ArcheAge is the one game that I’ve been keeping an eye on this year. I love sandbox MMOs, and I don’t mind themepark MMOs, so a combination sounded like something that I’d have a good time with. I wasn’t, however, going to plunk down cash for a Founder’s Pack just because… well… there’s no way I’m spending that kind of money on beta access to a handful of events for a game that’ll eventually be free to play.
Luckily, I got an invitation to join Beta 3 for free. All thoughts of Founder’s Pack prices aside, here’s my first experience with ArcheAge.
Starting Out: Character Customization
I played for about 2 and a half hours last night, because technical difficulties left me sitting at the Connecting… screen for about 45 mins before I could get in. Whatever was going on, they fixed it, and I was able to get into character creation.
Folks who prefer uber-realism may dismiss the style as somewhat anime. It does have a Korean feel, but I found the semi-realistic-anime style appealing. This game and the characters are attractive and fluid to me. Your mileage may vary.
You can choose from four different races at character creation. There’s an adequate number of customization options, though some seem subtle to me. At first, I thought I was going to roll a cat-person Firran, but I couldn’t make a character that didn’t look odd to me. The combination of fur on their back and unfurred skin on the face and neck kinda wierded me out… not to mention the females’ heads seem to connect to their necks in an awkward way. They have very cool racial kitty mounts, though!
I eventually just rolled a Nuian, which is what passes as a normal human, I assume.
Once that’s complete, you choose from one of six primary skillsets. I went with Battlerage. I don’t know a lot about how skills work yet, aside from assigning skill points every so often, but there seem to be builds in this game, which is exciting to me — it reminds me very slightly of Guild Wars 1 in that aspect!
Story, Quests and Environment
Once you’re done with character creation, you’re instantly thrown into an intro movie that tells you a (somewhat muddled) story of your race’s history in the world. These in-game cutscenes remind me of the painted Guild Wars 2 intros — you know, the ones with the static-yet-moving pictures. It seems most of the main storyline uses this kind of cutscene art. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s obviously not as dynamic as full cutscenes. Of course, the main storyline appears to be mostly about telling the story of the past (so far) and how it connects to your character in this new world the people have escaped to.
The main story itself is nothing amazing (yet), though I give the team an E for good effort. I’m interested in the mystery it’s trying to provide, even if it’s not the smoothest tale I’ve ever seen unfold. For a sandbox, it provides more story than some themepark games have, and it attempts to make your character the center of the tale… unlike some other games (*cough*GW2*cough).
In that way, it reminds me a bit of FFXIV — it even has an intro movie that flashes between action and a supposed emotional departure of the people from their previous world. This fully-rendered movie is well animated, but it just lacked… something… It didn’t quite tug at my heartstrings the way FFXI and FFXIV’s intro movies always do. In fact, though it was pretty, it seemed rather confused at the story it was trying to tell. I get the jist of it, but it’s just… muddled.
The localization is well done. Though it’s missing the personality and quirks of GW2 and FFXIV, the translation is strong and clean compared to some of the F2P translation-imports we get. The writing in this beta is miles ahead of something like… Dragon’s Prophet (even after the game’s final “release” in English).
Quests are given in the basic “!” over the head style. Talking to NPCs launches a similar interface to games like Neverwinter and ESO — minus the voice overs. I don’t know if voice acting is coming for quests or not, but this method was acceptable to me.
I did like that the quest interface allowed you to just just to grab the quest quickly and not need to click-click-click if you didn’t want to read all the text. Of course, I read it all (like I always do), but it was nice for those who don’t, or those who are just rolling an alt and want to get through quickly. I also like the addition of a “Back” button for dialogue, just in case you missed something or accidentally clicked ahead!
Like GW2 cutscenes, different characters will pop in and out of the quest interaction screen if more than one needs to talk to you. I also liked that you can see other characters running around the quest giver, often blurred in the background. It makes it a bit jumbled, though, if there are people with mounts standing in front of you.
