ArcheAge has managed to scratch an itch that’s been ignored for over three years. It’s a pirate-fantasy MMO with a sandbox playground between two warring factions; three if you count the pirates. It was the likes of the sorely missed Star Wars Galaxies and the original Everquest (back when it launched) that have ever made me feel truly alive inside an MMO, and ArcheAge has invoked a lot of nostalgia. Everything you do inside ArcheAge requires some level of interaction with another player, whether that’s passive or active.
Every action a player performs is felt by hundreds of others, from the humble crafters to the infamous pirates. This is EVE Online but with actual ships. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some less favourable traits. Some systems – like the player ran trial – feel a bit half-baked. And the notorious Korean love for plain old grinding – namely with questing – rears its ugly head every now and again.
But it gives you enough options, enough different opportunities, that these issues take a backseat to what really matters: it’s organic.
I’ve played a lot of ArcheAge over the past two weeks; it’s probably the most I’ve written about any game for PCGamesN. If you’ve been following me, you’ll know I’ve had a review in progress going since the launch of head start. If you want read up on my journey from level one to the endgame, I’ve listed the contents below to preface this review.
- Levels 1-10: launch issues, character creation and initial questing
- Levels 10-20: farming, trade runs and dungeons
- Levels 20-30: sailing a clipper, getting arrested and housing
- Levels 30-34: queues, servers and what Trion are doing about it
- Levels 34-45: inter-continental trade runs, combat and PVP
- Levels 45-50: exploring the end-game and beyond
Character creation is detailed, as long as you’re only counting the face. I’ve seen convincing replications of just about any fictional and non-fictional celebrity inside the game, so you’ll be free to make whoever you like. Just don’t expect to change things such as body size and height – that sort of customisation is just missing, bizarrely.
You can pick from four total races, split between two warring factions. The west faction hosts the Nuian, who are your typical staple humans. Elves are the familiar pointy-eared folk with an affinity for trees. On the east faction you have the Harani who are humans of more oriental lineage, and finally the Firran, who are beast like humanoids – think like a cross between rabbits and cats. They all come with racial traits, but they’re so miniscule that they hold barely any weight when it comes to choosing a race.
The class system is one that promotes diversity while retaining some relative simplicity. There are ten different skillsets, all featuring a slew of abilities and passives. You can combine three of these together to form a single class. Maths says that you’re provided with 120 different combinations, all offering some different from the last. You can switch around your chosen abilities on the fly for a small fee, or go and see an NPC to switch out a skillset in its entirety. They do however retain their own experience level, much like that of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, so you’ll need to level them up independently. At the end of the day though, the more freedom the better.
The immediate getgo of ArcheAge can be a bit misleading. You’re greeted with the norm, unimaginative quest objectives that MMOs often fall back on: kill X, gather Y then report to Z. This, coupled with a standard tab-targetting system leaves a lot to be desired when you’re used to things like Guild Wars 2’s events, or TERA’s more fluid reticule targeting.
ArcheAge lets you choose the level of commitment you want to invest into any one quest. You can complete it early, or even overachieve it and get bonus loot/xp. It’s almost like it understands how boring its questing really is; I can’t work out if that’s just lazy remedy, but it’s certainly a welcome option to have. The main story quests serve as good a purpose as to provide some backstory on the world, but nothing more. Before long I found myself not caring at all for it, instead focusing on something much more prevalent: the players.
Dean Hall – creator of zombie survival shooter DayZ – coined his own “Hall’s Law”, which describes what’s special about ArcheAge quite nicely:
“All other things being equal, a random interaction between human players will always be more compelling than one that is scripted”
ArcheAge’s lifeblood is in these everyday interactions with other players: the game requires it. I’m not talking about the odd trade here and there, or grouping together to take on a dungeon – it goes much, much deeper than that. Over 99% of the everyday items players use areonly sourced from other players; you won’t even find health and mana regen consumable from merchants, instead having to find a player with good cooking/alchemist skills.
