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So I have played Archeage up to level 11 in the Japanese retail game. Note that I don't read or speak any Japanese at all, so my impressions are limited by ability to navigate the world without being able to read anything. Also, because I am low level I haven't seen any PvP and wouldn't be able to get to the PvP island since I need to do some quests that require reading (I think...).
My own expectations of the game from reading various forums seem quite far off the mark. I expected a hardcore game like shadowbane or darkfall or maybe AoC, but I think this game seems much more like Final Fantasy. In fact I think it is fair to say that this game is what I had expected Final Fantasy XIV to be like before its initial launch disappointed. ( I never played Lineage so I cannot compare to it.)
Class/ability system is really cool. This is the highlight of the game for me because it really gives you the ability to customize your characters skills the way you want like no other MMO does.
Stable. I have never crashed (except for my laptop overheating) or had really any glitches or even lag.
Crafting. Much more careful attention has been put into the animations and such going into gather skills and crafting. The fishing looks so good that part could be a stand-alone fishing simulator.
Graphics are not very good. This was a major surprise to me given the talk about how good the game looks and the fact that it is on Cry-Engine 3. This game has really old-school style graphics, and is not close to for example Guildwars or even Neverwinter in quality. It certainly seems to me that some of the videos people have made are designed to highlight the best areas but do not really represent the average look of the game. Probably the biggest single issue is the lack of grass and bushes in the right places. The ground is just texture mapped and in a very few areas you will see grass blades. Trees are haphazardly distributed and very low polygon, just a cylinder with texture mapped planes criss-crossing. There is non-natural aesthetic to the placement of objects. It seems very much like objects like houses and barns were drawn by graphics artists, but then plopped into the world by programmers with no artist's eye. Also, mobs are just standing in random places around in fields; there is no rhyme nor reason to why they would be standing around in fields like that.
Combat is old-school everquest style. This is mostly stand-still and do skill rotations. So mostly what I spent my time doing is tabbing to a mob, spamming my range skills until it reaches me, and then using my melee weapon to do the coup-de-grace. I have spent some time kiting and moving around, but without a dodge mechanic like GW2 or Neverwinter, it feels really slow and quite frankly, OLD.
Effeminate. The very first impression of this game for me was that it was extremely emasculated. The language most gamers would use might not be allowed on these forms.
Small World. I only explored one of the 3 'continents' its true, but I know that the eastern and western continents are similar, so unless the north island is vastly larger than what is represented on the maps, this game is tiny. It seems quaint, not epic in size to me.