Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ArcheAge

So it has been years since I seriously played an MMO. I was interested in getting back into something and I decided to try out ArcheAge. It has a few key points that drew me in. First off it is brand new. I loved being in the initial rounds of a new game in the past, and there is something difficult about running a game with a million players, tons of alts, where everything has been done over and over. It kind of loses its appeal. You are competing for resources with people who have owned the world for so long that it is nearly impossible for you to make your way through things. Sandbox-style games where the economy is player driven really appeals to me.

ArcheAge has done brilliantly with that. Day one the land was completely gone. Players in ArcheAge have the ability to place houses and farms in designated areas. Houses are places to keep your stuff and farms are for gathering resources. The trick here is that rather than providing world spawns where folks roam around and gather plants, cut lumber, and gather hides and meat ArcheAge just doesn’t do that. There are some nodes around especially for mining materials – rough stone, iron ore, and precious metals. You can even stumble across trees or a host of plants. But they aren’t easy to gather because they take a long time to grow. I think the aspens I have planted are able to be cut down every fourteen hours. Other trees like grapevines and olive trees can be harvested or cut down. Shrug, I am getting off point. What happens when you only have a limited amount of land?

It is up to the players. In ArcheAge the initial land grab had folks putting up houses with the quickness. All of the lots are full of these unfinished houses. They are literally jammed all together. Small farms are here and there, but on the fourth day I got a schematic for my second farm. It is twice the size of the first one I picked up. There is nowhere to place it. Other players have little farms there is no room for. Why is lumber is so expense on the auction house? None of us can grow enough trees to build our houses and boats. It is directly related to the people who just plopped a house down and figured they’d finish it later. I am working on crafting my first harpoon clipper so I can strike out across the ocean, but it is taking some time to gather enough wood to make a go at it.

The trade route mechanics are fantastic. It works like this. Each area has a little specialty bench where you can make trade packs. You gather the materials, spend a few of your labor points, and then you can make a trade pack. Real quick labor points are used for all sorts of crafting and gathering. Making a really low level potion requires three points, making a sword requires a hundred, and mining a node of iron ore requires ten. They also directly relate to how many skill points in the craft you receive. Higher level crafted goods require you to have more skill. I think I need 10,000 points in Alchemy to become a skilled Alchemist. Top tier items require 250,000 skill points. Did I mention where labor points come from? Every five minutes in the game you earn ten points (five for people who are running it without a subscription) and if you are a subscriber you earn half that when you aren’t logged on. Let me get back to the trade routes.

So you have this little pack on your back. It makes you encumbered so you walk slowly. The pack itself looks just like the squires in Monty Python. I ended up getting a donkey I can ride which puts me back on pace with regular movement, but nowhere near as fast as when I am mounted on my steed. The cool thing is trade routes are up to you. You get a few quests initially, but two years from now you can grab the specialty goods in this town and sell them in another town. The further you travel the more cash you receive. I started noticing early on the pay for delivering goods is lucrative. Higher level items for crafting require materials you can only get by traveling across the sea to the enemy continent. There is no airship or teleport machine that connects the two continents. They are unfriendly and at war. You can get along okay at the ports or areas that aren’t flagged for player versus player combat, but the zones switch on four hour timers and some sections are always at war like the open sea. Guess what happens if someone kills you while you are carrying a trade pack. They can pick it up. So if we get attacked at sea or in any hostile zone, it can be very bad considering the trade packs are usually very difficult to gather materials for. It isn’t out of reach for a casual player. I mean I have gone on a few routes so far.

It comes down to a number of factors really. What do you want to do? Fighting the mobs and getting class levels are really easy. Just follow your quest line. Kill things and take their stuff. Oh yeah, it costs labor points to open the coin purses the mobs drop. So instead of just harvesting the corpse for the coin in their pockets you have to spend labor when you are questing to open their purses to get money. If I just burned through all my labor points mining stone and iron ore- I can’t immediately start crafting with it. Or if I go quest for an hour now I have 300 labor points to craft with. If I burn through them making 100 potions just to level up my alchemy then I don’t have any left to open my coin purses and get the money I took from the mobs to buy stuff for alchemy. And then I realize that I am out of lavender to make the level two potions. So I rush over and buy some seeds. It takes labor points to plant them, another single point to water them, and when they finish growing in an hour and a half I need to have a few labor points to harvest them.

There was a spot where I found a ride across the ocean for my first trade run – another player was offering to carry people across the ocean in the boat he had built. I didn’t have enough labor to make the trip. There are some items in the marketplace you can buy to give you more labor points. My initial purchase for the game gave me a 4 day head start, Founder’s status, and 3000 credits to use in game. With 300 credits I was able to scrap up that little boost of +1000 labor points from a potion (cool down every 12 hours, so you can’t use them any more often than that). You can also get the same potion every five days using this loyalty mechanic they have built into the game. If you are a subscriber (Founder’s status) then you gain 5 loyalty points each day you log in. There are some cool things you can save the points up for, but for me right now since I have been gathering materials, crafting, and doing trade runs the coolest thing is definitely the labor potion for 25 loyalty points.

I know I didn’t talk about the quests, fighting other players, the first dungeon instance I played, or the storyline. Fighting mobs in the open world seems really easy. If they are the same level as you, most classes seem to blow right through them. I had some experiences in beta where playing in the dungeon was super hard. After I ran it at launch I was pretty happy with it. The first dungeon is around level twenty and it is a three man instance. I am running a plate wearing tank and fought my way through it with several different groups. There are heroic mobs in there and several bosses that drop great loot. The armor and weapons will carry you all the way to level thirty unless you can get crafted gear which is very rare right now. I did it with a pair of paladins (think tank/self-heal) and with just DPS guys. Healing is pretty subpar at that level in all honesty, so having a stack of good potions is important. Nothing like a consumable that hits you for 1/4th of your health every 15s. I don’t know, I am digging that aspect of the game really.

It is like in player versus player fights you will need some way to keep healthy. A lot of the fighting against other people is going to be movement. There are slows, snares, stuns, trips, silences, sleeps, impales, fears, charms, invincibility’s, etc. But there are counters for all of that. Some skills let you leap toward or away from your opponent. Some spells create these cages to trap people. Other spells break certain conditions or make you immune to something for a short time. Stuff like that where this ability counters another ability makes the entire combat just seem crazy. It should be really fun.

Lastly I will say on my main, an elven Hexblade named Maceo on the Aranzeb server, I have actually watched the little storyline movies. It is pretty neat. I am not in a big rush to finish leveling too fast. I haven’t really read through every single quest that I received from the NPC characters in the game, but the main storyline quests have a little cut scene movie they play that is similar to a comic book. Still pictures with audio, kind of panning out, talking about your characters and the gods of the world. It reminds me of this stuff they did in 4e Dungeons and Dragons. Basically when you are low level in 4e you were supposed to influence a village or small area. As you gained power it was on par with a country and then the world. But really top tier D&D was designed to get you to like demigod status.

That is part of the storyline that is cool. All of the deities in the game were walking around on the world at some point. And right off the bat your character is tied into them. The king of the elves Aranzeb is featured prominently in my storyline. His best friend became the god of war. The goddess of the sea has some influences with stuff like Nurgle and Tzeentch if you are familiar with the Warhammer world. She turns her follower into this monster because she favors him, but the way it is described just reminded of the fluff from that game. I’ll have to go back and watch all of the cut scenes when I finish up the game, but they play out with the adventures you are on.

It has been pretty cool that I picked this game up. I have several real world friends on the server, and that makes everything better. That is my take on it.

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