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What Is Anarchy Online?
Anarchy Online is a Science-Fiction Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game. Developed by Funcom, Anarchy Online launched in June 2001. Now approaching its 8th anniversary, the game remains one of the strongest offerings for a Sci-Fi MMORPG, offering a great deal of character development, diverse gameplay, and roleplaying opportunities that have yet to be reproduced in the industry. The game was recently updated with a new Booster Pack, "Legacy of the Xan", and is now looking forward to an upgraded engine featuring new textures, water, grass, skies, shadows, lighting, trees, particles, and modifications to character models, all supported by DirectX 9.
To date, Anarchy Online has been updated with three expansions and two "booster packs", or mini-expansions.
Notum Wars (2002) - Trailer
Notum Wars was the first booster pack released for the game, and has since been integrated into the free version of the Anarchy Online client, meaning that players under the free program will have access to the content and items introduced with this booster. Notum Wars introduced the mechanic of tower control, where organizations from the three factions fight to control various land territories with notum mining operations that award bonuses to the controlling organization. Tower fields are under siege throughout each day, and have remained a primary element of Anarchy Online's PvP experience since the release of the booster.
Shadowlands (2003) - Trailer
Anarchy Online's first expansion, Shadowlands offers two new professions: the stealthy Shade and the Paladin-like Keeper, as well as an entirely new world to explore that rivals the size of the original game. The expansion also adds an additional 20 "shadowlevels" to the game's 200 original levels, along with a plethora of new items, missions, and enemies. The expansion also introduced the "Perk" system, a new form of advancement which allows players to further customize their character with perk lines both general and profession/breed specific. Shadowlands adds a touch of fantasy to the game, and pulls players in to a deep storyline that harkens back to the beginning of the universe. Players may play Anarchy Online with the Shadowlands expansion for a reduced price of $5/month.
Alien Invasion (2004) - Trailer
The second expansion to Anarchy Online, Alien Invasion introduced a new threat to Rubi-Ka in the form of an alien menace, whose origins are still unknown but mysteriously linked to the events in the Shadowlands. Along with new content based around fighting off the invaders, Alien Invasion also introduced player-controlled cities and shops, as well as new social clothing and furniture for player apartments. Alien invaders are drawn to these player-controlled cities, and it is left to the controlling organizations to fend them off. Alien Invasion also added an additional 30 Alien Levels, seperate from the original 220. These levels can be gained only by defeating aliens, and each level awards an Alien Perk Point which can be spent in new Alien Perk Lines. Players may enjoy Alien Invasion as well as the remaining expansions for the full price of $15/month.
Lost Eden (2006) - Trailer
Anarchy Online's third expansion introduced a number of new elements to Player versus Player gameplay. Most notable is the addition of Orbital Battle Stations - satellite defense systems surrounding the planet which act as PvP "battlegrounds" where players can fight for control of the station in instanced matches against the opposing faction. These stations also allow for organizations to fire massive orbital strikes during Tower Battles, devastating their opponents. In addition to this, Lost Eden introduced yet another form of character advancement in the way of Research. Players may allocate a percentage of gained experience to go towards research lines, of which each profession has seven unique lines with ten ranks, for a total of 70 new "levels" of advancement. Further, Lost Eden added mechanized vehicles and turrets, adding an additional layer of strategy and gameplay to PvP, as well as new reward system for participating in PvP based around "Victory Points".
Following up on Alien Invasion, Lost Eden also introduced new Alien Missions with new enemy types, items, and victory point rewards, to allow for a more "on demand" opportunity for players to gain alien experience.
Legacy of the Xan (2009) - Trailer & Interview
Anarchy Online's most recent booster, Legacy of the Xan explores the "outzone" of Rubi-Ka: regions beyond those terraformed by Omni-Tek where both the alien menace and the terrorist group known as the Dust Brigade have a strong foothold. The booster also further explores the mystery introduced in the Shadowlands regarding the ancient Xan civilization and its connection with the planet. Legacy of the Xan introduces a variety of new playfields, missions, as well as new raid instances tailored to high level players.
Breeds and Professions
Anarchy Online's terminology for the more standard "races and classes", the game offers four breeds and fourteen professions, with no restrictions between the two. The different breeds each have unique appearances, special items, and innately stronger or weaker abilities (Strength, Stamina, Agility, Sense, Intelligence, Psychic).
A more complete overview of the game's breeds and professions can be found here.
Players in Anarchy Online are divided into three factions: Omni-Tek, the hypercorporate owners of Rubi-Ka, the planet on which the game takes place; the Clans, a coalition of various independant warlord factions sworn to free Rubi-Ka from Omni-Tek oppression and propaganda; and the Neutrals, those who have not sworn to one particular side. Each faction has various benefits, downsides, and gear opportunities, though the majority of the game is shared amongst the factions. Unlike recent releases, Anarchy Online does not restrict the factions from speaking to or even grouping with one another, providing a much more interesting opportunity for roleplayers. Players may switch between Omni-Tek and Clan throughout their career until they reach level 201, at which point they will be required to make a final decision. Neutrals may also switch to one of the sides before level 201, however a player cannot declare neutrality again once he has chosen a side. Further unique to Anarchy Online, Neutral players are able to make their own decision about which faction to fight alongside, though this freedom of choice is not without its costs.
