I’ll be honest. I wasn’t very excited about Archeage. I think it’s mostly because I could feel the hype cycle starting to build just prior to the Wildstar release. It seems like MMO’s are following such a familiar pattern these days. Trickle some hype a year or more prior to launch, then big heaping helpings of hype starting about 6 months prior to launch, launch frenzy, then reality. Overlapping that reality is the next big heaping helping of hype from the next big thing. ESO, Wildstar, now Archeage. So perhaps the fact that I wasn’t expecting much factored into how surprised I was to actually have fun playing this game. Yesterday, Trion announced the launch date of Archeage as September 16, which is only a few weeks away! I guess there’s no better time to talk about my experience in the game. The following are my impressions from closed beta build 4.
The character creation in Archeage was pretty well done. It didn’t seem to have as much customization options as ESO, but there was still enough to enable a wide range of original character types. Personally, I thought the character models looked fantastic, and were well animated. Since I don’t know anything about the Archeage back story, I chose my character based solely on cosmetic appearance. I don’t remember her race, but it was the somewhat shorter human race that looked like they came from Asia.
Questing had a nice flow, and made use of both the quest hub and of sending you to another area to complete natural quest flows. I didn’t feel like I did much back-tracking for quest turn-in’s, and that’s a good thing. Both the mini-map and ground arrow indicators made it pretty clear where your quest objective was, so I didn’t waste any time wandering around. For those who enjoy exploration, you might look into turning off some of those indicators. I’m not sure if it’s an option at this point, but seems like a logical feature to include. One thing that I found incredibly interesting about the questing is the ability to turn-in partially completed slayer quests. If you decide that killing five rats is enough (when you were originally instructed to kill….let’s say ten rats), you are allowed to turn in the partially completed quest for a reduced amount of XP. I assume you can do the same for gathering quests but I was not able to test it. This seems to be a unique twist on the classic questing system that gives the player the option to decide which concessions to make. Is time more valuable than XP, or vice versa?
Crafting is supposed to play a major part in Archeage, and I’ll admit that I didn’t test it at all. The insanely boring crafting of LOTRO has ruined me for most games to the point that I can barely even stomach the sight of an anvil, so I generally just steer clear. It does seem that they’re doing something kind of interesting with a system called “labor points”, though. You earn labor points (1 per minute for premium players, 1 per every 5 minutes for free players) as you play the game, and spend them to do various laborious tasks, such as crafting and identifying weapons and gear drops. I’m not sure I’ve completely wrapped my mind around why this system is necessary, but it’s at least kind of interesting. Maybe it will become clearer to me if I ever decide to try my hand at crafting.
The landscape graphics reminded me a lot of LOTRO, honestly. They lean toward realism but with more color than ESO offers in it’s palette. I’ve already stated my affinity for the character models, and the combat animations are fluid and exciting. In some ways, I did feel like I was playing a graphically updated version of LOTRO. Well, minus all the iconic Middle-Earth locations.
Combat skill progression occurs by unlocking skills within a larger skill group as you level your character. You are awarded skill points that you spend on unlocking appropriate level skills. While not technically “trees” (you don’t have to go down a certain “branch” of skills to unlock others), these groups of skills to require a certain level to be attained prior to unlocking with skill points, and they get progressively more powerful as your character levels. You start the game with one “group” of skills that you can start to unlock and slot, which is provided based on the class you chose when you created your character. You can further specialize your skills by choosing two other “groups” of skills (similar to souls, in RIFT) as your character levels up. The 3rd grouping of skills is unlocked at level ten. Confused? Click on my video above, it’s easier when you can actually see it. I like this progression system, and think it could lead to a lot of combat skill customization depending on your preferences. For example, as a rogue-type, I could have chosen a ranged group of skills for my 2nd group, or a dual-blade group of skills. This choice allows you to play the same class as either a ranger or thief, depending on your combat (or RP!) preference.
Well, I only got to level ten during the beta event, so I can’t speak to PvP. I’ve heard it opens up at level 30. Archeage includes open-world PvP which will either make the later levels incredibly exciting or incredibly frustrating. This, and crafting, are kind of the wild cards for me in this game. If PvP is fun and crafting is palatable, I might really enjoy Archeage. If PvP is ganky and unfair and crafting is grindy and boring, then I might continue to spend my time elsewhere.
Since Archeage is going to have a free-play option, I will probably give this game a fair chance to grab my attention once it launches. It doesn’t seem to be one that requires a mad rush to end-game, so I should be able to spend my time jumping in and out of it as my schedule allows. Like I said in the section above, if PvP and crafting don’t completely ruin the experience, I can see myself spending a good amount of time in Archeage. It seems to have a nice mix of newer and older MMO elements, and Trion has proven with RIFT that it knows how to do “free to play” the right way. The question is: will it survive the next big hype, whatever that may be?