I have been on again/off again interested in ArcheAge since it first reared its head in Korea. When I first heard of it, it really piqued my interest. A huge world, pirates, house building, castle sieges? What’s not to like about that? But, as time drew on, my interest waned considerably. First, there was no telling when, if ever, it would hit the North American market. Secondly, I dreaded the “asian” aspects of the game. Not really game design, although that is part of it, but the art style really doesn’t appeal to me and never has.
When it was announced that Trion had acquired the rights to publish ArcheAge here in the U.S., my interest went up again. Trion is a fantastic company and if anyone could do the game justice here in the U.S., its Trion. I thought heavily about investing in one of the Founder’s Pack but decided it was simply too much to spend on a game at that time. After that, my interest waned again as I started looking into ESO and Wildstar.
Last week I happened to surf over to MMORPG.COM and happened to see that they were giving away beta keys. The stars aligned and I not only got a key but I was off from work for the next four days! What better way to spend it than trying out a new game?
The following impressions are based on the last four days. I have leveled one character to 14 and a couple of others up to 10-12. I have tried both factions (East and West) and tried every race as well. Although I am certainly no expert on the game, I have been able to get a pretty good idea of the game play. Read on for my thoughts!
Upon logging into the game, I was immediately struck by the lack of race choices. Technically there are 4 races. However, since two of them are humans, there are really only three for all intents and purposes. The aforementioned human races, an elf race and a beast race called the Firran. Its truly an uninspiring list of race choices. I have heard that XLGames will be introducing two new races sometime next year (the Wartorn and Dwarves!) but who knows when they will make their way over here? For right now, race choice is a big letdown.
After choosing your race, you are brought to a standard customization screen. There are tons of options here for adjusting the face of your character but, sadly, no height and weight options at all. So, each race is the same height and weight, which is a bit disappointing.
The rest of the options are pretty robust. There are sliders for all facial features, a pretty good selection of hair styles and colors, scars can be placed, resized and size adjusted. There are also a number of face paint options, including things like the blue Braveheart style face paint, the V For Vendetta mask and a host of others. One really strange one is the Joker face paint, right out of Batman. Why anyone would want to run around a MMO looking like Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight Returns is beyond me but the option is there if you want it.
I made a short video of the character creation process, including commentary and it can be viewed below.
Graphics and Environment
Graphically, Archeage ranges from acceptable to amazing. The character graphics are solid if unspectacular. Animations are also solid and don’t go over the top like so many other eastern MMOs. Armor and equipment is along the same lines. Solid but nothing really spectacular.
Where Archeage really shines is environmentally. The landscape and fauna of the game are pretty amazing across the board. Mountains, trees, grass lands; all look amazing. Oh, and the water? Simply the best looking water I have ever seen in a MMO. Running along the beach and you see waves crashing against the shore line. It is really amazing what they have done here. It looks breathtaking and adds so much to the immersion.
For some reason, the landscape and world remind me of Lord of the Rings Online with better graphics. The world is laid out realistically, with farms, towns, forests and grasslands. It actually looks like a world in which people live, not a “stage” for MMO mobs to stand around on. That is pretty impressive. I loved the way Lord of the Rings made you feel like you were in an actual world instead of a game and Archeage manages the same thing.
Thematically, the Western continent is much more to my liking. It really looks and feels like Medieval Europe with castles and ruins of castles as well as small villages and larger towns. By contrast, the Eastern continent is very Asian or Middle Eastern in look and feel.
I think the most impressive thing about the world of Archeage is that it is huge and seamless. Not a single instance to be found except for a few dungeons. The rest of the world has nary a loading screen anywhere. You can walk from one side of a continent to the other, jump on a boat and sale to the other continent and then walk across it and never run into a loading screen. That is impressive.
There is also no phasing and that means there are always a lot of players on screen. The world is better off for it. Players are running all over the place, fighting, farming, building houses and crafting. Combined with the world layout and graphics, it really immerses you into the game.
Game play and Class system
Archeage really hides its depth well. For the first 4-6 levels the game really feels like a substandard quest grind MMO. Its like every other themepark MMO out there but with quests that are even less interesting than Elder Scrolls Online or WoW. Had I not read about the game before logging in, I would have probably logged out before I hit level 4. However, having heard of the depth of the game and what was possible, I soldiered on and I soon discovered the depth underneath the quest system.
The first time I noticed that Archeage was not your average quest grinder was when I did the quest for my first mount. Once completed I was rewarded with a foal not a fully grown horse. From there, I had to feed it, water it and entertain it until it grew to maturity. Once that happened, I noticed that the mount could be renamed, had a level and had combat skills that it could purchase. Unlike mounts in other MMOs, it did not disappear when you dismounted but would follow me around until I dismissed it completely. If I got into combat, the mount would help once it got its combat skills.
Soon after I received the mount, I received my first crafting quest and that is when I realized how deeply crafting is embedded in the game. Simply put, everything in the game is predicated on crafting. It is extremely important to everything you do in the game and it is a deep, deep crafting system. You can plant gardens, build homes, craft armor and raise cattle and the goods that you get by doing this opens up tons of options.
You can take trade packs of goods from one town to the other, either over land or by sea, and receive experience and gold for doing so. But, where there are trade routes, there are bandits and pirates which is a huge end game activity. I was unable to partake in either, as I did not level high enough to do so, but General chat was rife with players talking about pirates and bandits.
Matter of fact, the typical themepark end game activities are pretty nonexistent in Archeage. There are a few dungeons and a few World Bosses, but most end game stuff is completely player and crafting driven. Trade routes, pirating and banditry are the obvious ones but castle building and sieges are also driven by crafting and land ownership.
The class system is much like Rift without the hard coded classes. There are 10 skill set choices in the game and you can choose 3 at any one time. You then have points with which to choose skills in each skill set. You can combine the Defense (warrior tank), Occultism (Necromancer) and Songcraft (Bard) if you want and then choose skills from each. This allows for a huge number of possible combinations. There are 120 different possible class combinations and that is not including where you place your points after you have chosen your 3 skill sets. This gives you a lot of choice and its pretty fun tailoring a class to your exact play style.
Final Thoughts and Impressions
At first glance, Archeage is everything I have wanted in a MMO. Community seems to be a main priority in Archeage. There are no cross realm group finders, no instancing and the crafting system insures that players will need to be active in the community to succeed. I like this a lot.
There are a lot of new and interesting concepts in the game. For instance, the Justice system is not something I have seen anywhere else. Kill someone in cold blood or steal from a player’s home and you can get crime points. Amass enough of those and you are put on trial with a jury of your peers (other players). They can sentence you to jail for a number of minutes determined by the crimes you have committed. Once you get to jail there is an entire new mini-game for you to play.
There are a lot of things like this beneath the hood of the game. Its not your average modern MMO. In a lot of ways its a throwback to Ultima Online, DAoC and Everquest. But, in many ways, its completely new. There is a lot of ambition here.
Still there are things I worry about. How slow will patches be because they have to hit Korea and then get “westernized” by Trion before we receive them here? How limiting will the F2P options be? How toxic might the community be because of the F2P? How well will these unique concepts work in reality?
There are a lot of questions here. I am still thinking of biting the bullet and picking up the Founder’s Pack but there is no doubt that a lot could go wrong here. Still I applaud the developers for their obvious ambition and for their attempt at making a unique game in this time of MMO stagnation. Whatever happens with Archeage, it won’t be because they toed the line and made the easy choices.
I will leave you with a couple more videos I made this weekend. Nothing spectacular, just me running around and questing.