ArcheAge has been around for about a year+ now, with servers opened in Korea, Japan and, I think, China. Now the game is making its way to the west making a stop in Russia along the way. Obviously, as a member or a guild interested in all new big PvP projects, I have been playing it from the start or Russian closed beta, so here are my impressions about the game.
General overview and main concerns
ArcheAge is a Korean sandbox MMORPG set in a fantasy world. Features of the game include skill system allowing to create your own unique class, extensive crafting system, housing and farming systems, almost fully open-PvP world, explorable sea and northern continent where player guilds can conquer lands, build castles and create their own factions. Also, ArcheAge was developed by Jake Song - developer of Lineage - so a lot of people were expecting Lineage-style castle sieges.
The game looked very interesting from what people heard from Korean servers. Some Russian guilds even went to play there, buying accounts from Koreans and masking their IPs. However, somewhere along the way people started to get discouraged. Main concerns were:
1) Farming. Every AA player should have a farm, because it is tied closely to crafting, and a lot of people started hating on the game saying that you need to spend more time at the farm than anywhere to win the game.
2) Crafting. Maybe some of you remember how hard it is to upgrade your weapon/armor in Korean MMOs? Well, in this game the best possible items you can have are craft-items. And to get the very best stuff you would have to have extreme amounts of luck even with the best crafting skill.
3) Weird updates. This is closely tied to people slowly leaving Korean servers due to the lack of updates. Or rather updates they got were just some new outfits, which are, as you probably know, really horrible. So it was a legitimate concern that Koreans would easily ruin their own game with Santa suits and bikinis.
4) Economy system. This is the biggest concern for Russians, because we don't have a single even remotely decent company here, and the people who brought AA to Russian market already were very close to complete fail. By fail I mean making it into pay-to-win game.
Now, I will get back to that list later, but for now I will get to what I personally saw for now.
Game world has three continents. You can try to learn their names, but trust me, everyone just calls them western, eastern and northern. Northern continent is for castle sieges, and that feature is not included yet, so I really can't say anything about it. West and east represent the factions of the game and also are the places there you do your PvE leveling, questing and such. Western faction races are Nuians (European-type humans) and Elves, Eastern races are Hariharans (East-style humans) and Ferres (cat-people). West and east are at was with each other, but there is also trade between continents.
Continents look quite different. As I said, the content is limited for now, and not all areas are available, even on the starting continents. Western continent looks like your average western fantasy place - European-style castles and houses, temperate climate. There are some zones with themes of their own like desert, volcanoes or swamp and I expect high-level zones to be even more different, but in the west the landscape is pretty normal. East continent is much more of a mix between different cultures - here you have middle-east architecture in one area and pure China landskape and houses in other, and some archeological digs in even other areas. And one place is even a weird dump full of mechanical things. However, while being more diverse, the landscape is also more annoying. While in the west you can travel easily through most zones, in the east you often limited by some mountains or canyons that block your path when you are traveling outside the normal roads. You get used to it, but it can be quite annoying.
Other interesting land-places are three islands. First one is a trade island, located right in the middle between three continents - it is considered to be the best place to bring trade packs too. I will get to that later. Btw, somehow Russian players starter just calling trade island Cuba very early on, and that name stuck.
Second island is the Pirate island, located far to the north-west from the Cuba. It's filled with aggressive pirate NPCs, and there are quests to kill them. However, the game system has lawbreaker points, and if you get 3000 of those you become a pirate. All guards on both continents start attacking you, but Pirate island becomes friendly. You can consider it like being a pirate in EVE, I guess, though it's, naturally, not the same. Some guilds can decide to be pirates and have fun that way, though it locks them out of a big portion of the game.
Last island is not on the map - you get there through the portals you can often find in most areas. It's called Mirage Island, and it's being a sort of a permanent sale. Here is where you buy schemes for houses, ships, fences and even castles. Here you get upgraded gliders and better horses. This is a peaceful zone that you will be visiting only when you are ready to buy something new.
Basic gaming process here is pretty similar to other games. You level your character through quests and mob-killing, you get equipment from quest, you get to final level, which is 50 (only 40 in beta, sadly). Then you realize that most people around you got better builds and better equipment )
Game also has dungeons. So far I have seen 20+ and 31+ dungeons, and they weren't too long. Good group can do 31+ dungeon in under 16 minutes, so they are open for farming. Leveling by quests is pretty easy, and you also get experience for crafting, so you won't have much trouble... unless you get a new skillset.
Skills threes depend on which skill branches you got. There are total 10 branches ranging from melee combat to bard songs, and you can have three of them. Every branch levels up along with you, so you will get to 50 with all three being at 50th level. However, if you would change some branches, the ones you didn't level yet would start at level 10, not having nearly enough skills, and you would be all out of quests by that point. And trust me, grinding your branches level is no fun.
Even if you have some three branches, you only have 23 points on 50th level to pick skills and passives. So, while this setup allows for 120 character classes, your personal picks can make you totally unique... Which can also make your character unplayiable. The harsh reality of MMo is such that people already know all the best branches and skills combinations. As I said, the game was on Korean servers for more than a year now, and there's no place for strange builds. It's even harsher in PvP, cause only about 8 or so builds are competitive in PvP. For PvE you can have more variety, but even then you would still have to follow the same rules and logic. Well, it's nobody's fault, really, because that's just what happens in MMOs - as soon as the best setup is found, you just have to use it or be weaker than anyone else.
