This weekend I had the opportunity to get my first hands on look ArcheAge. Last Thursday marked the first of several Beta events for ArcheAge, one of this year’s most anticipated MMORPGs. Developed by Korean game studio XLgames, this beast of an MMO is finally finding its way to the west. It promises to blend the comfortable familiarity of a theme park style MMO with the flexibility of a sandbox. Eager to find out if this title would live up to my high expectations, I joined the folks over at Obsidian Fear for a long weekend of ArcheAge.
A quick glimpse of this game might lead you to the wrong impression. It may look like paint by numbers clone but it’s not. The scope and breadth are that of which I have very rarely seen in any online game. One weekend was not near enough time to go down the very deep rabbit hole that is Archeage. Fortunately, I was tied in to Obsidian Fears teamspeak channel for most of the event. Spending the event with a well Established Alpha guild really helped give a good feel for the depth of this title.
The first thirty or so levels of the game heavily utilize theme park elements. Quest givers use the traditional gold exclamation point that we are already very comfortable with. The game does a great job introducing players to the trading and resource based mechanics. They are trickled in at an almost perfect pace. I rarely felt overwhelmed even when introduced to concepts I was not completely familiar with.
After the initial 30 levels the game quickly opens up in to more of a sandbox. Quests begin to die down and the remaining ones are in open PvP areas. At this point you are really encouraged to explore the games varying mechanics. One thing I really appreciated was that everything in ArcheAge gives you XP. After the basic tutorial quests you can potentially level to end game without ever lifting your sword.
ArcheAge does an excellent job at creating a sense of immersion. Many objects in the game are interactive, candles can be lit and beds can be slept in. The world feels huge, hardly anything is instanced and there are no load times between areas. The game feels very alive and unique despite its tried and true fantasy overlay.
Farming and land acquisition seem to be two of the most important aspects of the game thus far. Throughout the entire weekend our chat was filled with Meta talk about who was growing what, and which other guilds had which premium land spots. Gathering resources is of immense importance as almost everything in the game is crafted by players.
One of my few concerns is the game essentially has a small pay wall. Free players can plant crops public farms or test their luck placing them in unprotected areas, but they cannot own a farm. This potentially gives players who decide to subscribe a significant advantage over those who don’t. I understand the reasoning behind limiting private farms to those who subscribe. It appears to be a reasonable solution to handling potential placeholder accounts from grabbing up all the best land spots.
People who have no intention of subscribing still have plenty of reason to play. There are no other restrictions on content or ownership. A non patron still has an arsenal of methods for obtaining needed resources. At this stage it appears a free player can compete on a fair level in the end game. All the best gear is crafted, so with the help of a good guild a free player can easily thrive. One of the items that will be available on the cash shop is a usable item that grants thirty days of subscription access. This item is tradeable giving the free player an opportunity to utilize all the advantages of a subscription without paying a penny.
The court system is one of the most interesting features. If a player chooses to kill players on his own faction or commit other forms of crime, he could be put up for trial and even go to jail. The jury is selected at random from a group of your peers. This should further help the sense of immersion that XLgames is trying to achieve.
ArcheAge uses a three faction system. On the surface it appears like a two faction system. You have the Harani in the east and the Nuian in the west. At any point if a player commits enough crime he is kicked from his current faction, his guild and then moved to the pirate faction. The pirates occupy a small island in the ocean and can only join other pirate guilds. This mechanic has the potential to create some very dynamic world politics.
There is a heavy emphasis on group play with ArcheAge. It is immensely beneficial to join a guild and most of the content is aimed at larger groups of players. XLgames does a pretty good job at giving you a reason to fight. Engaging in Naval battles to steal others trade goods can make for a nice payday. Seizing an enemy guilds Castle provides game changing bonuses.
I am interested to see if ArcheAge can manage to hold the attention of players. Thus far it has all the prime ingredients in place to create for a lasting and meaningful experience. I have some concerns in regards to how overcrowding will be handled. Hopefully there are enough servers at launch that this becomes a non issue. I am personally electrified to see how ArcheAge grows and changes in time.
Playing ArcheAge reminds me of my days in Star Wars Galaxies or Ultima Online, and this is definitely a good thing. It’s a wonderful change of pace to see an MMORPG that rides a fine line between theme park and sandbox game play. So far this is one worth getting excited and marking your calendars for. Expect further content from MMOGames as we get closer to launch.
If you'd like to get your hands on the closed beta we here at MMOGames are giving away codes for this weekend's event. It begins July 30th and runs until August 4th. Keys are limited so be sure to get one while they last.
Screenshot one courtesy of Justin Sheehan from Obsidian Fear
Screenshot four and header image courtesy of Chris Batcho from Obsidian Fear
All screenshots used with expressed permission