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Firstly something about my MMO history. I've played MMO's since roughly 2000. I started with 2D isometric indy games like Ashen Empires, a distinctly sandbox game. I moved on into Everquest and then jumped into Final Fantasy 11. Once I finished in Final Fantasy 11 the great game hop began and has only rested for roughly a year or so in world of warcraft, a game I enjoyed for the challenge the vanilla raids gave me as a guild leader.
Since my first solid world of warcraft play through I have been jumping around from game to game, not resting long. I am currently subscribed to WoW, TSW, and also Eve Online. My Tera subscription just ran out - and I will be canceling my WoW and my TSW accounts shortly.
I am a sandbox gamer at heart. I want all of the hardcore elements that only the niche seem to want also. My hopes for Archeage were always going to be that of building a city, pvping with some adrenalin and fear of losing my stuff, the general favorites a sandbox gamer wants.
I like to think my opinion of games has evolved beyond "Ohh lol themepark garbage" which I have been guilty of before, so I will be writing this as openly as I possibly can, but it is opinion and not everything can be seen as fact because, well, it's all in Korean so I might be missing some key points!
Anyway onto the review, I shall target everything I can talk about in detail, with a summary at the end, enjoy and thank you for reading. If you want to watch some of my play through then http://www.twitch.tv/enerzeal/b/330122496 should take care of that nicely. This is my Live stream of an almost six hour play through. Thanks.
The graphical style is one that heavily reminds me of Lineage 2 and of Aion, which would make sense as jake song made Lineage 2 and Aion was made using an older version of the Cry Engine. At times the landscape can look a little bland, a little "wrong", as if something isn't turned on. I do play on ultra settings so I am getting the best out of it. The bad textures however are significantly overshadowed by sheer beauty that the world can muster. It is probably best described with me telling you about my mount I have. It's a reindeer looking thing. It is the single most beautiful looking mount I have laid eyes on in any game. It looks exactly as it should do, its fur is real almost, it's posture is perfect - the armor I can equip on it looks perfect for it. I can only imagine some people taking issue with the style of the games playable characters and same race NPCs. Some of them do look very Korean, one of the human races looks under aged, the male elf looks very delicate, and the female ferres looks frankly strange in my eyes, but as I said a moment ago it's purely down to taste, the graphics for them are still as beautiful as my fluffy reindeer mount.
as it stands I would say 10/10.
This game shines on it's animations. I have only taken issue with the ferres run right now as it seems a little odd, otherwise the game is alive. Going back to my lovely Reindeer, from his mouth you can see mist as it breaths. When it approaches a steep climb you can see it change animation as it digs in for a surer footing to climb with. When I back up on my mount it's head drops to the side and looks down and it prances backwards. My character will randomly perform idle animations that look stunning. There is an overload of emoticons as well, all perfect looking if a little asian in style, which isn't a problem in my mind. Attack animations are flawless, bows look brilliant as do weapon attacks and charges, magic casting and death animations all making the game more real than any to date.
If I give graphics a 10, then the animations can only be 10/10 as well.
Sounds and music.
Before the server came up I decided to click on the credits button, I say decided to click the credits button, what I actually did was click some Korean just to see what happened. When the music began playing that accompanies the scrolling Korean had a profound effect on me. I was moved. I could not explain why I was moved but it just triggered something in my chest, I had nothing to associate this music with yet, no memories or emotions, yet I felt a strange familiarity with it. I would say that the music of Archeage is most reminiscent of Final Fantasy.
Now the sounds and ambiance are also truly perfect. I moved close to a burning torch and listen to it as it roared, for as long as it took my fellow guildy to come on over and put the torch out as it was "day time and this doesn't need to be on!". When I drop from a high height I can hear the wind rustle past my ears. I can hear bushes move as I wade through them. It might seem like a fanboy ranting but again these sounds and the music cannot be faulted, the team at XL games seems to have gone above and beyond the call when it comes to immersion, as a result two hours of exploration doesn't feel like wasted game time, I'll talk more about that later.
Sounds and music easily take another 10/10.
The quest grind doesn't really move from the normal system and is simple enough that without any knowledge of the Korean language I can figure my way through most quests, some more difficult than others but I've not skipped one yet and I would say I have completed roughly 100 or so quests. Although the model doesn't differ in any way from say WoW, what it does is take the same neat packaging of quest hubs that WoW has, which at least makes the going more streamlined. Couple up the immersion of the world and the scale and beauty, quest grinds are less mind numbing than they are peaceful. The over achievements you can gain by killing more than you need to really feel nice as well, you can choose after a point when you feel you've had enough and hand it in.
Now what I really think brings up the quest grind is the fact that grouping won't kill your exp. I played through to level 12 solo. By level 8 I had obviously missed something as I had begun to drop behind the levelling curve, quests were over leveled and I was finding it more difficult to continue, you can see from the stream I posted above I was sometimes three levels to low. Well when I played with my friend through the same area, by the time I moved into the third zone I was easily a level or in some cases two levels higher. This for me is vital as it means soloing is viable, but grouping is rewarded.
