By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF)
ArcheAge is an MMORPG that sets out to achieve the perfect balance of themepark and sandbox. Being developed by XLGames in Korea, it will be published by Trion in North America. Unfortunately, that's still far off. Right now, myself and hundreds of other English-speaking gamers are playing ArcheAge on foreign servers, with the Russian Mail.ru servers being the most popular. This Early Look will be based on my time in the Russian open beta of ArcheAge, where I played with many other OnRPG forum members.
Character Creation and Customization
Character creation in ArcheAge is fairly extensive. If you enjoy sliders, you'll enjoy making your character. With the extensive customization available to you, creating a beauty (or a monster) is quite possible. Personally, I went with a mutated demon cat with an afro. Needless to say, I was impressed with the creation process.
Did I do a good job?
I should mention there are currently four races to choose from, with more planned for the future. These races range from your standard humans, to cat people. These races are split into two factions, each at odds with each other in both lore and actual gameplay. In the west, you have the Humans and Elves. In the East are the Asians and Ferre (Cat people). Each race has bonuses, and its own features to make it unique.
As a last note on customization, some of you may be pleased to know that it is possible to upload your own 256x256 image and print it on your capes, sails, and flags. This means you can fly a fancy skull-and-bones that you designed yourself (or found on google) on your sails while you do your pirating, or you can have your guild logo on your capes while taking part in a siege (which is a feature that hasn't been released in Russia yet). It's an exciting feature.
Classes in ArcheAge are a bit odd. But in a good way. When you first start playing, you choose a single school. As you level up, you'll choose another. Eventually you'll be able to have three schools at the same time. This is how you generate your class – your combination of the ten schools currently available. This makes for a lot of options and it won’t be hard for you to be unique with so many available classes. Of course, cookie-cutter builds are a thing, but most of them aren't as powerful as people like to make them out to be.
Because of all the options, there is a wide-range of character types to play. And within each character type there is a ton of variation. Even for those that have the same exact class, there can be a lot of differences between them. For example, my main character is a class known as "Gladiator." Within that class, it's possible to go two-handed weapons, sword-and-shield, or dual-wield. I could build myself to be focused on damage-dealing or tanking. It's all these options and possibilities that make ArcheAge's class system so fascinating to me.
The combat in ArcheAge is a mix of somewhere between World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2. Its point-and-click based, but it feels a bit more action-oriented than other titles. But then again, when you get into the combat system, it's actually fairly simple. A lot of abilities are AOE-based, and the only way to dodge an attack is to get out of its range. In the end, that makes ranged classes have a bit of an advantage in a majority of encounters. Not to say that you could not do well with Melee.
Don't mind me, just beating up on some farmers.
The PVE has simple AI. The difficulty comes from health points and damage output, rather than some unique or interesting aspect. There are a few monsters that are amazing, just because of how rare they are, but most of the time you're going to be bored out of your mind fighting the AI. The prime example of special mobs is the Kraken. It roams the sea and can show up seemingly out of nowhere and destroy you and your friends in an instant if you're not prepared.
Our community member Jin-Roh offers a clip of the rather horrific encounter here.
The Game World
Is completely stunning. Even at a moderate graphics setting, you will be able to enjoy the beauty the game has to offer. The difference in architecture and plant-life in each zone is quite noticeable, too. The game is open-world as well; there is no load screens between zones or anything. If you have a machine that can run the game at full settings, you'll probably be a bit mind-blown at how good the game looks.
The game is full of amazing vistas.
You can have a lot of fun just wandering around the zones. One of my favorite things to do is just run around my favorite zone (known as the Singing Land in the Russian version), just exploring the mountains with my glider. I love the high mountains and Chinese-themed architecture of the zone, and it reminds me a lot of Age of Wushu. Sometimes I come across farms that I'll steal from, and there are plenty of wild trees and plants to harvest from as well. The fact that I can spend hours doing something where the game isn't completely holding my hand, and still have fun, is awesome.