Farms and craft in AA are huge. Along the main quest line every player is liven a quest which results in him getting a... scarecrow. This is an item you can use to set up your own small farm in one of specified locations. There you can plant things for craft - from flowers to cows to trees. You need the item because if you try to set those things just somewhere in the open world - anyone can dig it out. And they do. Farms are pretty big deal in AA, but ultimately you yourself decide how much time you want to spend there. You can plant things that grow really fast, dig them out, sell them and plant again. Or you can plant something that takes a day to grow and cut it down later. You are limited by Work Points, which slowly regenerate, and those are used for all activities from farming to crafting to house building. And yes, you can also buy in Mirage Island a house scheme and build a house. And then put crafting items there, which is a must for 40+ crafting.
Crafting is separated into many categories, each leveling up separately as you use it. And it is very important, because in the end-game, most pretty much every item you would use will be crafted item - potions, armor, weapon, food, siege weapons. Everything is made by players. Craft is also the thing that is supposed to keep you in the game for a long time, because it is almost impossible to craft the best armor or weapon or jewelry. At some stage the item you craft would have random stats on it, and only item with 1 set of stats out of 7 (I think) can be upgraded further. And that repeats for 3-4 times. So you would have to luck out and have proper stats for upgrading three times and last time you will have to luck out and have the exact final stats you need. I dread to think about the percentage of it. And crafting is not cheap - it takes a lot of resources that you buy or farm yourself. So people who would, after release of the game, get the best crafted armor sets, would be known through all the server. Some items from raid-bosses can compete with craft sets, but ultimately if you want the absolute best - you need a crafter.
There's also trade caravans. As you grow things up on your farm, you can use some of it to make trading packs. You can carry only one of those at any time, they slow you down, and you can sell them in other regions of the world to get money or special coins. Mostly you would do it for coins because those are used to buy all the best stuff from Mirage Island. Also, it is your choice if you want to play it safe and bring your trade goods through the non-PvP areas or if you plan to sail to other continent or even try to sell it on Cuba. Which brings me to the main part.
There is a lot of PvP in this game - more than average casual MMO player is ready for these days. After 30 level the areas you quest in are open PvP zones with only short times of peace. And even more - game actually makes you meet your enemies, because after 32 level people from eastern continent have to continue questing at western continent locations. So there's always fighting, and there are always people ganking each other and there are even raids of 15+ people just going through the map killing every enemy or even people from the same faction. While leveling, you have to constantly look around and be ready to run away or fight. Well, you don't lose anything if you die, but it can get annoying after a while. PvP rewards for now are honor points that you get for killing enemy players. Those allow you to buy PvP items, which I haven't looked into much yet, but there are some nice runes for your equipment there. However, land-based PvP is just one part of it.
Sea battles is the main rage of the beta test these days, and I already was in a huge battle with 10+ big ships and 50+ small ones. Yes, you build a ship, you gather your guild, and you go kill people in the ocean. Same rules apply like they do on land, but the thing is that sea is constantly open for PvP - there's no cease-fire time there. And it's generally agreed between all the guilds that at the sea your faction does not matter. You can kill people from east and west as long as they aren't your allies, so it's a giant free-for-all. People trying to bring trade goods to Cuba are killed and robbed of their goods. Oh, and people who kill them are also killed and robbed. It really is a lot of fun and ship combat provides for unique experience which I can't remember in any other MMO I played.
I would have loved to say something about castle sieges, but for now we do not have those, so I will only be able to update this article after AA release.
Concerns and hopes
Okay, this is pretty easy. At this stage hopes for the game are very simple - most people going there hope for a solid PvP experience which would go beyond RvR (realm vs realm). The best PvP is considered to be Guild PvP, not Faction PvP, and we all hope that castle battle will provide great GvG experience. If that happens - yes, this game would be worthy to play. If not... well, it would be sad. But I want also to address the list of concerns I talked about before.
1) Farming. Partly true, because every AA player really should have a farm. In a way. As I said, you can decide for yourself how much time you want to spend on that, and farms are being means to get resources for crafting - you can just make money some other way, without digging around in the dirt. You would miss out on an important feature, so it is still recommended to have a farm even if you hate it.
2) Crafting. Oh god, yes, it is true. Crafting will PISS YOU OFF. If will take months - years for some - to get good gear. It will make people leave. It will also make some people stay exactly for that. This is something you don't see in many games, but this feature is both good and bad. All depending on what player hoped to get from a game.
3) Weird updates. Possible. Right now the in-game shop got some dresses, and I am sure it would be easy to escalate this. MMO and silly outfits go well together and yes, it can ruin the game very easily. Right now the style of the game is very good, it looks authentic, and items that would be out of place could really ruin the experience. Here, just watch this video.www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMTnGiadYTg
4) Economy model. Uncertain at this point. Back before the beta, when Russian company bringing the game to us announced about their planned economy model, every single player out there raged like you wouldn't believe. Now those guys backed down, but we still have no idea what we will get in the end.
For now the game is freemium - meaning you can play for free, getting much less experience and reduced item drop. There's also game shop, for real moneyz, where you can buy cosmetic items and, supposedly, where there will be item regenerating your Work Points, allowing you to level up faster and craft more. For now there is no game-breakers announced, but we are very cautious to be optimistic. Plus, our economy model is ours, and EU and US servers can get something completely different.
Quite honestly, I am not sure if I should recommend this game. Yes, it looks very interesting for now, and yes, there are hopes in this game for something no recent RvR game could provide. It is also obvious that the game can be very easily ruined. So yes, it looks attractive, but noone will know if it is really a good game until we get castle sieges, which would only happen in 1 or 2 months after release.
One thing I can say to you - this is not a casual game. Casual players would be preyed upon at every stage, and if you would think about just going there alone to check it out - don't. This is one of those games where having a guild is absolutely necessary. Pretty much from level 30 you must be in a guild or at least with a group of friends. I actually think it's a good thing - AA makes people work together and punishes hard for refusing to do so.