I would say 5/10 for the questing, it's not great but not bad, its "what we expect". I would then add on another point for a streamlined system and a good growth curve, and another two ontop for the grouping elements.
Quest grind gets an 8/10 for being a relaxed, group friendly experience.
Combat in Archeage is combat in most other MMO's. In fact I would say that it's identical to rift or WoW. Take an ability move within range and use. React and rotate as the situation requires it. It's reactions you can before based upon what affects you have already stacked makes for a slightly more tactical game. Especially considering that these share between those in your group. All I can say that is without an onslaught of flashy particle effects and over the top attacks what we have is a stylish approach to the traditional game with a nice overlay of increase tactical play. Fights are over quickly, they do not however take the easy approach adopted by say, WoW, where you can fight many at once, but a more reserved 1-2 at once dependant on build, which adds a whole new layer to the combat, your build dictates your tactics and how you respond to a monster. Alone however I would score combat based on it's traditional approach with a point or two extra because of the animations, tactical gameplay and for the fact that I personally enjoyed it.
So combat gets 8/10.
Skills are unique in the MMO world, most closely the system would relate to Rift, with more freedom. In Archeage we have a number of trees, I have counted thirteen of them. Each has it's own specific focal point, be it healing, buffing, archery etc, any of the main types. I can take three of these and equip whatever armor or weapon I choose and invest points into these trees as I see fit assuming I have hit the perquisite over all level. What this does is create a palette of options as to how I build up my character. Though there may be plenty of paladin types (healing, armor, combat), each would invest his or her points differently. What this creates is on the downside possible flavor of the month builds, but on the up side we have choice like we haven't had in years. If you haven't enjoyed a system like this before then this will be a true awakening for you.
Any skill system with this much freedom easily earns a 10/10 from me.
Now I haven't explored nearly as much as I could of done, although today me and a guildy decided to strike out and check out some new towns, ports, an arena, some locations from concept art - I feel I have seen enough to give an opinion on the world its self. First off, it's massive, it is truly massive. It has size like the older MMOs had. Around every corner is something new, something beautiful to look at. Trying to keep this section contain with rambling on would be difficult so I will simply say this. The world is just that, a world. When I log off it continues around without me, if I had any gripes, it would be that NPCs could be more animated, walk around more, interact, talk. Perhaps however this is beta talking, perhaps it's a Korean divide, who knows.
What I do know is that the World is a 9/10.
This section I will not score but I will mention a few things I have had the opportunity to mess with. Firstly mounts, great fun, they level with you, can be equipped with armor. There are plenty in the game so a collection is possible. You can carry passengers and use several attacks from your mount.
Fast travel is brilliant but broken currently. The carts that travel around a zone look great but are very choppy and have a habit of getting stuck. The city transport I used today suffers the same issue but again looks very cool. The airship would be the most badass if it didn't suffer from major clipping issues and a ride that you spend more time worrying you'll fall off. My channel also has a video of the airship ride so you can see for yourself. http://www.twitch.tv/enerzeal/b/330226647
The glider is fantastic fun, really nice for getting around. The vistas and scenery that the glider opens up is also a plus point. It's a great gadget which I think I'll miss in other MMOs when I play them as I wait for this game. Head up to a cliff, activate it and sore over the land and watch you shadow skip over the landscape or your reflection over the water.
Interactive scenery! Ladders! Robes to shimmy along! Trees to climb! These are all fantastic for immersion.
I've had an opportunity to look around and inside the housing we'll have on offer and I cannot wait to have a guild hall. Clapping eyes on that beast was a nostalgic moment when I thought back to UO and their towers. Then I opened the windows and had a moment. The housing is all so interactive!
The siege towers are fun, although I had very little interaction beyond riding them around and firing the cannon. They ride smooth however and look perfect.
The very last thing I can think off would be the ships. The ships contain two sails for lowering and raising. An anchor, 8 guns, two planks for a walkin, a crows nest with a telescope which adds to the mini map icons for all ships in the area, lastly there is the steering wheel. The ships are amazing, they are smooth, they look amazing, I cannot explain how amazing they play, then there is the guild ship... Ohh the guild ship. It cannot be controlled, but it's a play house in the making I can feel it.
In summary I decided very quickly that this game, without even laying hands upon the more important aspects of pvp, dungeoning, raids, and sieges - is the one. I haven't been excited over a game in so very long, and this one is like those early days. It's going to be one painful journey to release, but a journey we all have to make!
This game however has made me angry in one way. I have to ask myself just what all these other developers of MMOs are doing with their time. I have played one of the finest games ever over the past few days made at a fraction of the cost that goes into the bigger named titles, and I have to ask, just what the hell are they all doing?
Thanks for reading if you made it this far,