Responsible for this is the farming, gathering and crafting within ArcheAge. There’s nearly two dozen different vocations, ranging from weaponcrafting, animal husbandry and even larceny. You can find the materials you need from natural resources, growing it yourself on your farm, and even stealing it from other players; there are no hard rules in ArcheAge, even scamming is allowed.
Unless you use public farms, then you’re going to need your own plot of land to use protected farms and build your own house. Land is a finite resource in ArcheAge, and it’s only available to those who are considered a subscriber. Although this game is marketed as a free to play game, the disparities between someone who has a sub are quite noticeable, at least during the early levels.
Every player is bound by the use of Labour – a resource that is regenerated over time and spent in the majority of tasks you perform. Because ArcheAge lacks any natural timegates such as crafting cooldowns, instance lockouts or level based restrictions, this is needed to stop players from obtaining the best stuff in the game too quickly. As a F2P player, this may at first limit you on how much you can accomplish in any one day, as you only regen this labour while you’re logged in. Subscribers on the other hand regen at the same rate while offline, and double that while logged in.
But as you progress through the game, and making gold becomes easier, these worries do get drowned out. You’ll be able to buy potions that restore huge chunks of labour from the player market – albeit with a 12 hour cooldown – and further down the line even be able to afford APEX: ArcheAge’s version of in-game in-game time cards. These are bought by players for real money, then can be sold to other players in-game. Two can be used to give you a month’s worth of patron time, and from the prices I’ve seen on my server, it’s affordable.
The cash shop is largely filled with convenience items too. There’s a single chest which is more of a gamble when it comes to getting anything of value from it, but gold is so easy and more importantly enjoyable to earn in ArcheAge I don’t know why anyone would bother plundering real money for the sole reason of gaining masses amounts of gold.
Earning that gold can be done in a multitude of ways. You could supply adventurers with your crafted wares, hunt around the world for rare treasure, run trade packs or even plunder them. One day I decided I wanted to go and steal someones trees to finish my house. I did, but I got caught doing it, and promptly sent to jail.
Make no mistake, there are repercussions for committing crime in ArcheAge. Do enough bad deeds and you’ll be marked as a wanted player, and quickly escorted to trial upon your next PVP death. It’s a fun system, where you get to plead your case to a jury comprising of real players – even an audience of the same. But it kind of falls apart when you realise there’s no incentive for finding a player “not guilty”. The best you can do is put on an entertaining show with some silly excuse as to why you stole 48 chickens and hope they’re merciful.
Otherwise, it’s off to jail. When you’re sent to jail you’ll be forced to live out your sentence in real time. You can break out, but the sentenced duration will remain with you as a debuff preventing you from doing pretty much anything. I’ve been in jail for a little over ten minutes, but I’ve seen some less savoury folk get sentences to hours, and sometimes days at a time. These guys are usually pirates: players who’ve committed so much crime their own faction has renounced them, forcing them to take refuge with other pirate players in the sea.
The sea in ArcheAge is arguably one of my favourite things. First, it looks gorgeous: the game uses CryEngine for its graphics, utilizing DirectX 11 and multithreaded CPUs. For the time being, there are some little technical hiccups here and there with memory leaks and texture bugs, but it’s rare enough not to be a constant nuisance. Cranked to the max though, this is by far the most beautiful MMO I’ve played.
Right, yes, the sea. It’s huge. To sail from east to west in the fastest ship in the game can take anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour depending on if you run into any dangers such as storms, whirlpools, sea creatures or pirates. There’s even a legendary Kraken that dwells in the northern ocean that takes an entire raid of 40+ players and ten galleon sized ships, cannons blazing, to even scratch it. Deep under the ocean you can find shipwrecks filled with delicious bounty; the hardest of which requires diving gear to reach. I’ve spent hours at a time with some friends on the ocean floor.
