Hands On With ArcheAge, Where Players Rule The World

From a distance, ArcheAge may appear wholly unremarkable to some. Despite a gorgeous fantasy backdrop populated by countless players, creatures, and plant life, it looks just like every other big-name MMORPG to launch in the past decade or so. From EverQuest and World of Wacraft, to Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars, each has managed to forge its own fantasy universe yet overlap is common, leaving new and unique ideas hard to come by.

Upon closer inspection however, this isn’t much of a setback for ArcheAge. Though its lore and artistic influences are largely borrowed and easy to overlook, Korean developer XL Games has focused its efforts on gameplay rather than other, more superficial nuances. In short, it’s an ambitious game and one that looks to become a major player in one of the industry’s most turbulent genres.

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Starting out, ArcheAge will feel instantly familiar to anyone who has sampled an MMORPG in the past. After sculpting your very own in-game avatar, you’ll choose one of a handful of disciplines before being dropped into the game’s vast open world. From here, players will be temporarily funnelled through a series of prescribed quests and tutorials before the stabilisers eventually start to come off.

The first thing that struck me as odd while playing the game is how it handles its class system. As touched on before, you will select one of six available “Skillsets” though, within a matter of hours, you’ll also be required to pick two more from an expanded list. Between them, they cover just about everything, from close combat proficiency, defence, and healing, to archery, corruptive magic and rogue-like shadowplay. So, if you want to be a mage that also happens to be handy with a bow and broadsword, you can. Likewise, if you fancy mixing stealth and support, this combination of skills is just as viable. It’s a refreshing three-tier system and one that also encourages experimentation with players able to reset and change their skills if a particular combination isn’t working out for them.

Now, in most MMOs, that would be it. As soon as you’re allocated a role in combat the next hundred or so hours will usually be spent solely on refining your playstyle before tackling endgame content. This isn’t the case in ArcheAge, however, mainly thanks to the game’s sandbox approach to world-building. Soon after leaving the starting area, you’ll find that just about everything around you is either built by players or influenced by their actions.

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Your first taste of sandbox gameplay will come from ArcheAge’s vocation system, allowing players to pursue an entire suite of professions. From masonry and fishing to alchemy and shipbuilding, each has its role in the player-driven economy and there’s no stopping you from doing them all. The one that immediately sticks out, however, is farming, a vocation that also introduces players to ArcheAge’s land system.

Throughout the game world there are areas known as housing provinces which players can claim and develop – as long as they have the resources. At first, it seems complicated and overwhelming yet ArcheAge does a grand job at easing you in, getting players to construct a simple farm just hours into the game. Using this plot of land, you can plant seed and saplings as well as raise livestock such as cows and chickens. No matter how you decide to populate your farm, your objective should remain the same: to harvest resources, replace them and sell the proceeds. You may also opt to stash certain resources away and use them later in crafting recipes.

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Its the same approach players will no doubt take while gathering in the field. When running quests, the surrounding environment is littered with resource nodes including mushrooms, ore veins, plants, and trees. Again, what you do with these materials is entirely up to you. Although selling them off will allow you to invest in other ventures, ArcheAge’s crafting system proved equally as enticing, allowing players to create hundreds of items straight off the bat. As with housing and farm-building, this can all seem a bit intimidating given the sheer amount of options available. When turning my logs into lumber (a common crafting process) I was flummoxed when I spotted the recipe for a siege engine. Despite not being able to use one until very late in the game, ArcheAge still showed me what skills and materials I would need to build one.

Though seemingly wide open, the game’s sandbox does have some ground rules. For instance, if you can’t pay the taxes on your land and properties, you will simply lose your designated plot. Similarly, plant seeds or place livestock in public space then, after a short period of time, they become fair game. This all seems like small change when you hear what experienced ArcheAge players get up to, however. As in just about any MMORPG, guilds are formed and compete for dominance although here you win more than just a spot on the leaderboards and some bragging right. If big and powerful enough, guilds can venture to the northern continent of Auroria where they can build strongholds on contested land and then defend them from their enemies.

The game world’s economy also allows players to interact with one another outside the conventional range of PvP options. For example, guilds and individual players can transport goods across land and sea in search of profit. However, these trade routes are a breeding ground for piracy with plenty of convoys and ships having been looted. Once again, guilds can have a major impact on these systems, either becoming the most feared band of pirates on the high seas or a fleet of professional mercenary escorts.

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This is perhaps the biggest takeaway from ArcheAge. While most MMOs are facilitate players within a controller fantasy themepark, here players are free to do whatever they choose. If player X wants to blitz her way to the level cap by completing quests and running dungeons then that’s fine. Likewise, if player Y wants to avoid combat entirely, spending hours fishing and farming, that’s fine too. It’s also fine for players like Z, who travel the world protecting merchant ship from pirates and thieves. No matter how you approach ArcheAge, it will always have something to offer.

With the game having already launched in Korea, Japan, and Russia, it’s only a matter of time before ArcheAge finally creeps out of closed beta and releases in the west. Though there is often a bizarre stigma attached to Korean MMOs, with Trion Worlds behind it, ArcheAge should have enough clout to ensure a growing fanbase among US and European players. The game is already making waves within the MMO community and, with its unique approach to world-building, looks to offer more of a new experience than other recent releases such as Wildstar and The Elder Scrolls Online.

And although we’ve covered the basics, there’s so much more of ArcheAge to see. From naval battles and navigation, to the game’s unique crime system, there are plenty of features we’ve yet to go over, each one helping to distance this title from its formulaic MMO competitors.

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6 Comments

  1. Saw this on Steam and it looks like a game I’d be interested in trying. The jobs sound really good and so does the economy based stuff.

    How much of it is pay 2 win though? It’s a Free 2 Play game, although as it’s in beta right now you can only pay to play it. The cheapest pack is £35, and with the most expensive being over £100, it just seems that if I want to play it without spending a penny once it’s fully released, I won’t get anywhere.

    • gazzagb,

      Trion does really well with their F2P models. In Archeage if you want to own a house or a farm then you will need to subscribe. Otherwise there would be tons of F2P accounts created just to gobble up all the land.

      If you just want to level up, paying does not give you any advantages. This game is not pay to win. I’d call it pay for land.

      • Thanks for the info, I’ll keep it on my radar but it’s a bit of a bummer you won’t be able to own land, although I guess that’s perfectly understandable.

    • Actualyl free to play players can own land. There is something called “Patron Status” which you do have to pay for/sign up for subscription. BUT patron status is tradeable with free to players as well. Many subscribed players will often sell patron status to ftp players for gold.

      Its a win win.

      • Yeah I forgot about that. I saw that on their patron update but I was kind of confused how it worked.

  2. Add to that, “ArcheAge online is not your typical MMO full of repetitive quests, boring professions, and cookie-cutter classes, but a trailblazing online RPG where players can truly carve out their own original experience, free from the world-based restraints and constricting storylines that plague games like WoW and ESO.” (Not my words, by the way. Just copy-pasted from http://www.archeageguide.com/pvp/can-archeage-online-claim-the-crown-of-mmo-world/).

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