Front Mission: Online (フロントミッション オンライン Furonto Misshon Onrain) is the third spin-off entry and the eighth entry overall in the Front Mission series. The game was played using the online service of Square Enix Co., Ltd., PlayOnline. A beta version of Front Mission: Online was released on November 2004. Like other Front Mission titles, Front Mission: Online is part of a serialized storyline that follows the stories of various characters and their struggles involving mecha known as wanzers.
As a massively multiplayer online (MMO), third-person shooter spin-off, the gameplay of Front Mission: Online differs from the tactical role-playing game entries of the numbered Front Mission titles. Rather than being played out on a grid-based map and using a turn-based structure, battles takes place in real-time on full 3D maps akin to Armored Core. The player controls a mech known as the Wanderpanzer, or wanzer. Players in Online can play alone, or in groups of up to 20 players. The game has built-in support for VoIP, which can be used to communicate with other players.
Game progression in Online works differently from other Front Mission entries. As an MMO, players have complete control over how they want to play the game. When a player creates an account, they will be asked to choose a side to fight for - the Oceania Cooperative Union (O.C.U.) or the United States of the New Continent (U.S.N.). Next, the player must create a character to play as; character creation in Online works similarly to character creation methods found in other MMOs. Once a character has been created, the player can then begin playing the game. There are two modes of play - PvE or PvP. In PvE mode, players do battle against enemies controlled by AI. In PvP mode, players do battle against other players of the game.
The PvE mode of Online is unique in that like the other Front Mission titles, there is a storyline that the player can play through. After the player completes a certain amount of missions, they can participate in military operations, which are a series of missions. These military operations progress the storyline. Furthermore, there are limited-time only operations which are open to all players. Unlike missions, military operations are one-time only events and cannot be replayed. The PvP mode of Online, on the other hand, does not have any story elements. Players pick a battle zone on Huffman Island and fight on it, with the winning side taking control of the zone. Battle zones affect the type of missions that a player can go through in PvE mode. For example, if a U.S.N. military base is captured by O.C.U. forces, U.S.N. players can take a mission to recapture it. Likewise, U.S.N. players can take a mission to defend the base if it was not captured. There are many types of missions, ranging from simple destruction requests to more complex reconnaissance ones.
When a player is not currently involved in a mission or military operation, they are stationed at military bases and supply camps on Huffman Island. In here, they can customize their wanzers, purchase battle gear for their pilots, form groups with other players, or fight other players in the Arena to earn extra money and parts. Players can also defect to the other side if their combat proficiency is at a certain level. Defecting players are demoted by one military rank and lose all of their items, except those that are equipped on their pilot and wanzer. Wanzer customization in Online works differently from other Front Mission titles in that the parts, auxiliary backpacks, and weapons the player can access is entirely dependent on their military ranking. Military rankings work in a progression-based fashion; players must complete missions and military operations to advance in rank. A player can also raise their rank by scoring kills on computer-controlled enemies or players fighting for the other side.
Missions aside, Online boasts other new features as well as returning ones, particularly from Front Mission: Gun Hazard and Front Mission Alternative. The game introduces many new auxiliary backpacks and weapon types. A new kind of auxiliary backpack is the stealth backpack; this protects a wanzer from being detected on enemy radar and/or can render the invisible to the naked eye if an optical stealth backpack is used. The burst bazooka is a bazooka fires multiple bazooka rounds in quick succession; it has a high damage output, but is offset by its slow reload times. There are also hybrid shield/weapons that have both an offensive and a defensive feature. Returning features in Online include remodeling and Cockpit Mode. Once a player has reached a certain rank, they can add upgrades to their parts and weapons to make them more effective. Cockpit Mode, which allows players to control the action in a first-person view, has been expanded to allow for zooming in and zooming out of the battle camera. This allows for precision aiming and shooting, which is ideal for weapons such as sniper rifles and bazookas.
Front Mission: Online ended its services and was discontinued on May 31, 2008.
Source: Wikipedia, "Front Mission Online", available under the CC-BY-SA License.