ArcheAge Review (PC Launch)
ArcheAge is probably one of the most anticipated game in years. This is evident by the hundreds of thousands of players who have flocked to the game over the past few months, attempting to get into the various betas. During the Open Beta phase, the servers were completely bloated with players. This is because the game is unique in that it offers some favorite sandbox features such as housing or high-end crafting, with themepark elements such as quests, dungeons, world bosses, and more. One of the best selling points of the game is that the unique class system allows for the creation of over 120 classes to be made. On paper, it all sounds so perfect that people can’t help but want to play. But does it live up to the expectations?
Customization in ArcheAge falls somewhere between, “Dayum! That’s a lot of options!” and “Eh, I expected a bit more.” If you’ve read up at all on ArcheAge, you can imagine that the “dayum” comes from the many possibilities that the extensive class system offers. Things are a bit less than I expected when it comes to actual customization at character creation, though. While there is a ton of customization options for your face, you are not given the ability to customize your body.
The character class system has been said to make for a possible one-hundred and twenty (120) classes to choose from and create. That’s a lot of classes. The only games I know of that come close to this amount of customization are sandbox MMOs like Mortal Online, Wurm Online, or Darkfall. You create these classes by combining three of ten total “class trees.” On top of the ten various class trees, you further customize yourself by making use of (currently) 23 skill points gained as you level up to 50. Each class has twelve abilities to choose from, plus seven passives that are available. That’s a total of 57 abilities and passives to choose from when making your build.
One of the things that a lot of people are quite happy about is the ability to upload any 256×256 .PNG image into the game and then create stamps which can be placed on various capes, sails, flags, and other neat decorations. For example, I decked my character out with a shirt, a mask, and a cape all bearing my guild’s logo. We also ended up placing flags and frames that had images related to our guild. I’ve seen people upload lots of different types of images, and it’s this level of customization that a majority of MMORPG players have been wanting for a long time.
ArcheAge looks beautiful, through and through. Whether you’re playing at max settings, or settling for medium or lower, you’re going to appreciate the way the game looks. And it looks great not just because of the quality of the graphics, but the obvious love and care that went into the world design and building. The landscapes tell stories and the cities instill wonder. Not many games achieve this.
Characters look fantastic. They are finely detailed and, as I said in customization, there is a lot of room for unique looking characters. Those that are fond of taking screenshots of their characters will enjoy these immensely. Especially with some of the vistas you can have your character in. I sometimes like to sit in Lutesong Harbor in Villanelle and look at the scenery. At high settings, the game world simply looks magical.
Water looks amazing, when it’s not bugging out, which can happen on occasion… hopefully it gets fixed soon. But, other than that, the water takes MMORPG water effects to new levels as it should, since you will be looking at it frequently. But still, I can’t think of a game that invoked so much emotion within me with just its graphics. It’s almost like looking at a masterpiece painting, except its kind of alive and always moving and changing.
ArcheAge is typical of an MMORPG when it comes to controls. If you’ve played a standard themepark MMORPG (like World of Warcraft, for example) in the past few years, you’ll be familiar with the controls almost immediately. I never noticed any problems worth noting while playing. But at the same time, I can’t say I ever felt “wowed” by the controls, either. So, in the end, I’d say I’m happy with the controls, but there’s nothing innovating or game-changing about them.
Like most games, you’re given extensive customization when it comes to keybinds. Considering how starkly mixing various classes can change your playstyle, I advise learning how to customize your keybinds early and do so often to keep your hand from cramping up. The more intricate classes make use of more than twelve abilities, and the 6 to = key is quite a stretch in the middle of an intense fight. I found myself keeping 1 to 5 as-is and changing the rest to Q, E, R, T, F, X, etc… Stuff that I can easily reach. If you’re accustomed to utilizing one of those MMORPG mice with the multiple programmable hotkeys on them, you will be in a good place.
Movement controls are something that caught my eye. I noticed you have several options for controlling the movement of your character. By default, movement is achieved with WASD, Q and E for strafing, and while pressing W you can hold down the Right Mouse Button to turn your character. Left Mouse Button will simply rotate and turn your camera without turning your character. You can also hold down both Left and Right Mouse Button to move your character forward while controlling which direction your character is going. Alternatively, you can activate point-and-click movement. Something that I can appreciate being implemented, even if I personally would never use it.
ArcheAge, at least for now, has a massive community. People have been hyping this game in North America and Europe since the first bits of information were coming out while it was still in development in Korea. With Trion’s beta testing, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of eager players snap up beta keys – thousands of them gone in minutes. When we look at the Alpha servers, we see that they’re full to the brim and they’re nothing but Archeum ($150) Founders – I imagine there’s triple or quadruple (if not more) in Gold and Silver Founders. And that’s not counting the hordes of non-Founders that we’ll see when the game hits release.
As you might imagine, a community this large has lots of different elements. You’ve got Role Players, PVErs, PVPers, Griefers, and more all mixed together in a massive community. Looking at the forums, you can see tons of Role Players or PVPers trying to organize themselves on one or two different servers. Like all communities, though, ArcheAge has its helpful players and its trolls. Faction chat can either be a great source of information or cesspool of racism, trolling, and stupidity. And some of the stuff said in Trial chat will have you leaving the channel and/or begging Trion to only allow Defendants and Jury members to chat there.
What I’m trying to say is, ArcheAge (at its current size) has a community that is much too large to fully describe. I can’t tell you what your community experience will be like, as it’s highly dependent on your choices – including the type of players you decide to align yourself with. There are some steps you can take to kind of get an idea, like doing some research and finding out which servers are a gathering place for Role Players or PVPers. I’ve seen attempts at organizing all-types of communities onto single servers, be it by language/location or play-style.
