By Jason Parker (Ragachak), A Sexy Orc
Smarter Than Your Average PVP Title
Many of the pure PVP games I have played have resulted in a very negative experience: Super powerful players run around in low/unreasonable areas and only spend their time brutally murdering new players for no other reason than they enjoy it. ArchLord II is an interesting piece as it is an Eastern title that goes with a very Western fantasy edge in the art and character design. I was expecting something far different than what I got, not that that is a bad thing. The basic premise of the game is “Orcs versus Humans,” much in the route of Warcraft, though it has a very gritty, more realistic art style unlike the more “cartoony” Warcraft art. The game itself is not available for commercial use, and is instead in its Open Beta phase. ArchLord II takes place in the world of Chantra, and is to be considered an alternate history to the events that take place in the original game, ArchLord; with this in mind, it is not exactly a sequel, as much as a stand-alone game. You can play this MMO without having played the original title.
Granted, what I expected and what I got were two very different things; it is not a bad thing, but an occurrence nonetheless. Most pure PVP games have no safe areas, and as said above, pretty aggressive, grief-filled experiences. In ArchLord II, there are no servers that are PVE (Player versus Environment), and instead there are zones that are designated for one faction or another, as well as Contested Zones, where full PVP exists and anything goes; to a degree. It is important to note that Contested Zones have a level cap, and maxed level characters cannot go to these earlier zones to bully or grief. I feel like this is a fantastic idea, and while it is a bit strict, more strict than something in a more mainstream MMO (RE: World of Warcraft), I prefer it. I enjoy PVP a great deal, but I do not enjoy not having the chance to get into the game without being mauled. All in all, while it may feel a little bland, as if it were missing something, the combat is exciting, and the PVP promises to be thrilling and action-packed.
As an aside, yes, this game has a shop where you can spend real cash on items. I am of two minds on this; you can spend cash on mounts, which aren’t needed, and inventory expansion slots, which you can get obtain through general gameplay. However, there are “Founder Packs,” which give you an array of bonuses and items. You can get xp/weapon xp boosts, and respecs (unlearning skills). I feel like in a “Hardcore PVP Game” you will find yourself at a great disadvantage for not investing. So, while I think that they have to make money somehow, giving players an edge over one another isn’t a grand idea, and is exactly what’s happening here.
Orcs and Humans. . .Again
ArchLord II has a world that is split into two factions: Azuni and Crunn. Each faction has two races that make it up, though only Orcs and Humans are available at the start of this beta. As time progresses, perhaps the others will appear. Similar to fantasy settings such as Warhammer, Warcraft, and even Lord of the Rings, the Human faction of Azuni are generally stereotyped as good, just, stoic, and steadfast. They are allied with the Dragon Scions, which are a race that used to side with the Orcs. Due to circumstances, they left Crunn, and joined the Azuni instead. In contrast, the Orcs and their allies, the Moon Elves are chaotic and rule based on strength. Orcs judge allies and enemies by their prowess and battle; the weak are regarded not at all, and the strong with great respect. This feels like a jab at Warhammer, with the Orks and Dark Elves, though it could very well be a coincidence.
There is no word just yet if players can enter the opposing faction areas that I am aware of. There are four territories per faction in the world of Chantra. In addition, towards the center of the world are four level-based Contested Zones, with level ranges of 5-10, 15-20, 25-30, and 35-41. Despite this, there is content up to level 50, and much of the PVP goes on in battlegrounds (PVP that is not in Contested Zones). The zones use a fairly simple questing system, where NPCs give you quests to go complete. Another staple of this game is auto-walk, where you can click on a quest on your screen to walk where the enemies or items for the quest are. This is growing more and more common in Eastern MMOs; it is neat, though I do hope it does not permeate into American MMOs. This is not a feature I’d want to see everywhere as it would perhaps make players lazy.
Shot In The Dark
The level cap appears to be 50, and a lot of the actual PVP combat does not take place in any serious fashion until towards end-game, with some sporadic exceptions in the Contested Zone. There are two forms of leveling in this game; character level, and weapon level. There are several types of weapons and each faction builds is theme around particular weapon types. Some weapons are also race specific. At this moment, humans have Greatsword (Melee DPS), One-handed sword (Melee DPS/Tank?), Crossbow (Ranged DPS) and Staff (Healing, Ranged Magic DPS). Orcs have at their disposal Greataxe (Melee DPS), Lance (Two hand+Shield DPS), Bow (Ranged DPS), and Wand (Healing, Ranged Magic DPS). It will be interesting to see what the other races offer for their race-specific weapons.
There is one thing that perplexes me about PVE content that I could not find an answer to. Some of the quests in the game can be completed again, sometimes for rare equipment rewards. The quests are not any more challenging the second time around either. In the Contested Zones, I found I could redo most of the quests over and over again. I do not know if this is intended, or a bug; they are marked as blue exclamation marks such as Daily Quests in World of Warcraft. The big rewards do not appear to be available more than once, but they are much better than the normal loot you might acquire off of dead enemies. Perhaps this is their way to keep bodies in the Contested Zones?
Leveling weapons is done by last-hitting enemies in the world. You can have in your inventory as many weapon types as your inventory slots can afford, and you can have two types equipped at the same time (swappable at will by hitting z or x in the default bindings). For example you can wield Lance and Shield in one build, and swap over to the Greataxe on the fly if you need to dole out reckless power strikes. Then there is regular leveling via the above questing system, or completing dungeons. No word on if there is exp to be gained in the battlegrounds, but one can only guess that this will be the case.
