Note: Some of this is cribbed from various videogamegeek posts….

ArcheAge is a new FTP MMORPG from Korean Developer XL Games and published by Trion (Rift). Smudge and I tried it out during open Beta, and have been playing for the past couple weeks. The fact that it’s an Asian MMO shows. The questing isn’t nearly as hopeless as the cheap Asian MMOs that we’ve tried, but is not overly inspired, and wallows in ‘all NPCs are helpless’ problems.

But, the main plots aren’t bad (there are four races, each of which has its own plotline). Post-beta, we’ve been playing with the Elves, and sadly, Smudge reports it’s probably the weakest story of the bunch (alt-itis strikes). Anyway, in addition to lots and lots of related sidequests, you get a main line which puts your character through some sort of coming-of-age arc. There’s not a lot of exploration per se, as all the maps are fully revealed to begin with. Quest locations are generally clearly marked on the map, and arrows on the ground around your character tell you what direction to go in. This can be somewhat disappointing, but I’ve also been frustrated too many times by quests that had bad directions to want to complain.

The modeling and world aren’t bad, but do suffer greatly in comparison to such good looking games as FF XIV and SW:TOR.  Also, both of our systems tend to struggle with the graphics (FF XIV easily wins ‘best looks with least effort’, at the cost of splitting up the world into lots of separate zones that require load screens). I’ve been having recurrent problems with performance, and right now it seems like I have to switch the game in or out of windowed mode after each time I reboot the system, or my performance is crippled. No idea why, just that it works. The fact that it is an Asian MMO rears its head here too, as there are excessive amounts of boob jiggle on the female characters (which tends to be a Japanese/Korean thing). Cheesecake armor is in full flood, with many (not all, though) outfits being much skimpier on females.

This is the beginning Elvish outfit, which is quite nice (though it needs silver buckle shoes). Since then, I’ve had three miniskirts and one robe. The outfits look nice, even with a miniskirt, and it’s not as if cloth armor is meant for physical protection anyway. (Actually, they are pants. Just check the item name! It says ‘pants’ right there!) But… yeah. And the heavier armors tend towards the same problem, where it gets really bad (the game has gotten close to a chainmail bikini top).

Character progression is with ten ‘skillsets’, of which you pick three to make your class, and choose between purchasing the available skills in each with skill points as you level up. It looks like you could get everything in one, and about half of another with the total number of skill points at max level (50). Gau (Smudge’s main) is a Templar (Vitalism/Defense/Auramancy), high defense with buff ability, and Eseria (me) is a Demonologist (Sorcery/Occultism/Witchcraft) with high magic damage and ‘curses’ (debuffs, I think). If anything requires lots of physical damage, we could be in trouble. Gau is having trouble tanking, but is just now starting to grow into actual tanking skills like taunts.

The first real grouping quest you see is an ‘elite’ quest around level 12 that happens twice per game-world ‘day’. You show up, you try to kill 30 of whatever shows up for your race/zone’s quest, and at with the new-game weight of lots of low-level characters, it’s over in moments. Thankfully, everyone generally gets into a raid group together to share credit, but it’s in no way satisfying at this point. The first dungeon showed up around level 20, and has a three person limit, which is the smallest I’ve ever seen, but from the way it was said, presumably the character limit will vary from dungeon to dungeon. With some work and a few deaths, Smudge and I got through it all with some really tense fights… until the final boss. He was just too fast for us to deal with, and then he got help…. There’s a daily quest to ‘mentor’ someone by taking them through the dungeon when you’re at level 30+. We’ve now been mentored by a friendly level 47… and that didn’t leave us much to do. ^_^; There’s also a ‘mentoree’ daily quest for the dungeon, but sadly, only one person gets the reward at a time, so Smudge has done it, but I haven’t.

The initial mounts come fairly early in the game, and can each take two people, so one of us can ride on the other’s mount, and not get lost, or just ride while getting a drink or something, and not have to worry about getting scraped off while on follow. In fact, the world is generally interactive. Lots of chairs to sit in. Lamps that can be turned on and off. Ladders to climb. Small lakes have rowboats in them, that you can actually row around in. (They can take two people too.)

And there’s lots of minerals to mine, trees to uproot or chop down, flowers to pick…. Not only can you can gather a lot of things in the wild, you’re supposed to set up a farm for most others, where you wait for them to mature, and then harvest them (multiple times for some things, like grapes). Full farm functionality is reserved for subscribers, which I wish they’d made clear during the tutorial quest, especially as it’s obviously where they sunk a lot of development effort.

This all feeds into a fairly standard crafting system, if a bit more elaborate than usual. But, you can also create trade packs, which are bundles of a large number of an item (like 100 cloth), which are worn on the back, and cause movement to be a slow walk. These are then run to locations in other zones for a large amount of money (the further away, the more it’s worth). And then there’s mules, and cars and ships that can carry a number of these trade packs (you even get your own rowboat of the type I mentioned before). I’ve seen a fair number of the transport cars go by lately, so it’s getting used. It’s kind of like the trading mini-game of the original Traveller has been ported into an MMO mold.

You can do this without a subscription, but you’re stuck doing it in uncontrolled areas where anyone can come along and take it. But he gets ‘crime points’, and he can be accused of theft, and put on trial, which has it’s own chat channel. The judge is a bot, but the jury isn’t, and you can end up stuck in prison for a while. (The record we’ve seen is 969 minutes! That’s time logged in, on that character, stuck in prison.)

Overall, I’m rating it as a slightly below average MMO right now, though it seems like all the stuff they put effort into is really meant for high levels.