And that brings me to the glider. Probably one of the greatest inventions in MMO history. It turns the whole game world into a challenging puzzle. Using it, you can get into places you didn't think possible. It's in some of these places that people decide to put down a large tree grove or cotton farm, which you have a chance of finding if you're lucky. It's also a useful tool for getting in and out of combat, adding a whole new layer to everything.
The freedom that the gliding allows is amazing.
This is an area I'm kind of confused about. Generally, I hate questing. I hate it a lot. Mostly because games just give you "kill 10 of X Creature and bring me X of its hair" type quests. And, honestly, ArcheAge is no different. The quests feel like generic time-wasters. Only a few of the quests I've done were interesting, and that was usually because of how absurd they were (like when I had to capture a mermaid for some guy that lived by himself on the beach...).
However, ArcheAge has a nice balance of sandbox and themepark content. So, while the questing is a boring grind after the first couple of hours, I can always go farm or do trade runs or any number of other things to enjoy my time without having to slowly kill my soul. The other neat thing is a lot of the other stuff you do will give you experience as well. Such as farming, or doing trade runs, crafting, and even selling stuff on the auction house. There's a lot to do and you honestly don't have to stick to questing to enjoy or progress in the game (questing is, however, the fastest method to level).
Probably my favorite part of the game, farming is a very nice system which has a lot of variables to keep it interesting, but is simple enough to still be fun. Before ArcheAge, Age of Wushu has my all-time favorite (literally) farming system in a game. The wide variety of stuff you can grow, the different climates that affect the growth rate of the crop, and the fact that you can make a decent sum of money versus time spent tilling crops all makes it a great and important part of the game. Most things will require something be grown, especially trade packs (which I will get into later).
My super-secret farming spot.
One of the neatest things is that you can farm almost anywhere. As long as there's a patch of grass, you can probably put down some plants on it. Although that is quite dangerous to do if you aren't careful to find a hidden place to grow your crops beforehand. Anyone that comes across your crops can harvest (or ruin) them. And if you're growing in one of the non-PVP zones, you may find yourself racing against someone else to harvest your own crop. The only way to farm in complete safety is to plant your seeds in an area you've claimed for yourself using a scarecrow or a house.
It should be noted that farming (and crafting, for that matter), make use of Labor Points. These labor points regenerate extremely slowly for free-account players. Premium players have a much easier time of it, due to the increase labor point generation and the ability to generate the points while offline. Scarecrows and houses are also unavailable to free accounts, so you'll need to make friends and join a family or guild that has members who will be willing to share their land with you.
Crafting is a huge part of ArcheAge. If you want to get anywhere in the game, you'll either have to get into it yourself, or rely heavily on someone else who has. The crafting itself is fairly simple, as you just choose a recipe from a list and click a button to make an item. However, getting the ingredients is where the fun comes in. Each recipe requires multiple ingredients which may require you to grow, collect or craft several different things. The more advanced the recipe, the harder it will be to gather all the required items. A lot of crafted gear (which is generally the best, unless you get very good drops), requires that the previous version of the weapon be crafted before the more advanced version can. For example, a Simple Sword is an ingredient for a Superior Sword.
You'll also be using crafting to make trade packs, which are used in "Trade Runs," which I will get into after this. Resource packs are also required to build just about any type of structure of vehicles available from houses to boats. These packs are made by combining a large quantity of a resource (usually a stack of one-hundred) and then carrying said pack to the location you are crafting the item.
Next to farming and crafting, Trade Runs are probably the next biggest part of the game. Everyone will end up doing them at one time or another. Why? Because it's a great way to make gold, and the only way to make the all-important Delphic Stars, which are used to buy stuff from the market-island of Mirage. Just like in the real world, if you want to make big profit, you're going to have to travel a bit of a distance.
A majority of trade runs quickly devolve into chaos.