ArcheAge is definitely a more PVP centric MMO, but don’t let that put you off. While there’s dungeons and world bosses to conquer, it’s at its best when your pastimes include doing something with, or to other players – whether it’s something honourable or infamous.
You can be that humble farmer, grow crops, raise livestock and take your produce to market.
You can take that produce and craft it into the most valuable of goods, selling it to the highest bidder.
You can be a master of coin, buying and selling items and resources to other players.
You can take your trusty donkey complete trade runs with valuable packs of delicacies, opting for those venturing into dangerous lands for promise of more coin.
You can stalk and hunt those very haulers on both land and sea, ambushing them and plundering for all that their worth, be it your own faction or the enemies.
You can offer protection against those very players, acting as a bodyguard to those who can’t protect themselves.
Hell, you can even take out a small rowing boat into the middle of the sea and sit there, fishing rod and banjo in hand, and catch your afternoon tea.
The point is that there’s endless hours of enjoyment in ArcheAge for just about anyone. If you can stomach a slightly stale questing experience, and get your head around the quite innocent labour system, it’s an MMO with near endless potential for player driven, organic content. And to be quite honest, it’s the closest thing to a true fantasy sandbox experience on the market, and will be for a good time yet.
Levels 45-50: exploring the end-game and beyond
Three new servers have hit the EU region, and coupled with the new AFK kick on character selection has dramatically reduced queue times.
This was the queue at 8PM last night. The text didn’t lie either – I was in within a short ten minute wait. I am a Patron, so if you’re a F2P player you might see slightly longer queues right now, but largely it’s for the better. Also responsible for this is the current lock on creating characters on the older servers, to help promote the new ones.
Good job Trion.
So I finally hit level 50 – the current max level in the game; the Korean version currently supports level 55 with some new class abilities. Of course, my progression hasn’t halted. I can swap out skillsets, but they will need to be leveled from level one. This can be done with anything that earns you experience e.g. quests, crafting and combat (includes PVP). For now though, I’ll stick to what I have.
Being an MMO largely focused on open world shenanigans, your goals at the end-game don’t have to follow the norm; PVE content is actually less prevalent than that of interacting with other players and PVP. Here’s a few things you could get up to.
You could hone your skills as a crafter in one of the many vocations and advertise your wares to other adventurers. Nearly everything in ArcheAge is produced from other players, so there’s always a demand for everything.
You could become a travelling merchant dealing with trade packs. Build up your wealth enough and you can upgrade from your donkey to a farm wagon, capable of carrying multiple trade packs at once. Even further down the line you can purchase and build the merchant ship, which has a special hold capable of carrying twenty trade packs at once.
You could become a mercenary, offering your services all over the land, and sea. It might be hunting down enemy faction incursions, or protecting those aforementioned merchant ships from predators on the waves. Band together with friends and offer your arms to players in need of help with bigger challenges such as world bosses or dungeons.
If you’re the more less-than-savoury type, you could become a notorious pirate. Repeatedly commit crimes against your faction until you’re forced to cut ties altogether. You’ll be relegated to the infamous ‘Pirate Island’, where you and other of your folk live while not out on the sea. You’ll make your living plundering merchant ships for their cargo and maybe be hired by guilds who need backup for less honourable tasks.
These are just a few of many roles within ArcheAge, and there’s nothing stopping you from doing them all. Notice though, that all of these require day to day interactions with other players, and not scripted NPC characters. Every day can be different than the last.
This is what the pirate den in ‘Pirate Island’ looks like if you manage to sneak in without being murdered.
For me, my priority was getting ahold of some decent gear. While you level up by doing quests in ArcheAge, you’ll occasionally run into quests that offer armour sets and various weapons. I did some research to find out where the quests were that offered the strongest available and set off to complete them. All I was missing were accessories, which I bought off the market.
This however isn’t where it ends. Direct upgrades come from three different places: a hardmode dungeon called the Greater Howling Abyss, Hasla weapons, and crafting.
