Tuesday, October 7, 2014 | 41I guess it's fair to say I was wrong about being wrong. XLGAMES and Trion aren't spearheading the MMO Renaissance. In fact, they're further contributing to the aggressive tumor of Pay to Win gaming. In summation:
ArcheAge is deeply flawed.
Calling ArcheAge feature-rich is certainly an understatement, but to the new player experience gives the appearance that the game is generic F2P business-as-usual dumpster fire. The truth, however, is far more dubious.
Character creation in ArcheAge is fantastic. You can make a white guy, an Asian guy, a fruity elf, or a REALLY FUCKING STRANGE CAT LADY.
Classes are determined by the selection of three skill trees. Some trees synergize better than others, and if you try and get too creative you'll be gimpy. There is just enough leeway to let you feel creative without actually allowing you to think very hard about any skill decisions.
Armor is split up into light, medium, and heavy categories and while anyone can wear any armor type, it's obvious that natural favoritism occurs. This is another of those, "get creative and you'll be easy to kill" situations that they seemed to favor the design of.
Once you're done making your handsome lad, you're off to begin one of the most generic quest-hub grinds in the history of MMORPG's. Discovering that the PvE was so shallow in a game with such a massive feature list was fucking painful. Combat fully embracing the classic (boring) tab-target 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-= method certainly doesn't project greatness.
Gliders were a sunny spot in the (sort of) early game. They only allow you to stay above ground for a finite amount of time, so they don't make the world feel really small like a flying mount tends to. The later models also come equipped with weapons, so you can shoot your enemies out of the sky, but you rarely see many epic glider battles... which is a shame.
I could go further into detail on the new-player experience, but it really is one of those, "played one played them all" scenarios with the exception of one early quest. The first sign things were looking up was when I picked up a quest that resulted in a tiny horse in a backpack glued to my back. Intrigued, I followed the quest line which had me feed, dance with, and wash a baby horse until it burst forth into adulthood and became my slave. This took about 2 minutes, and I assumed that raising non-tutorial mounts would be a more complex process. It isn't.
Establishing a Settlement
The strongest and most terrible feature of ArcheAge is the needlessly complex crafting and construction system. If you didn't quit the game after a couple hours of soul crushing boredom you'll discover a line of quests that earn you some farms and a donkey. That's really when the game starts to open up. Depending on your goals, you can use your farms to grow trees for lumber, or crops for various other purposes. My long-time guild, Korben Dallas Multipass, pooled resources to first construct a house to be used as a base of operations, then a small harpoon boat to carry out our evil desires on merchants and fishermen. The harpoon boat was a great investment, but I'll come back to that.
This middle phase of the game was alarmingly satisfactory until it became obvious that the entire mid-to-high crafting system is centered around forcing players to either spend money in the cash shop or progress at a snail's pace. This applies across the board to every tradeskill, but it seems like the barrier to entry of Fishing was the worst. You know the saying, "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, start him down a road to demoralizing credit card debt from which he will never recover and ruin his life"? Is that right?
My favorite tradeskill, artistry, allowed you to use Music Markup Language to write songs that you could perform in the game, however I found out that it's a direct ripoff of the same feature in Mabinogi... Still, there is something special about playing The Final Countdown over the lifeless corpse of your enemy.
F2P Strikes Again
As all F2P games, all systems in ArcheAge are constructed in such a way as to screw you for not shelling out money to accomplish menial tasks. To explain this, I'll need to define a few systems:
Labor PointsLabor Points are used to limit the number of crafting actions you can execute per day. This keeps down item supply, which would be good for the economy if you couldn't pay money to get labor point potions. Subscribers earn labor points while offline, but earn double for being logged in. This is why power-gamers just afk bot their characters inside their houses. Apparently nobody anticipated this causing queue issues... Or being stupid bullshit.
Gilda StarsGilda Stars are tokens you earn slowly by turning in daily quests, running trade routes, and various other boring shit. They allow you to purchase plans for large structures and boats, however these things are tradeable so you can purchase all of these items on the auction house for gold which completely negates the purpose of Gilda Stars. Another fucking great idea.
Trade PacksTrade packs are craftable goods that you can transport from one tradepost to another for gold, stars, or other trade goods. You can only carry one at a time, and the items slow you down. They also can be looted on your death, which opens up interesting avenues for piracy and privateering. Trade Packs are a great way to make money if you're a terribly boring person.
APEXSee: PLEX. APEX is a cash shop item that can be sold to other players who can turn it into cash shop currency. Ultimately APEX is identical to buying gold. Being that cash shop items are tremendously beneficial, it's extremely easy for a person who enjoys throwing their money down a well to gain a significant advantage over normal subscribers whose wives would murder them for spending money so frivolously.
Now, because gaining crafting in middle to late stages of the game is so massively expensive, you're pretty well fucked unless you want to spend money on top of your subscription on digital items to sell on the Auction House. Being able to buy massive quantities of gold at level 1 in a game where the economy is so complex and important definitely places this game into the Pay to Win category, yet I still find myself wanting to tinker around in the game for one big reason...
Once we had our boat out at sea where the action is, the game opened up a lot, but when you have a harpoon boat it's far more tempting to drag it up on land.
The potential for dicking around and trolling in ArcheAge is its best feature by a wide margin. Sailing is solid and sea battles can get pretty intense, but they're completely pointless unless your enemy has trade packs on board. The biggest failure of ArcheAge for me is likely the reason it's doing so well. The game would have been much more fun to play if the stakes were higher, but carebears pay the bills.
One of my favorite experiences in ArcheAge was loading up my boat with newbies and raiding the enemy continent. Due to sheer numbers, we took down some max level players, and really had a great time. The only problem with this was how pointless it all felt after a while. What's the point of wanton slaughter if you have nothing to show for it? Sure, there is an honor point system, but that type of thing leaves a really WoW taste in my mouth.
Factions pit whites against Asians in an amusingly transparent way. What is Korean developer XLGAMES trying to instigate exactly? PvP is heavily weighted on who strikes first, so stealth is extremely nice, but you'll find that you want different skills for sea combat than you do for land.
The whole game plays like a deformed monster wearing the skin of a hot chick. From a distance you see the skin, and you're like, "Oh, maybe I'll investigate", but as you get closer and the horizon is no longer obscuring the hulking mud creature it's much harder to stay focused on the potential. Like all F2P games, ArcheAge tries to get you to spend money quickly, and then quit before you become too self-sufficient. It's worth a try if you can stomach the early game and ignore the extremely shady business model, but I wouldn't blame anyone for passing on this one. However, if the game dropped the cash shop tomorrow and moved to a 100% subscription model, I'd probably enjoy it a whole lot more.
Anyone who wants to get in on the
The Breakdown:Graphics:(3) So Asian
Gameplay:(4) Tab hell
Originality:(8) All the features
WoW Clone:(4) Eh?
PvP Type:(2) Safezones Galore
PvP Risk:(2) Tradepacks
Racism:(-82623) Faction-driven race war.