Imagine leading a fleet of ships, irresistibly riding the seas, or gracefully riding with an elite unit to defend against oncoming foes; well ArcheAge provides all this and more. The developers of this interesting and seamless open world are XLGames lead by Jake Song, who is known for his work on Lineage, an experienced team who after four years, alongside Trion, have finally brought it to Western shores. The game presents itself as an exciting MMO with impressive siege battles, dungeons with challenging bosses, a player-driven economy and housing and an engaging crafting system. Appropriately, I became deeply centred on the game and have been excitedly awaiting its release since its announcement.
ArcheAge implements the unique style of sandpark, one that isn’t exactly easy to pull off and does target a very specific audience. Nevertheless, from the character creation to the end game it becomes pleasantly clear why this game proudly wears the label of ‘sandpark’. Indeed, at first it reminded me a lot of Shadowbane with its Open World PvP, unwavering in excitement. However, those looking for a game to quench their desire for a successor to the great Ultimate Online, or even one just to provide them with an awesome RvR experience, mightn’t be content with ArcheAge. Still, the promise of similarity between these games alone is enough to get me excited. Resultantly, I went into the game with great expectations, and in many ways they were met, in others not so much.
Immediately in the Character Creation, an aspect of great importance for many, you are met with the power of CryEngine3, providing clear and meticulous visuals. Like most other MMOs you are given options for each feature of your character, and for me personally a plethora of customisation options were given but many might argue otherwise. The over the top armour sets for females, present in most Korean games, can be found in ArcheAge, however it is relatively toned down. That said, the overall armour design is quite catchy but rather unrealistic. Finally, Character Creation also allows the choice of one of the four races (Firran and Harani from the Haranya continent and Elf and Nuian of the Nuia continent) as well as a basic class.
The class system in ArcheAge is quite unique and allows for a vast amount of customisation. You are first given the option between six basic specialisations and later can choose between any of the 10. As you progress you may don three specialisations (allowing for 120 possible classes, each with a name!) which for me meant I could essentially create my perfect class. The ten specialisations, Battlerage, Sorcery, Archery, Vitalism, Occultism, Shadowplay, Defense, Auramancy, Witchcraft and Songcraft all provide skill sets that resemble a standard MMO class but still provide uniqueness that can rarely be found these days.
Upon exiting my early levels and having achieved a hefty amount of hours I can decidedly say that I was disappointed by the lack of sandbox principles being applied. The game is sandpark of course, but it is often regarded as sandbox. I could not go to the nearest resource and begin farming and I could not go and destroy the nearest object. These elements do exist, but only in designated areas which for me destroys the fun of purely wreaking havoc. However, the game provides Open World PvP which brings the joy of being able to exact revenge on allies or simply torment the nearest unsuspecting pvper.
The Open World PvP for me makes up for a lot of the downfalls of the game, however there are some areas where PvP is limited (e.g. starter areas). Duelling is also present and is really what you would expect to find in any game. Members of the same faction are allowed to kill each other but this does result in receiving Criminal Points, a necessary feature. With enough Criminal Points players can be sent to prison, however there is a justice system which allows players to almost vote offenders into jail.
By far the part I was most interested of taking part in was large-scale Cross Faction PvP. As soon as you exit the level 30 zones you will be hard pressed not to find group pvp, thus allowing me to get a lot of action and experience. Most of the combat will happen in zones which have good terrain (generally altered by players) for both sides to utilise, and will generally occur between two guilds. You can find enjoyable battles of all sizes, from small 5v5s to larger 50v50s. However, the combat is often passive and disorganised, though this is more of an issue with the recentness of the game and its player-base.
This brings me to the combat system, unquestionably one of the poorer elements of the game. For many this will be a deterrent as half your time is generally spent in combat, indirectly or not. Firstly, it is not that the combat system that is extremely clunky and unplayable but rather the fact that it has a lot that can be improved on. Moreover, the combat itself feels quite rigid but this might be a bi-product of me spending a lot of time on more fluid action games. The combat is void of splash damage for the most part and does not exactly consist of the most exciting and fluid animations. However, something that many people forget is that this combat style resembles that of the older established MMOs, and is by no means boring. Indeed, it just opts to reward users by utilising strategy and combos more than reaction speed and builds. Certainly, the issues with the combat system will, without doubt, vary from player to player.
Something closely tied with the combat system is the equipment in ArcheAge. There are three types of armor: plate, leather and robe and likewise three types of weapons: one-handed, two-handed and right-handed (Off-handed). Each class will have its favoured weapon set, ranging from dual-wielding to simply two-handed ranged weapons. There are seven main slots for armor, including belts and bracers, and shields are also available as a right-hand weapon. In PvE gear is subject to durability and the attached penalties, however these are relatively light and so do not really add a new persistent element. With that in mind, there is disparity between standard and top-tier gear stats which drastically affects single-player combat.