The dungeon is tough for those who don’t have the bare minimum of the best quest gear; my first clear took around two hours. It was also far more fleshed out than any previous dungeon I had completed before. The monsters all had unique mechanics too. Eggs littered the dungeon which would hatch on proximity, you had to burn them with fire to kill the fast. Bandits would throw exploding barrels at you from a height, requiring them to be pulled down to avoid being blown up. The bosses were also much more varied, and challenging too. A Bandit commander had a powerful fire attack that would deal major damage, unless you could become frozen. This was achieved by not killing the frozen soldiers he spawned, and hitting them to gain a freeze debuff. The flipside was the added pummeling you took because you didn’t dare kill them. The dungeon offers an armour set for various stat combinations and types, as well as unique weapons.
A direct upgrade to your weapon came from a less than favourable method. In the zone of Hasla is a vendor which offers powerful weapons in exchange for tokens. These tokens are found by killing nearby plant enemies, which drop them 100% of the time. The catch is there’s a token specific for each weapon, and to get the first rank you need 150 of that one type. Since the mobs drop random tokens, it can take a long time to farm up the amount you need. This, coupled with the fact you’ll have players from both factions competing with you at ‘tagging’ monsters, means it’s a real grind. The only way to have a chance at farming them at a reasonable pace is to find a group in which each member calls dibs on a particular token.
Finally, you have crafting. Crafting in ArcheAge yields the most powerful gear in the game compared to anything else, which helps keep crafters relevant even in the endgame. This is where ArcheAge’s slew of rarity types comes into play. You’ll start off crafting low level items, and further craft those into higher level ones, consuming the previous in the process. At a certain point, you’ll have the option to regrade the item. Regrading is basically a roll of the dice on upgrading a gears rarity: it can succeed, downgrade, or even destroy it. It’s a risky business, but getting your hands on the best gear in the game is never easy. Crafters who are proficient at crafting these items, and with a bit of luck, can make hundreds if not thousands of gold.
I’ve mentioned it before, but ArcheAge actually has a third continent which is currently locked away to players at the moment. It’s serves as a level 50 playground, filled with precious resources and terrifying enemies. It also is a PVP area, so its lucrative bounties are often fought over between the two factions.
Trion’s reason for locking it away was to prevent massive guilds from zerging the continent and claiming all the land. Instead, it will remain locked for a good few weeks before being opened up. Here, the quest to obtain better gear will become noticeably easier as different methods are made available. It should certainly drag people out of Halsa, which is currently crammed with players trying to farm their weapons.
If you ever need a break from progressing your character, it’s always a good idea to grab a ship and go sailing with no real destination. I did just that with some fellow guildies, when we decided we’d see if we could find the ominous sea Kraken. This god-like sea beast roams the sea to the north. Finding it is a task in itself, as the ocean is huge; easily taking upwards of 30-45 minutes to sail from one side to the other. We never planned to kill it either: the Kraken takes a force of 40+ players with about ten galleons fitted with cannons to slay. It’s incredibly strong too – it can destroy a ship with its special tentacle attack.
Here’s an example of quite the comedic encounter with the monster:
Alas, we never found it after exploring for a good two hours, but it’s probably a good thing for the health of my ship. There are other stuff to find in the sea though, some not too kind. Fishing spots are denoted by a swarm of seagulls, which can be a hauled back to shore to sell. There’s even a fishing trawler ship too. You’ll also run into thunderstorms, whirlpools and other sea life that will threaten your voyage. We did find some underwater sea wrecks too, which we raided for some chests. Fun was definitely had.
This will be the last update to my review in progress, as I write up the verdict over the weekend. Looking back at my adventures, it’s sure been eventful. The launch and persistent server issues definitely had me worried if I would ever make any progress at all, but that worry is slowly dissipating away each time Trion add more servers and capacity. Luckily though it hasn’t prevented me from seeing most of what ArcheAge has to offer: the good and the bad.
