MMOs went through a phase where at any given time there was at least a handful in alpha/beta testing with big names and big budgets attached to them but after the high-profile failings of incredibly expensive titles like SWTOR and Elder Scrolls Online it seems like studios are (understandably) getting less willing to jump on the bandwagon. So this makes Archeage even more appealing for traditional MMO lovers. It’s absolutely beautiful, running on CryEngine, it’s huge, it has tonnes of features not seen in other mainstream MMOs for a while and it’s backed up by Trion who are at least respectable in the genre.
At its heart Archeage is a fantasy MMORPG that borrows some of the best ideas from other MMOs of the last ten years. The combat is incredibly similar to World of Warcraft, with action keys and spell rotations based on cooldowns. You lock on to an enemy and then you hit a combination of keys until they disintegrate. There is a combo system with elements of TERA poking through but there isn’t the complex third-person action game dodging that we’ve seen in more complex combat mechanics. You travel the world and take on quests (indicated by exclamation marks over stationary NPCs’ heads) and then you go find a person or kill a bunch of things as indicated on your minimap. So far so standard right? Well this only lasts for around 30 levels which can be completed in under ten hours. After that the game opens up into something much bigger
Across the three continents of Archeage players are able to buy (and build) their own housing, farms and vehicles and then use these to turn a profit, help their crafting or even just enjoy the art of production. The houses aren’t instanced, they exist in the game world on special plots so they can’t just be built anywhere. That being said it’s a regular sight already in the alpha/beta to find tens of houses and farms in a cluster with players harvesting, crafting and selling in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time. This feels like an attempt to make MMOs about more than just raiding and loot and it might just work as long as there are enough incentives to keep on crafting.
The biggest draw for us currently in Archeage is just how amazing it looks. The landscape it still a little unpolished with stretched textures and some ugly, sparse locations, but occasionally you’ll come across a vista and just be blown away. There’s tonnes of options for transport in the game including owning your own ships and sailing across the seas is a visual treat and well worth the current price of admission of the beta. On top of this a lot of attention has been paid to spell effects, with the frostbolt chilling the air as you cast it and then launching a solid mass of frost that surrounds the enemy and then falls away after a few seconds. It’s hard to describe but it feels like a real physical thing rather than a 2d particle effect with no real power.
In terms of making your character there are a range of customisation options and the crafting is so deep you can make almost any clothes you’d want (that fit within the aesthetic of the game). Your class is decided by three skill trees that you select along the way (up to level 15) so once you get there you have picked three different classes that gives you a specific class name at the end, much like Rift’s Soul system.
All in all we’re impressed with what has been done with Archeage. We particularly like the lack of a focus on combat and the idea that this game might establish some kind of real community. We’ll keep playing over the upcoming beta events and let you know how the game progresses. Founder’s packs are currently available on Steam if you want to play right now.