Last week Trion Worlds announced that they would be the North American publisher for ArcheAge. Twitter was abuzz, the Massively article got a pretty significant number of comments, and there was even a thread on the RIFT forums full happy Trion fans. My response to all this was to ask some hard hitting questions like, “What the hell is ArcheAge?” and “Why is everyone so excited?”.
I conducted some intense and scientific research, by which I mean watching gameplay videos on YouTube, and I now feel I can answer both those questions satisfactorily. First: ArcheAge is a South Korean MMO with very good graphics and a kind of hybrid themepark/sandbox approach. It was created by Jake Song, known previously as the guy behind Lineage.
Wait, Lineage!? Well everyone knows that Western audiences love grindy grind grind Asian MMOs, right? Right? Okay no. But what ArcheAge does have is those aforementioned sandbox elements, and sandboxes are definitely the Hot MMO Trend of 2013. I’ve even seen the game be described in some places as “Lineage meets Ultima Online”, which you have to admit is a pretty fascinating blend. Let’s get into some details:
- There is a whole “open world” continent where players can shape the land with building and landscaping.
- Players can build houses and villages, plant trees and grow gardens, create statues and other town decorations, all non-instanced.
- Players can build boats, from a little dinghy to a big ship with canons, and sail around the world. The oceans have random giant creatures that require many boats working together to kill, and of course players can pirate from each other.
- There is free open world PvP, and even looting rights for the victor. But don’t panic! If you were killed unfairly or if someone stole from your pumpkin patch, they will have to go to court and be judged by a jury of their peers. (Yes, you can get jury duty in ArcheAge.)
- Regions of the “open world” continent can be claimed and ruled by guilds, including setting taxation rules (!) and the like.
- Siege weapons are available for large scale battles against towns and castles.
- There are 120 classes. Go ahead, read that again.
Whew! That is a lot of neat sandbox stuff. I love the idea of building a little town with my guild, helping to defend while we put up houses and gates and gathering resources to improve our spot in the world. I don’t even mind the concept of open PvP with looting rights, assuming there is adequate social influence to keep it from getting out of control.
Despite all this neat stuff, there are still some things to worry about with ArcheAge.
- Some folks who have played the South Korean version say that the sandbox elements are not as prominent as it might seem, making it more Lineage and less Ultima Online.
- It remains to be seen how flexible the world will be. Can you ferry people around for a “living” on your boat? Run a vendor out of your house during the day? Become a master craftsman with rare goods? Be a mercenary that people hire to help defend their towns?
- Currently, the race choice for characters leaves a lot to be desired. You can be a human, elf, catperson, or uncomfortably childlike human. The females of each race are pretty much what you would expect.
- Questing and combat seem extremely similar to the same old WoW-flavored thing. Quest givers have exclamation points and question marks above their head, and most quests I saw involved the usual killing of rats. Combat was hotbar-based and didn’t look particularly more action-oriented than usual.
So will ArcheAge be good? I don’t know! Maybe? It definitely has some promising features that we haven’t seen in a new MMO in a while, but it’s mushed up with a grindy WoW-like game with poor character creation.
I will say this — reading up on ArcheAge has reminded me of ready I am for a sandbox where my character can live in a virtual world and work together with friends to make an impact upon it. Perhaps ArcheAge will end up satisfying some of that itch, but if not I hope some other game will soon.