If you’ve been playing ArcheAge yourself, I’d love to hear what you think about it in the comments section below. Otherwise, find out if it’s worth your time in my ArcheAge review, which should be live just after the weekend.
Levels 34-45: inter-continental trade runs, PVP and combat
So, as always, servers first. Three new servers have gone live in North America to try and free up some load as new players flood in. Europe will receive the same treatment, however the hardware is stuck in customs until at least tomorrow. Trion have in the meantime moved to daily server resets on the worst affected servers in off-peak hours to kick people who AFK.
Progress, but we’re certainly far from being out of the woods yet.
I promised the result of our daring inter-continental trade run, and I didn’t forget. We took every precaution to avoid being intercepted by pirate players blockading the most popular routes. It worked too, although we did nearly get sucked into a whirlpool if it wasn’t for a last second spot by the crew.
When we arrived at the other continent however, things quickly turned sour. Our goal was to make it onto the docks and into the loving arms of the neutral guards: who quickly dispatch anyone being committing assault. Three enemy clippers with harpoon guns were waiting near the dock however, and they began to move towards us. We had a choice: either bolt, or run our ship aground and try and reach our goal.
We chose the latter, but we immediately regretted it. Two dozen or so enemy players were waiting at the edge of the docks to swoop in and board our ship. We were all murdered, and our trade packs stolen.
Lesson learned: don’t attempt these trade runs during peak hours or without backup.
So I went back to questing in my effort to hit level 50. My questing areas were different to the ones I used before: these ones allowed PVP combat. Both factions have around five of these questing zones that are intended for players level 30+. You’ll need to use these if you want to level any higher.
There’s good news for you folk who don’t like getting ganked. Each zone has various stages which denotes their status. When a region is in ‘peace’, you have a two hour window where combat against the enemy faction is forbidden. This gives you plenty of time to get the majority of the quests completed if you’re quick.
After this status, it then slowly progresses through five stages: Tension, Danger, Dispute, Unrest and Crysis. During this time, PVP is allowed and you can attack or be attacked by other players. The rate at which these stages progress is determined by the amount of player kills that occur within those regions.
After Crysis is exceeded, it turns to War. War lasts roughly two hours, similar to peace. It’s during this time that PVP is greatly encouraged due to the extra bonus in honor points received for killing players of the enemy faction. Each player kill will steal honor from them, and in greater amounts in relation to the status level.
The whole system acts as a way to ease players into one of the main attractions in ArcheAge: open world PVP. Even if you detest that sort of activity, you can still take advantage of peace times to finish the quests. It is a bit annoying though when you’re fighting a tough mob, only to be stabbed in the back while on low health. On the flipside, I’ve seen quite a few honorable enemies who kept their blades sheathed while you’re in the middle of questing.
Some of these areas also have PVP based objectives. In one for example, players can turn in a quest when war starts to earn a token for PVP gear. Naturally, this gathers dozens and dozens of players. When war begins, both sides are usually already in big raid groups, and go on the hunt for the other factions zerg.
With being involved in lots PVP lately, and also having much more access to my classes skills, I’d like to talk more about the combat and class system in ArcheAge.
As I lightly touched on in my first update to this review in progress, ArcheAge has quite the extensive class system. There are ten classes in total, but you can play with three of them at a time. This results in 120 unique combinations, and is further customised by where you allocate your skill points, weapons and armour.
The active combat abilities in which you can select from are derived off the level for that specific class. Naturally, the first three classes you choose in the beginning – as long as you stick with them – will level to 50 together as you progress. If you decide to swap a class out, it starts back at level one; they have their own separate level.
Passives on the otherhand are unlocked in relation to how many combat abilities you’ve spent in that one class. If I want the level ten passive in Battlerage for example, I’ll need to spend ten of my skill points within that class to do so. This rewards people who want to heavily specialise into a single class, instead of spreading their points out to be more versatile.