Combat in ArcheAge is a very nice re-telling of the tried-and-true combat system used in MMOs since Everquest. That is, point-and-click with a hotbar. You’ll click on the enemy you want to attack, turn yourself to face them, and then active your abilities from your hotbar by pressing their corresponding key (1 through = by default). And, while this is an old system, I feel ArcheAge does a very good job of it. I’ve certainly had a lot of fun with the combat.
One of the neater features of ArcheAge’s combat is the plethora of combos. A lot of the time, you’re going to design your class around the different combos that can be achieved. For example, as a Daggerspell, you will have access to Firebolt and Bubble Trap. When you use Firebolt, you have a chance to proc a burning effect. When you cast Bubble Trap on something that has a burning debuff, the bubble will raise much higher than it would normally, creating the potential for a lot of fall damage to be stacked on top of the burning damage. That’s just a tiny taste of all the different ways combos can affect your abilities. There are a ton of possibilities.
Weapons play a decent role in combat, and no matter your class you usually have a few different options that will offer several possibilities. Because of this, a lot of people make use of several weapons whenever they’re participating in combat, switching them as the need arises. For example, someone who makes use of the Vitalism tree (which has a lot of healing abilities) may find that while using a sword and board their damage is decent, but their healing is a bit sub-par compared to what they want. So, they simply switch to a club and suddenly their damage may not be as good, but their healing has drastically improved. This is because clubs have a healing stat attached to them. In the same vein, a sorcerer who feels he’s taking too much damage can switch from a two-handed staff to a one-handed scepter and shield for a bit more protection.
This isn’t the case with just weapons, either. There are three types of armor in the game; plate, leather, and cloth. When you’re wearing a set of a certain gear, you’ll get bonuses. For example, wearing cloth armor helps with mana and magic damage while leather helps with evasion and agility. You won’t gain any negative effects for wearing armor that doesn’t “match up” with your class. So you could, in theory, design yourself a spell-slinging class that makes use of plate-armor for the added protection. Heck, I’ve seen some people who primarily use magic make use of plate-armor plus a scepter and shield for a bit more survivability. Of course, you do sacrifice some of your potential ability to do damage.
These possible combinations, when combined with the huge amounts of options provided by the class system, make for some fairly unique experiences. Sure, a lot of people tend to go with the cookie-cutter/Flavor of the Month builds – such as the Daggerspell, which makes use of the Sorcery, Witchcraft, and Shadowplay class trees while wearing cloth armor. But you don’t have to do that and there really is no reason to do so (unless you simply like simple things). And that’s what makes the ArcheAge combat system so fun for me. The simple yet complex nature of it – which is a recurring theme in the game.
With fun combat comes great PVP. And it is great. There are a lot of different options for PVP within ArcheAge and they mean different things. Although it doesn’t seem it in the early levels, a majority of the game is completely open PVP and anyone can attack you anywhere. Even your own faction can activate “Bloodlust” mode and attack you, although this is illegal and they’ll wrack up crime points for doing so.
I’ve gone into depth about the various PVP systems available in ArcheAge in the PVP overview I wrote back in August. Feel free to check it out here.
For a brief overview, though, there is Open PVP (as I mentioned) which is available in most of the world, except for the lower-level questing areas. There’s also two arenas – a one versus one gladiator arena and a five versus five team match. Right now the match making is basically non-existent… you get into the first available match, no matter the differences in gear or levels. Later on, leaderboards should be added as well but they’re not in yet. There are also guild sieges which can have up to a hundred people on each side and have epic siege warfare where you can destroy your enemies’ castle. Last, and probably least, is the normal dueling that just about every MMORPG has. One versus one and no one dies.
Farming, Housing, & Owning Property
This is also one of the bigger draws to the game. The farming system, which includes the raising of animals, is something quite spectacular. Simply put, the game allows you to grow the various crops and animals you need to get certain resources for crafting or trade packs. For example, if you’re a cook you might set up a farm to grow barley. Or, if you’re a mount fanatic you may choose to take up Animal Husbandry and try to raise a bear mount. What’s neat is that ArcheAge has a “Free-form” system that allows you to place and grow crops almost everywhere. Of course, some locations are safer than others.
For example, at level 10 you’ll get a quest to get a small scarecrow that (if you’re Patron) you can place in one of the specified “property” locations that are found all over the various zones. As long as you pay your taxes, everything you put within the boundary of your scarecrow will be completely safe. You can even change the permissions settings to allow your in-game family, guild, or the public to make use of your farm. Same goes with Large Scarecrows (the upgraded version of the small scarecrow, also gained via quest) and houses.
There’s a number of different houses to choose from. Each faction has its own style of house, with sizes ranging from small, to medium, to large, and even mansion size. Of course, the bigger you get the more Gilda Star the blueprint is going to cost, the more resources will be required, and the higher the taxes. In general, though, by level 15 you’ll have enough Gilda Star from simply questing to get a small house. Now, one thing to keep in mind when getting property is that it costs taxes to maintain them. These are weekly and are paid with tax certificates, which can either be generated using Labor Points, or by purchasing them from the cash shop. And, as you gain more property, the taxes continue to get higher and higher.
One final thing I want to mention in regards to farming and property is the climate system. There are various climates, such as Temperate, Tropical, or Arid. Each zone is given one of these climates and different crops will grow better or worse in these areas. For example, someone who plans to grow a lot of bananas might want to set up a scarecrow in Mahadevi, an Eastern tropical zone. In general, however, you can usually consider Temperate zones the “best” for general farming. This means real estate in “safe” zones with temperate climates are usually picked up very quickly.