Anarchy Online's system of character advancement is incredibly diverse: in total, there are 200 levels, 20 shadowlevels, 30 alien levels, and 7 research lines with 10 ranks in each line.
While the game features standard levels, there is a plethora of specific skills and abilities that can be raised (up to a specific level or title level cap) by spending points earned at each level. Understanding which skills are most important to your character and budgeting your available points appropriately is important to the game, and the levels themselves are meaningless if you are not investing into your skills. Characters may reset skills with a limited number of reset points gained at each title level, as well as the occasional "full reset" offered by the developers. These resets require players to completely unequip all gear and implants (which often require a great deal of effort to equip the best of), and due to their limited nature should not be considered lightly. For this reason, players are advised to read through guides for their respective professions and have an understanding of what skills they will want to raise each level.
Title levels are "meta-levels" reflecting your advancement through your profession. For example, a Title Level 1 Agent would be known as an Informer, versus a Title Level 7 agent known as a Finalizer. Each new title level increases the cap for your abilities, as well as awards additional skill points to be spent and opens opportunities for some items that require title level advancement to equip. Towards the end of a title level, players will find themselves reaching temporary caps for their skills as well as running out of available skill points to spend. At these times, players should budget accordingly and invest in what is most important to their profession. A full explanation of Title Levels as well as the titles for each profession can be found here.
With an account flagged for access to the Shadowlands expansion, players will be able to advance beyond the initial 200 levels with 20 shadowlevels. These levels can only be gained inside the shadowlands, and provide an incredible increase in power to the players by opening up the skill caps further. A level 200 player with 20 shadowlevels would be equal in skills to a level 300 player, were scaling continued in the same manner as the original 200 levels. Shadowlands players also have access to Perks, one point of which is gained every 10 levels, as well as every shadowlevel, for a total of 40 perk points at level 220.
Alien levels can only be gained by fighting alien enemies. Alien levels are independant from the primary levels, however the alien level you can reach is limited by your primary level; for example you may only reach alien level 2 once you are level 10 in the initial path. Alien levels do not give skill points, however each level awards an Alien Perk Point which can be spent in new perk lines.
Players wishing to invest in research may do so at any time after level 5. Using a slider, they may allocate a percentage of their experience gain between 0 and 100 to their various research lines. Each consecutive rank in a research line requires a larger experience investment. Ranks award bonuses to skills as well as special abilities to be used in combat.
Like most games, players in Anarchy Online will be pursuing new armors and weapons throughout their career. Anarchy Online's equipment database is enormous in comparison to most games, and so a careful player will need to evaluate what is best for him. Most gear does not have a breed or profession restriction, or even a level restriction, although some professions are suited more towards one weapon type than another. Still, nothing save for efficiency and maximized ability prevents players from being, say, a Nano-Technician wielding two submachine guns or a Bureaucrat swinging a two-handed sword.
In addition to normal equipment, players may also equip implants which can provide additions to skills as well as such things as +XP% gain. While there are pre-made implants available in the shops, players can also tradeskill their own implants by combining an empty implant with up to three clusters. Implants are an important part of character development, and the skill bonuses awarded by them are often the difference between equipping a piece of gear and not. A guide to implant creation can be found here.
Because of how heavily involved Anarchy Online's skills are, and because almost all equipment is equipped based on skills and not levels, there is a large "twinking" metagame in which savvy players can combine implants, armor, and buffs to equip items beyond their level. Unlike games where this twinking provides an extremely unfair advantage and is only available to the wealthy, Anarchy Online's developers intended for this to be an integral part of the game, and players will find that participation in this metagame is incredibly involved and rewarding, but not absolutely necessary in order to enjoy the game.
There is also a special "Social" equipment tab, which allows players to equip any armor (even pieces they could not normally equip, save for ones that have a profession/breed/faction restriction) to override the appearance of their normal equipment. This is especially useful considering the amount of effort involved in equipping the best gear available. This tab also provides a space to equip a weapon, however when equipped with a social weapon players are unable to attack.
Anarchy Online's gameplay is incredibly diverse, and leaves the player to choose how he wishes to tackle the game. Players without access to the expansions will be able to enter a number of public dungeons tailored to certain level ranges, which offer both solo and team opportunities. Players can also use the mission terminals in the game to request a number of instanced, randomly generated missions with rewards that are often only available through such missions. This provides players with an easy to use, "on demand" method of gameplay. Players may also elect to venture out into the vast wilderness of Rubi-Ka and hunt wildlife, mutants, and other creatures and enemy groups, as well as "dynabosses", boosted up versions of enemies which drop a number of items, some of which are unique to the dynabosses themselves. These enemies can be recognized by their glowing aura and unique names.
Players with access to the game's expansions will have more areas to explore, new missions dungeons, and the opportunity to take part in alien invasions.
Anarchy Online allows all players to solo effectively, but also promotes teaming for everything from dungeons to just venturing out into the wilderness. Teams will gain more experience the more people are in them, and coupled with the ability to defeat more enemies in quick succession, it is easy to see why teaming in Anarchy Online is a preferred means of leveling.
