Last weekend Trion hosted an open beta for their new MMO Archeage. Trion’s last MMO of note was RIFT, mentioned previously on this blog. Besides having an updated user interface and graphics when compared to RIFT, Archeage features, or promises to feature, a flexible class system, a huge ‘open’ world to explore, the ability to build and explore with various ships and flying vehicles, and dynamic PvP with destructible buildings and naval combat.
Mounts and vehicles appear to play an important role in Archeage. Early on players obtain a horse and a rowboat to help them navigate the land and the sea. Later on players can construct flying vehicles, such as gliders, and eventually even massive warships. These ships, once fully armed, can be used to explore the oceans, engage in sea battles with other players, and fight sea monsters for treasure. Speaking of player combat, players can also battle other players on land, where battles can include player made fortifications, such as walls and castles, and weapons, such as siege weapons and assault vehicles. This largely player driven ‘sand box’ style approach to PvP feels somewhat reminiscent of EVE Online (covered here), a space MMO where players are free to create anything from ships to space stations. Just like EVE Online though, when buildings or ships are destroyed they are gone forever (a system which no doubt people will love or hate), but I believe that players will always respawn, unlike in EVE Online. I cannot comment on many of these systems though since I have only played a small bit of the game. For those players not interested in combat, ArcheAge plans to offer a diverse and extensive crafting system and the ability for players to create a home, establish and maintain farms, establish trade routes, and become involved in the game’s political system. Trion has stated that the economy will be largely player driven as well. From what I have read so far it is not clear if players and their belongings are protected in certain areas, if the whole game is a free for all, or if PvP rules depend on the server.
The user interface feels like a solid improvement over the one featured in RIFT. The game map and quest log now have a translucent background, so they can easily be left up all the time. Both provide some limited information about locations or objectives when you hover over them with your cursor as well. Skill bars and menu access buttons look smaller and less obtrusive overall. The inventory screen now includes useful sorting and categorizing features and is just one block instead being of several smaller bags. The skill and health bars do look somewhat blocky and unappealing though, and the map and quest log overlap a bit too much. The game also features a beginner tutorial system, which is always nice for new players.
Basic Game Screen with New User Interface
As in all other MMOs, you pick up quests and complete them for experience, items, and gold. Quest givers talk to your through a separate screen (shown below), where they tell you a bit of their story and what they need from you. This system feels pretty well implemented, and I appreciate that they tried to make quest descriptions a bit more interactive and cinematic. Players might get tired of these quest screens eventually, but they are simple to skip through if you are in a hurry.
NPC Quest Screen
Some of the plot is told through partially animated cut-scenes that have a hand drawn look to them. These create a bit more of an epic feel for the game and highlight some important plot points, but some times they feel like they pop up too much and sort of cheapen the effect. I’m not really sure what the plot is all about yet, but I was trying to get through most of the content fairly quickly in my first play-through
Much of the Plot is Told through Cutscenes with a Minimal Animation Style
Combat is about what you would expect from an MMO. Players use skills to destroy enemy targets. You can link some skills together for bonus damage, but the combo system featured in RIFT appears to be gone (maybe other characters use it). The combat system works fine and has a good flow, but seems pretty typical overall. Classes include the usual MMO suspects such as warriors, sorcerers, archers, and healers.
Instead of RIFT’s dynamic skill tree system where players can pick any skills they wish (after obtaining the prerequisite skills), in ArcheAge players ultimately select three classes and can unlock skills from any of these three as well as from four support skill-sets. Later on players are free to switch classes. Trion says that there are over 100 different builds possible. Once again as in RIFT, this could create the opportunity for players to create less than optimal builds, which could make them much weaker in PvP or dungeons. This system does offer players quite a few options to choose from, but feels more controlled and streamlined than the system featured in RIFT.
Inventory and Skill Screens
Graphically the game looks like an improved version of RIFT. The graphics look fairly sharp and have a good amount of detail overall, but I still notice quite a few jagged and rough textures, and overall the game looks kind of dull and faded. The graphics are hardly ugly, but I just don’t think they have the same sort of flair and personality as games like Final Fantasy or TERA. ArcheAge’s graphics are a different style than either of those two games though, so that might not be a fair comparison. Overall the graphics look good and I did not notice any glitches or stuttering.
The Graphics are Good Overall, but sort of Drab
At this point I feel like ArcheAge plays well, looks pretty good, and has some exciting and distinct features that will probably be attractive to many MMO players (like building flying ships like that pictured below). I did not get a chance to experience many of the games most promising features, such as ship exploration, town building, or PvP, but I had fun with what I experienced so far. Considering that Trion is releasing ArcheAge with a free to play option at launch, I will probably be checking out this game again after it is released.
ArcheAge will be released on September 16, 2014.
Someone Order a Flying Ship?