During my time playing the game, the trade runs were one of the most enjoyable and social experiences I have had. Being in a large guild that can sport several ships worth of people, all heading to a port to trade is awesome. Not just because being around a lot of people and chatting is fun, but also because of the fact that there is a chance that PVP is just ahead. Perhaps you'll be attacked by pirates while crossing the open sea? Or maybe you'll come across another boat of traders and wish to kill them and take their trade packs? Each a blast, either way.
I probably should have waited for backup.
And that brings me to the next point – Pirates. There are literal pirates in ArcheAge; those players who have accumulated enough crime points to be tossed out of their own faction and be left in the pirate faction. And then there are those pirates that are taking part in the act of pirating, which is stealing someone else’s cargo. I admit that I love nothing more than killing someone and stealing their pack right before they get to the turn-in point and then turning it in myself for the rewards. And the threat that it may happen to me as well makes the game all the more intense.
More than likely, you'll spend a lot of time on the sea. You'll either be doing sea-based trade routes, pirating, or just traveling. Almost everyone goes after the so-called "Speed boat" as their first major construction, even before they go after a house. It offers fast travel across the water, and can come with either a harpoon or a cannon. And let me tell you, the harpoon makes the effort required worth it. Due to the physics in the game, a lot of fun can be had with that hook.
Because spending time on the water is required for so many different activities (even more once fishing is introduced to the Russian version), you will run into other people fairly often. Sometimes these are same-faction, sometimes it's an enemy faction. But always, you can never trust them while on the open waters. As it's considered a "war" zone, anyone, even your own faction, can attack you. This makes the waters feel like something you would expect from a 17th century pirate tale.
ArcheAge has a very nice housing system. It's a bit more than just a cosmetic thing, too. To be able to get access to the more advanced recipes, you will need to place crafting tables that can only be put in a player house. So if you plan to get far into the crafting portion of the game you will need a home, or be in a family or guild where you can make use of a friend’s house’s crafting tables. It also will allow you to place your own mailbox and set it as a teleport location. It's a very useful thing to have.
But space is limited. You're only allowed to place houses in certain areas, and the space in those areas can fill up fast. There is a tax system in place to keep inactive people from taking up space, but you'll still want to get your house down in a good spot ASAP. Or, if you can't place a house, put down a scarecrow to help save yourself a spot. Also, keep in mind that (at least in the Russian version) this feature isn't available to free players so you'll need premium.
PVP & Crime
A lot of the game world is Open PVP. Once you get in the 30-50 range, you'll begin questing in "War Zones" where players of the opposite faction can attack you. I also mentioned already about the open sea and its dangers. Even some of the best resource spawns are only available in the PVP zones. This means that, unless you make an effort to avoid it (which you could definitely do), you may end up PVPing at one time or another, which strengthens the need to be part of a good, strong community to help you survive.
But fear not! For there is law in this land. Sort of. Whenever a crime is committed, be it murder or theft, either a red footprint or a blood stain is left behind. Anyone (even your guild mates) can then report that print or stain and it will count towards your “Crime Points.” If you reach fifty Crime Points, you will go to court and be sentenced by your fellow players (or you can just plead guilty for a slightly shorter sentence than you would if the jury found you guilty). If you continue in your bad ways and reach three-thousand total crime points, you will be kicked from your faction and put into the pirate faction. That closes some doors, but it does open others. You should, however, try to avoid being put there until you're a high level though.
My time in the Russian Open Beta has re-confirmed my hype for ArcheAge. When I first heard of ArcheAge over a year ago, I was instantly excited by the concept. Now that I've gotten the chance to play the game in-depth, I cannot wait for the Trion NA/EU beta to begin. The blend of themepark and sandbox concepts and content is nearly perfect, and I was surprised at how well it was done. Unfortunately, it has been announced that Russia will be IP-banning all but a select few nations, and so I won’t be able to play anymore. Here's to hoping Trion gets their version of the game into Open Beta testing ASAP!