Player versus Player in Anarchy Online is completely optional. Most regions are under a suppression gas that prevents players from attacking one another (unless flagged or dueling), and there is no requirement for players to engage in PvP.
Because the game is a first generation MMORPG, its mechanics are closer to the early days of gaming. What this means is that auto-attack takes a great deal of precedence, though weapons have a variety of special attacks that can be used, and all professions have nanoprograms (similar to spells) that help to diversify combat. Players looking for a more open combat experience that allows for a variety of tactics such as kiting, AOE, charming, and other strategies that have been made less effective in recent generation games will find Anarchy Online to be a hidden trove, while players who prefer a more fast-paced, "spammy" form of combat may be disappointed.
Anarchy Online's community is strong and loyal, with many players who have been with the game since its release. Spread across two servers and one special german realm, the game has a healthy following from both North America and Europe.Teamwork is an important aspect of the game, and it is often astounding to see how players come together. Unlike other games where end-game content may be limited to guilds / organizations, Anarchy Online's end game is often tackled by pick-up groups. The largest raids are organized publically by Clan and Omni-Tek, with Neutrals electing which faction they would like to raid with (though often they are expected to choose a single one), and appointed raid leaders organize sometimes upwards of 90 or more players at once. The division of these raids by faction is often dependant on whether or not the raid zone is instanced, and whether or not it is PvP-enabled. For example, Tarasque, a non-instanced PvP-enabled raid, is held by whichever side manages to get the kill, whereas Pandemonium, a non-instanced non-PvP raid, is traded between Clan and Omni-Tek on a bi-weekly basis. Loot in these raids is distributing via an automated DKP system.
As a first generation game, Anarchy Online harkens back to the days of GMs interacting with players and moving the storyline along dynamically. Not only is it common for players to see members of the ARK (Advisors of Rubi-Ka) events team hosting special events and quests, but these ARKs will often take control of "Long Term Characters", story-centric characters that will hang around with other players and interact with them regularly. Players may also apply to join either the Council of Truth (Clans) or Omni-Tek Affiliate Program, where they will be able to meet monthly with the leadership of their respective faction to discuss the current state of affairs, any new assignments, and help to advance the story further. Players may also choose to flag their account to "subject" their characters to special roleplaying opportunities presented by ARK, such as ambushes and kidnappings.
Anarchy Online also provides instanced player apartments and a number of social clothing items, giving roleplayers plenty of opportunity to relax and immerse themselves in the world of Rubi-Ka.
No other game on the market can provide the same level of roleplaying that Anarchy Online does.
Anarchy Online has three pricing plans available:
Original Game + Notum Wars: Free
Original Game + Notum Wars and Shadowlands: $5/month
Original Game + Any Other (or All) Expansions: $15/month
There are also the expected discounts when paying for multiple months at a time.
Guides and Resources
Because of Anarchy Online's depth, the game can often be overwhelming. Here are some websites and guides that will help new and old players alike:
AO Universe - A massive resource of guides and lore.
AUNO.org - A database of all items in Anarchy Online, as well as a listing of nanoprograms by profession and character histories.
Anarchy Online's new engine is currently slated for a later summer 2009 release. A video of an early version of the new engine can be found here. The development team is currently looking into new heads for characters, an example of a current head versus a projected one can be found here.
The game also features a Paid Points system, which allows players to purchase unique vehicles and social items. Subscribers automatically accrue points based on how many months they have subscribed for:
One Month Subscriptions – 50 points
Three Month Subscriptions – 250 Points
Six Month Subscriptions – 500 Points
Twelve Month Subscriptions – 1,000 Points
Although players can obtain equivalent vehicles in-game and can complete quests for the same social clothing available via paid points, the paid points provide unique models (such as hoverboard ground vehicles) that are otherwise unattainable. Special pre-order items from previous expansions are also available through the paid points system, allowing new players access to these otherwise exclusive benefits.
As of the recent Legacy of the Xan booster, Funcom has allowed players to pay partially for the expansion with their paid points, giving those players who accrue points monthly and do not wish to spend them on social items an interesting alternative. It has also been announced that a new orbital apartment will be introducing in the next patch, and while the apartment will be available for (a ridiculous amount of) credits, it will also be made available via the paid points system because it is a purely social element.
If Anarchy Online sounds like something you'd be interested in, you can register for a free account and download the game at the official website. The small client download contains only the original game and Notum Wars, so if you may intend to subscribe to any further expansions, you will want to download the large client.
There are three servers: Atlantean (RK1), Rimor (RK2), and Die neue Welt (RK3, a german-specific server). New players will be directed to Atlantean by default, however Rimor is the more populated of the two.
Windows 98/ME/2000 SP1+2/XP Pentium II 300 128MB RAM 2X CD-ROM drive DirectX 3D 8Mb video card DirectX compatible sound device 700MB free hard drive space Internet connection, 28.8K Modem
Pentium II 450 256 Mb RAM 3D card with 32MB RAM, DirectX 8X CD-ROM drive 1GB free hard drive space Internet connection, 56K Modem