ArcheAge is an MMO published by the venerable and veteran Trion Worlds, whom we already know for producing Rift: The Planes of Telara and Defiance. The result is a game with stunning graphics and a fairly solid presentation. The developer is XL Games who are actually totally unknown to me.
The trailer for the launch of this game is beautiful, and a bit overwhelming, but it’s nothing like the game itself—which is much more down-to-earth when it comes to MMORPG graphical technology. Although it certainly does a fair job of rivaling current games such as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV and other modern-release games.
With four races, six classes, an extremely extensive character creation, ArcheAge does a good job of providing all the basic tools for new players to embody themselves. The UI and control scheme is also common to most MMORPGs so it does not require much of a learning curve.
This is a beta release, so there may be some bugs and kinks to work out; but overall it made a good first impression on this reviewer. See below for a full and detailed accounting of some the more interesting points.
Graphics and Sound: ArcheAge is a very good looking game with solid
The graphics of ArcheAge look extremely good and it bears a quality reminiscent of many higher-end Asian-styled MMOs. The most striking graphics element is that character hair has animated physics—it will swish and sway with player movement. The result is some pretty nice hairdos (and odd ones of course.)
Character creation is a joy. It uses a composite gallery of portraits for quick selection of different features—from eyes, nose, face, etc.—hybridized with a hidden advanced capability that provides a bunch of sliders. So players who just want to pick from a set of simple features to mosaic a face together can do that and get going; and more advanced players can fiddle with sliders to get their look just-so.
The only weird thing about the game (also notable to Asian-import games) is that women seem to have highly mobile breasts. Simply turning a female avatar can trigger a slight gelatin-like jiggle even when she appears to be wearing leather or other binding fabric.
The environments are detailed and full of stuff. I started my character as an elf, which planted me in a verdant realm filled with grass, trees, and blue sky. The modelers for this game did a good job of producing a vibrant world with plenty of stuff to look at—although it was somewhat trampled by all the other people who’d come to see the same thing.
Animations for characters worked pretty well and fit into the Fantasy motif. I spent a lot of time watching sword attacks, but there are characters that throw fireballs, shadows, and the like. Mine swung her sword with great gusto. The swings would display blazing arcs of silver as she sliced-and-diced the various enemies.
It did seem like most of the abilities seemed a little underwhelming on the animation side; but this is the very beginning of the game. Newbie stuff, so the abilities are all of the bread-and-butter variety.
One thing that I noticed to an extent is that the game seemed to use a certain amount of physics objects effects. Some of the enemies did seem ragdoll a bit when they were knocked down, and their corpses sometimes shifted slightly when I took items from their bodies. Perhaps this will come into use later in the game.
The music in this game is actually extremely good (although it’s also a little loud sometimes.) Unlike other games I did not find myself needing to turn it off entirely or desiring to rid myself of it. In fact, the ensemble and track of this game felt extremely fitting and well produced. There’s quite a variety of music, mostly falling into the generic Fantasy genre variety.
It’s not exactly orchestral assemblages of instruments but it fills its role extremely well. I noticed that the music also changes from place to place, I only explored from levels 1 through 10 and heard possibly four different musical compositions.
In all, the music felt like a living worthwhile addition—although it did seem to be very generic Fantasy.
Really, I could get into the music that played during character creation.
Gameplay: So far pretty a fairly standard MMORPG with room to grow
ArcheAge fits solidly into the MMORPG genre with a control scheme that everyone is likely used to by now. WASD to move, hold-mouse-button to control camera, click-to-target, and then 1-8 for attacks. Mousewheel lets you zoom in and out and that’s that. It didn’t take very long to learn how to play the game from the get go.
For anyone not familiar there is a very aggressive tutorial system that talks at you and tells you what to do and how to do it.
Quests are delivered with the “!?” system, but there’s a slight difference in that yellow exclamation points are normal quests and green exclamation points are your-race-only quests. Normal quests progress the standard zone storyline; whereas race-only quests appear to progress primarily lore for the game. In my case, they told a story about an old elven king who sacrificed himself and the plight of the elves in the world of ArcheAge.
The story was told not just in the quest text and dialogue of the NPCs but also in cutscenes with painted illustration.
New characters get to choose between four different races: the elves and the Nuians, from the western continent, Nuia; and the Firrans, and the Harani, from the eastern continent, Haranya. Nuians and Harani appear to be standard humans; whereas elves are elves, naturally, and the Firrans are a type of cat people.
Currently there are six classes available to players: Battlerage, a standard warrior; Sorcery, an elemental-wielding mage; Archery, does what it says on the tin and shoots arrows; vitalism, a skilled healer/cleric; Occultism, a patron of the dark and necromantic arts; and Shadowplay, a rogue with daggers and a bag of dirty tricks at her disposal.
It seems there are a few others available as class specifications (or potential future classes.) For example, the Battlerage warriors can specialize into Auramancy, which allows them to provide passive support to allies, or into Defence, which opens up a bunch of protective skills and shield skills.
Combat is the basic hotkey based system with the 1-8 keys and also Shift-1-8 as well. Like most MMORPGs a fight consists of lining up and then pressing the right buttons in sequence as they go on and off cooldown; but there’s also a combo system that’s not well described in the tutorial but sometimes pops up that a combo happened when fighting.
Getting from place to place in the starting area the game provides little stones that allow for swifter travel. And, for the expenditure of stamina, double-tapping ‘W’ will cause the character to swiftly sprint across the countryside.
There are also mounts available and at about level six I got to raise one.
Freemium: Expected to be free-to-play
The ArcheAge FAQ includes the question, “Will ArcheAge be free-to-play?” and the reply is a wholehearted, “Yes!” The game will be free-to-play, and have no box price. People will be able to download and jump right in.
Of course, like most free-to-play game ArcheAge will include optional Patron subscriptions and non-recurring passes that will provide numerous (and possibly large) benefits. These benefits include being able to own land in the game for player housing, discounts in the in-game cash shop, boosts, and more.
The cash shop is not currently available for review so GameOgre will have to return to the game post-beta to review that.
Conclusion: ArcheAge is a solid Asian-centric offering from Trion Worlds
This is only a beta, but right now ArcheAge is showing that it has everything that it needs to provide a solid MMORPG along with a compelling narrative. I played through the beginning elf storyline and even just levels 1-10, I can feel the strength of the story. A great deal of the game has not just been able my personal journey, but about the lore of the elves themselves.
A great example is the tournament fight against one of the human warriors. After winning the battle I got a cutscene with a painted illustration of a man in armor, sword drawn, head down; and a story about how when I fought him I saw his face reflected in the blade as he drew it. Except it was not his face—it was another darker visage. The echo of a memory from the sacrifice of the great elven king who once fought his best friend (now the God of Destruction) and who also sacrificed his life to safe the elven peoples.
This story weaves throughout each of the fetch quests, the kill-3-of-this, and the other obligatory MMO grind that persists in the world to drive players to explore and examine parts of the virtual universe. With each section of progression I learned not just mechanics of the game, but found myself drawn into the story and felt like my character was part of something bigger.
Good work on Trion World’s part. We’ll see once the game comes out of beta what kind of community it will develop.