Going back to the active combat abilities, nearly every single one has a ‘combo’ interaction depending on the status of your enemy. As an example, If I use my Triple Slash on an enemy that is ‘snared’, it will also trip the enemy. I can use my Charge ability as an initiation to get into melee range and inflict that snared status. There are hundreds of these interactions between each of the ten classes, which when used together really increase your effectiveness.
Learning and understanding these symbiotic relationships is really, really rewarding.
Weapons and armour also play a big part in the games combat. You are free to use a multitude of different weapons with most of the classes; of course, if you’re running the Archery class, you’re probably going to need a bow for those specific skills. That’s not to stop you using a bow with melee weapons though. You could open up from range before diving into melee combat as the enemy closes in.
Armour is split into three categories: cloth, leather and plate. Cloth offers more magic defense, plate offers more physical defense, and leather is a mix of both. As a melee fighter, I’ll have a much tougher time cracking someone who’s wearing plate, but it’s not impossible. I found that superior use of skills and positioning usually trumps the bonus armour against my physical attacks.
If tonight goes as planned, I’ll be level 50 by the end of it. I’ll be dipping my toes into what exactly there is to do in endgame and if it keeps me interested. Max level dungeons, improving my gear and more open world PVP shenanigans are bound. I also want to get my hands on a galleon at some point too. Check back soon for more of my adventures within ArcheAge.
Levels 30-34: queues, servers and what Trion are doing about it
In each update I’ve done to this review in progress, I’ve always prefaced them with how the servers coping with the ArcheAge launch. In my latest one, I was a bit optimistic that things were improving.
The fact of the matter is: they’re not.
As you can see from my leveling progress, I didn’t get to play much last night. Even though I paid money for a Founders pack, and even though I’m technically a “Patron” which entitles me to a faster queue to get onto the server, I was stuck in a queue for hours. Five hours to be exact, and there are some people with even longer queue times.
This was my screen at 13:00 BST today. You’d think a lot of people would still be at work until the evening, but this hasn’t stopped every server from spilling their population over to mammoth-sized queues. I’m writing this nearly two hours later, and the queue has just barely dipped under 2000. And remember: this is supposed to be the fast queue.
But actually, I’m not quite sure if I am classed as a paying Patron. Since the maintenance on Wednesday night, a lot of people on EU servers who were Patrons incorrectly lost that privilege. This also means we lost benefits such as property placement, auction listings and more importantly, Labour regeneration. Since free-to-play players cannot exceed 2000 Labour, for those of us over that amount and afflicted with this error, it’s effectively been frozen. I’ve lost around 3000 Labour points now, which is a lot of missed gathering, farming and crafting.
— ArcheAge (@ArcheAge) September 19, 2014
So the big question is: what are Trion doing about it? Well we’re getting more servers, which is a good thing, but it’s not going to solve the issue straight away. ArcheAge is a game about dominance and progression: players aren’t going to jump ship to a new server if they have the slightest bit of investment on another. And they can’t transfer either, a service which is supposedly coming in the near future.
They’ve also taken a stance on people AFK in-game. Naturally, people don’t want to log out due to the queues, so they run around in circles on their mounts or find a quiet spot to periodically become in active. While I can fully understand their motives, they take up spots for people actually wanting to play. Trion are now “aggressively sweeping AFKers, even manually when needed”, but It doesn’t appear to have a massive impact on queues lately.
But lets take a step back for a second and evaluate things from Trion’s point of view. The last thing they want is to add more servers than they need. You’ve probably seen this happen in a lot of MMOs as of late, and they always lead to the same result: server merges aka “Mega Servers”.
In ArcheAge, this is actually something that must be avoided at all costs. Why? Well in ArcheAge, players can own plots of land; some of it more valuable than others. It would nearly be impossible to merge two or more servers together while keeping everyone’s property intact. This isn’t even considering how much of a costly operation this is to undertake. In a game where player content is the primary driving force, underpopulated servers could seriously hamper the experience.
However, these is currently the main issues present within ArcheAge right now:
- Patrons are looking at 5 hour+ queues, while free-to-play players are looking at even longer.