Another interesting thing about the game is the combo system! As you gain character levels, you gain skill points. These can be spent by hitting the “k” in default bindings, and will give you a variety of skills you can learn by meeting certain requirements. You can learn passive abilities to increase your stats and in some cases even acquire new attacks. Some of these attacks can automatically combo together with your base powers, similar to the hotkeying system present in TERA. A stark visual queue will pop up when combo strikes are available, and require you only press the attack again to continue the assault. These skills go on cooldown just like normal abilities, so you cannot simply spam them over and over. The combat has a very action feel thanks to this, which will no doubt make PVP interesting.
Another way to level your weapons is completing quests. Occasionally you will receive a “Weapon Box” reward of a certain level. Opening it will give you an item for each weapon type, and using these items grant exp for your weapons, whether you have it equipped or not. One drawback to this however is that the only way you get skills are by investing skill points. You get no others, so balance carefully.
On the topic of weapons, there is also a fascinating crafting system. There are quests early in the game that will help teach you how to use it, so I will spare you the tutorial. However I will point out the key features that set it apart from the norm. You can reinforce gear utilizing crafting materials, as well as craft new sockets into weapons and armor you collect in your adventures. There are a variety of ways that weapons will be able to be changed, whether it is alchemy, reinforcements, or this socketing. Socketing will allow (a’la Diablo) you to add elemental gems to your gear to change them in a plethora of useful ways. All of these options are not yet in the game and will likely be added as the beta and main game releases.
Dungeon May Cry
Dungeons in Archlord II are fast paced and interesting. In order to do Instances, you need a ticket; this made me worried, because tickets remind me of cell-phone gaming, and those cost money. Instead these tickets drop off of enemies pretty frequently, and by the time I hit level 10, and was able to do the starter instance as well as utilize multiple skirmish tickets (for PvP). There are several instances that are available, and they require an item to get in, whether it is an instance ticket or a type of ticket of a higher-level. These are three-player zones, almost resembling a Dynasty Warriors map where you have a healer, a tank, and a dps that enter the zone with a goal. Generally it is to kill x and y enemy at the end of the instance, and there are lots of obstacles, primarily a multitude of mobs, standing in your way. Depending on how well you do, you receive a grade, and this affects your end of dungeon reward.
The first dungeon I did, the leader immediately set the loot to free-for-all, meaning whoever got to the dead body first got to loot them, and this is infuriating. I missed a lot of gold because he was the tank and was always there first. However we did two man the dungeon without a healer. It is important to note that even if a player does this, anything above common items are decided via a roll. There are other things to do in these instances, such as farm “x” plant or ore; careful, these dungeons are on a timer, and faster run-times seem to affect your score. The highest score appears to be SSS, and the lowest is likely an F.
There are a variety of options for Player vs. Player in this game. Duels can be done anywhere, your faction or theirs; these act like duels in virtually every other game ever. This is not new or interesting, but always fun and great for number testing with friends. Skirmishes are available at level 30, and are five on five combat fought within a variety of zones, with a few victory types such as base capture or kill count. Your party leader can queue the whole group, or you can queue on your own to pug PvP.
At level 40, Battlegrounds unlock. At set times these battlegrounds are open, and rotate map selection on a daily basis. These maps also, like the Skirmishes, have particular goals depending on what map it is. The key difference is these maps feature 200 versus 200, which changes things quite a bit compared to a small 5v5 skirmish. I feared it might wind up like Vanilla WoW’s Alterac Valley (taking a week or more), but since they are only up for a day, I do not think that will be an issue. I have to say, the idea of 200 on 200 PVP in an MMO is exciting, and I am looking forward to seeing how that will play out.
Lord of the Warcraft: 3/5 Good
I like what this game is doing. It is an interesting concept; though it is touted as “Hardcore PVP,” I do not really see that yet; granted it is still Open Beta, and not the official release. The strict limitations on PvP made the experience feel more casual friendly. Though the PvP instances are impressive and offer great map variety, I’d like to see more invasion type active PvP framing the end-game. If this exists, I don’t know much about it at the time of writing this review. Unfortunately the game needs more players at the moment as I never ran into opposing faction members while wandering the Contested Zones. Overall it’s uninspired and seems to be missing something. It’s clear many features are still a work in progress, so perhaps by launch the game will feel more fleshed out.
I like the art-style. It feels like what a generic Lord of the Rings might look like. It sadly falls into the same trap that most fantasy/MMO art does, in that the women are super sexualized; the Orc female starts in barely a loincloth and covering for her more than ample breasts, and there are lots of options to physically change appearances. While the art is nice, I do feel that it is a bit dull and overly grey. That is to say, the colors are not sharp or stark at all. To me it does feel like it is trying hard to be a standard western fantasy title, which will not make it stand out.
The controls are very solid. The camera controls could use some work, but the wasd plus mouse hold and drag system is common enough to easily get used to Archlord II. I was worried the combo system would be clunky and awkward, but the flashy icons popping up right on your skill bar requiring only a repeated button push to activate filled me with joy.
The features that are available are fun and interesting, but it feels like there is not a lot on offer. ArchLord II feels like a very generic fantasy MMO with lots of PVP going on. That is not bad, but if the title wants to again stand out, it needs something more, something bigger. The lack of races and small amount of areas is not bad in the outset, but it’s going to get boring with only a handful of PvP accessible zones. There is always time for more content, but if they do not add more, I feel like it will become disappointing.
I do like the music on offer here, and the sound of weapon skills have very interesting sound effects attached. They really make you feel like you are kicking someone’s ass, and that’s what I am doing! I was playing an Orc lance/shield wielder, and I felt immersed as metal clashed on metal with each opponent I rammed through. The music is good, though it feels again like most other fantasy games. In terms of matching the setting though it is spot on.