Corresponding to equipment among others things is the crafting system, something that is often boasted about in ArcheAge. Crafting relies on labour points which accumulate over time; that is you’re allowed to have one character gaining five points every five minutes (items that replenish points are available). Armor is crafted by spending these points and have the required resources. Each piece is a pre-requisite to a higher piece or can be advanced into high tiers and rarities using scrolls. However, as of recently to create top tier gear you are required to go through some RNG, which to many hardcore crafters is quite an annoyance
As the economy is player based crafters play an integral role, however all players can impact the economy irrelevant of crafting. Everything you do generally requires work (in a good way), this means if you want a horse as your mount you will often be spending time feeding and raising one. The alternative is to of course buy an already raised one, thus impacting the economy. The sandbox element of the game becomes far reaching here, and every aspect plays an integral role in creating a fascinating economy.
Something I enjoy in any game is a housing system, as such I was very keen to have my own property. Upon gaining my house (which you can shop around and see preview houses) I took steps to make it my home, decorating it and adding lively pets. After a while though I realised why not everyone had these enormous houses of grandeur quality, most people use their property as resource farms! As you stroll into any town you will see masses of animals acting as a blight on the bright and rich green land. Nonetheless, many play to fight and build boats, submarines and various other things which makes gaining resources their top priority, understandably.
One thing that for many is more enjoyable than housing, is building the houses themselves! Yes, construction, trading and harvesting form the very fabric of any sandbox adventure. I travelled into many zones that had wonderful forests, equipped with flowers and pergolas, made no other than ArcheAges very own playerbase. It is things like these that provide pride for those who made them but also give the visual appeal that no sole game developer could create on his/her own.
For many the civil life of construction and trading is just no fun! For the daring, piracy is what brings them to the world of ArcheAge. As players exit safe zones to profit through trade, other players can creep up and attack and steal. Pirates are hostile to both factions and reside in Pirate Island, however the sandbox aspect means that with enough force pirates are allowed to control many zones. Pirates can often be found offering services to traders at ridiculous fees or just simply stealing from the inexperienced.
With trading and piracy being tough work, sometimes it is necessary to sit back and relax. However, with so much ground to travel under the hot sun and among warring players the world never lets up. There is one saviour though, that is mounts! In ArcheAge you are not only able to ride horses, but snow lions, gliders and ships too! For a relatively cheap price you can raise a horse or buy a fully-grown mount on the go. The ship system on the other hand is much more time-consuming and complex, in a good way. Ships provide a way to carry large amounts of packages for trade and profit and is also another way to wage war. They do require resources to be made, but the smaller ships are easily attained. To accompany this great naval combat exists the Kraken, a curious aspect of ArcheAge. The Kraken is a hero boss that is hidden in the ocean and will on random occasion appear, attacking ships. It can be killed but it is extremely powerful and will attack anything in its way; thus adding a very engaging and fearsome foe to any travel.
Before one can jump into this extreme action all day long they must first learn the ropes. Questing is a core part of almost all MMORPG’s and ArcheAge is no exception. The levelling in ArcheAge is actually not grindy and moves at a relatively good pace. Furthermore, the questing has an actual storyline to it, being based on a famous Korean novel (The ArcheAge Chronicles). The biggest drawback is the lack of alternative, players are almost forced to follow the main quest line or risk losing out on some free resources (mainly decent gear and starter mounts) and the speed of levelling. I found it best to take levelling slowly as there is so much to do, sailing and farming for example. Overall, the levelling is far from overly difficult and will not be a struggle for anyone, the questing follows a fascinating storyline however the alternative options to questing are not attractive.
When navigating through ArcheAge, completing your quests or sailing through the ocean, you will of course be taking notice of the graphics and sounds. If you wanted to be nit-picky I’m sure you could point a couple of flaws in the visuals, but I suspect that nearly all will be awe-inspired. If your machine has the power to play at max settings you will get to see CryEngine3 in action. From the mountains to the colossal statues scattered around the world, you will not once cease to be impressed by one of the most stunning and spectacular worlds of recent MMOs. The use of tessellation really adds to the realism, which is in turn supported by small but prevalent features like player collision. Lastly, ArcheAge does allow UI Addons which will make for a personal and customisable UI for many.
Accompanying the amazing graphics is the ever prominent sounds in ArcheAge. First off, the soundtrack was well composed and fit with the theme of the game. On the other hand, the sound effects failed to impress, and really began to be an annoyance. However, for me this is in most MMOs, where after a week or so I turn down the sound effect volumes.
For me ArcheAge overall ends up becoming an exciting yet bland balanced MMORPG, a shaky attempt at bridging sandbox and themepark. It boasts a vast amount of great features, yet in many of them it seems to just miss the mark, sitting on the verge of embodying awe. Nevertheless, few would call this game boring and unbearable. It never fails to provide entertainment or tasks to complete, so long as you find a good community to settle in with. This game will provide an amazing experience for many but for how long is the question. That is to say, as new games eventually hit the US market like Blade and Soul will people still be riveting over ArcheAge or will they be eager to try something new? No one holds the answer for all, but I think it’s safe to say that ArcheAge is well worth the try and will certainly provide an enjoyable experience.
Note: My time with the game has been limited to some extent and this is based on the Russian release as well as the Trion Alpha version. My overall rating is a 7.5 (would be a 9 if they reverted to the old RNG free crafting system, improved the combat system a little and added more sandbox style freedom) but in comparison to the current MMO scene it’s my top pick.