Elsword is a free-to-play side-scrolling action-MMORPG based on a popular anime and manga series. Gameplay takes place in a side-scrolling “2.5D” environment, featuring cel-shaded characters and hand-drawn backgrounds. Set in the world of Elios, the plot initially sees the player setting off to find the stolen El Stone, a source of sustaining energy for the world. Being based on an existing property, the player selects one of three characters from the story to play, each corresponding to a typical RPG character class, rather than selecting a class directly. Three more charactersclasses can be unlocked later. These characters can be customized further as the game goes on. The characters are controlled via arrow keys, along with arcade-style “light” and “heavy” attack buttons, with an emphasis on multi-hit combos. Periodically manga-style framing and speech bubbles appear, when doing special moves. Special attacks can be mapped to other buttons, such as WASD.
The game also supports the use of gamepads. The game is split into two basic modes, the storyline and PVP. Storyline mode is handled through a series of NPC-provided quests, which can be tackled alone or as part of the party. The players character has a stamina bar which limits how much of the game can be played in one game. However, PVP is not restricted by the stamina bar and can be entered at any time. PVP can be played either solo or in groups.
Elsword also features a skill point-based upgrade system with a skill tree that unlocks as the player progresses. There are crafting and item upgrading modules as well, and it features an online store to convert real-world money into in-game currency. Rather than being entirely open-world, the game is tied to its story, and more of the game world opens up as the player progresses.