Accepted quests are placed in a quest journal. You also see them marked on your mini map (optional) and little arrows on the ground point the way to your objective (also optional). I really like the arrow style of quest tracking. It doesn’t get as confusing as following a sparkling trail, that sometimes gets lost in routing, etc.
The environments were beautiful and impressive. Everything, including the NPCs and creatures, felt organic. Sometimes, when you walk past NPCs, they have talk-bubble conversations. Though they aren’t voiced-over, they do add to the feeling that NPCs are going about their daily lives.
The music is hit and miss in this game. Some of it sounds perfectly lovely and fitting for the environment. Some of it just makes me wince — way too quirky and anime sounding.
Overall, I really liked the open-world feel to the game, even if the questing was obviously a bit generic and on-rails. This didn’t bother me, though, as I found myself leveling quite quickly — I was level 8 without trying very hard by the end of the night.
I also find myself disappointed at bedtime (work comes early), as I wanted to continue my journies! This isn’t an I’m-totally-addicted feeling, but rather a gentle interest in this world and the mechanics here. I never got that feeling when I tried ESO and WildStar — perhaps they were just trying too hard… or perhaps I’m just too oldskool. 🙂
Combat is your normal tab-targeting. I only played a melee character, so I can’t talk much about casters and their experience. This wasn’t another one of the action-based combat systems that seem to be so popular lately. I don’t remember ever being rooted to the ground to attack — but most of my skills are instantly launched and close range. I read that magic users are rooted when casting, however — may need to try one out.
It’s all pretty standard. I didn’t see any telegraphs or dodging, and that’s actually fine with me. I think combat is more centered on the classes you choose and the combination of skills you choose. Again, that points back to games like Guild Wars 1, which I can totally get behind.
I won’t be able to test this until I get to level 10 to really unlock the multi-class system. Looking forward to seeing how that works.
Mounts and Boats… Oh My!
ArcheAge knows what you want and doesn’t wait to give it to you! I got my first mount from a quest at level 6. I was dumbfounded by this. When I logged out last night, at level 8, I’m currently on a quest that gives you your own row boat to use!
Okay. I need to stop for a moment to talk about this mount quest. This was the most adorable mount quest I’ve ever done. Where ArcheAge may not always be brimming with personality, it sure knows how to make me beam with delight.
It started with a quest to take a foal from the quest giver to the stablehand. I agreed, thinking I’d be leading a foal along on a halter or something. Nope! Foal in a barrel on my BACK! Have you ever seen anything so
So I carry him over to the stablehand where he suggests that maybe I want a foal of my own to raise. At this point, I was going, “I DOOOOOOO!”
I was given the choice of foal colors — there are adult horses nearby so you can see what they look like. Then I was given all the instructions needed to care for my foal, bond with it, and watch it grow.
I was astounded by this. It actually did grow! I fed it, washed it, danced with it. And while this happened over an acceleratedly quick period of time (I assume this is Intros to Mounts 101), I still delighted in every moment of it.
I can’t say enough good things about the horses in this game. I don’t know that I’ve seen a game that does horses better! They are so fluid, life-like and beautiful. I was totally taken in and spent way too much time riding, rearing and enjoying my new mount.
Not only can you ride your mount, but your mount can follow along behind you and gain experience as you fight enemies. You can name them, and they have their own health bar and stats. I haven’t explored everything with my mount, but I can tell they can have their own equipment, and possibly an inventory as well.
I haven’t gotten to the real sandbox part yet – I heard those come further on in – but I like the way this game plays and feels. ArcheAge isn’t perfect, but it’s the first beta of 2014 that’s made me look forward to logging in again. I’m almost loathe to keep playing beta, as it’ll only spoil things for me — but I’d love to try out that hanglider!
I just have worries about it being so PVP-centric in the upper levels. I’m a carebear who will really just want to be there to build stuff, craft, raise animals, grow crops and such. I suppose the fact that it’ll be F2P is a big reason that I’ll be checking this out on launch, even if I do worry about the PVP elements.
I’ll update more as I progress through beta!