I could easily access Japanese MMOs even if they blocked my Australian IP (Thanks to VPNs of course). But MMOs in South Korea were a special case. To sign up for any Korean MMO you required a KSSN (Korean Social Security Number) which you can only have if you are a citizen of South Korea. Nowadays an i-PIN is required which is an alternative but still requires you to be a citizen of South Korea to obtain one. With some luck, I was able to obtain an i-PIN and able to access an MMO that I was looking forward to since 2013, 클로저스 (AKA Closers)
Unlike everything I had played before, this was a completely new experience. This wasn’t a game made for the Japanese market I had adapted to nor was it localized for an English speaking audience. This was a pure, unadulterated Korean MMO experience for people in South Korea. Before I even started the game I noticed something, the amount of options for security. I’ll refrain from posting screenshots but there were options for:
- Blocking foreign IPs from logging into your account
- Verification of identity when creating a new ID on your account (Requires verifying i-PIN account)
- Preventing the use of cache for selected games
- One time passwords
- Captcha for every time you login
- Being able to check the log of IPs for every login
It’s safe to say that Koreans take their online security very seriously, even for online games. First thing I immediately notice upon login of Closers is the stamina system which is common for mobile games in Asia but it’s rarely used in Japanese or western MMOs. Even it’s stamina system was unique as rather than having one stamina bar, there were two. One for the character itself and the other which was called account stamina. Rather than simply using another character once that character’s stamina has run out, if account stamina is depleted then you can’t jump to another character to play.
This stamina system clashed heavily with the games I played before such as Final Fantasy XIV and Phantasy Star Online 2. If you’re behind your friends in terms of equipment or level, you could catch up if you put in a few hours of play and with some dedication you can catch up within a day or two depending how far behind you are. In Closers however, progress has a daily limit. If you have a friend who has a week of dungeon runs ahead of you, then you’re forever stuck behind them unless they slow down or you get a whole bunch of stamina potions. Later on in the game dungeons have daily entry limits, so you can only enter a number of times before you’re locked out for the day.
As for the gameplay itself? Quite frantic with lots of special effects, it makes it a little tricky to keep track of enemy movements to dodge but you can either turn those off or get used to it. During the time I’ve played Closers, starting out I noticed that there were very few players below level 60 around. So on my way up, I barely saw any players around my level. Granted there’s an abundance of channels, roughly 200 so it might just be a coincidence. It was interesting to say the least.
Players started appearing once I got to the late game areas where people started to farm for raid gear. Even then I was really surprised looking at their gear. Bumbling around not being able to read Korean I was able to get gear that gave me roughly 60,000 physical DPS but I saw people with gear that gave over 150,000 DPS. It was clear the playerbase was very dedicated and played every single day to make progress.
Overall, it was strange starting from the bottom again, not being able to adapt to the playerbase or even communicate with them. In Japanese MMOs, Japanese players frown upon foreign players if they can’t speak Japanese, even more so if there’s an IP block to keep you out. Thankfully I speak the language so I can keep myself out of trouble there. However in Closers? I’d be outright banned on the spot if someone tried to speak to me there. But hey, it’s all fine as long as they don’t know.