- Players who have purchased Patron are largely unable to play the game in an acceptable time. Those who work 9-5 jobs are lucky at all to play at all before they need to go to bed.
- Some Patrons are currently missing their subscriber entitlements, resulting in longer queues and loss of Labour within the game.
While a lot of these issues extend to free-to-play players, we cannot ignore the fact that subscribers have already paid money to play ArcheAge, and are unable to for the large part. Trion will probably need to sort out some sort of compensation for these players, as it’s simply not acceptable.
As you can read from review in progress, I’ve actually been really getting into ArcheAge and all of its sandbox goodness. But until these server issues are fixed, I’m more than likely going to need to alter my sleep schedule to finish this review. And nobody wants that. Check back tomorrow when I’ve hopefully got nicer things to say about my daring trade run and questing in PVP areas. Until then, why not check out my inital impressions of being arrested and put on trial; the jury asked me to get naked.
Levels 20-30: sailing a clipper, getting arrested and housing
As it closed in on the official launch, I was worried; the servers struggled with just the head start comprising of paying players – now it was going to be open to the public. Thankfully, the transition went rather smoothly for me. I managed to get into the game without any queues, and the times where I did need to restart my client, the grace period did its job and saved me waiting.
Speaking to some free-to-play players, they had a bit more of a wait. Queues ranged from 1000-2000 players. In response, Trion opened up two new servers to try and accommodate the influx of new players.
In short – servers are slowly getting better better.
Back to my character now, and my journey from 20-30 was an eventful one. As I mentioned yesterday, one of my goals was to build a ship known as a Clipper. These ships are among the fastest in the game, but with limited combat ability. This makes them perfect for running trade runs into enemy territory where speed is of the essence, but you could also use them for hit and run guerilla warfare on the high seas.
Gathering the materials was a nice challenge. We split up the tasks of gathering the raw materials between us to speed things up. One friend focuses on farming cotton to make the sails, another the iron for the general metal work. My task was the wood, in which we needed a lot. I used my farming plots to plant Aspen trees; being greedy and having two plots, It didn’t take long before we had what we needed.
Building the Clipper is just as you would expect. You construct the ship on a temporary platform out in deep waters, and once it’s done it soft launches straight into the ocean.
After applying our guild emblem to our sails – we’re called the Potato Pirates by the way – we gave it a little test drive. The Clipper has a few designated positions such as piloting the ship, as well as a harpoon gun on the front. You can use this to latch onto objects – namely other ships, and then winch them in if they’re smaller than you. Likewise, you can also use it to hitch a ride on something bigger.
The Clipper also comes equipped with a water breathing device. After a short charge time, you can use it to give yourself ten minutes or so of air to be used under the ocean. Exploration in ArcheAge is a big thing, and the same goes for searching the depths of the ocean floor. You can find treasure, shipwrecks and some not-so-nice sea creatures, all ripe with bountiful booty. Of course, you have to remember the the ocean is not a safe place; the best stuff is hidden in PVP enabled areas.
Oh, and be careful not to harpoon the ocean floor…
ArcheAge has a ton of nifty physics, meaning you can indeed capsize ships. Luckily this doesn’t destroy the ship, instead rendering it useless until you either find a way to correct it, or re-summon it. Ships remain in your inventory until you summon them from an otherworldly portal, where they’re kept nice and safe. Don’t worry though – if you attack another persons ship, they’ll be unable to retreat their ship using this method. If a ship does get destroyed, you will need to pay a flat fee to restore it back to its former glory.
Although we didn’t manage to squeeze in our suicide inter-continental trade run, we’ll be sure to do it soon. Upon sailing around for a good hour, I realised there’s a whole other side to ArcheAge and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Dubious player pirates lurk in the deep ocean, preying on trade ships. Traders are buying protection of other players to escort them through these hazards. Other players go on diving expeditions for promise of hidden treasure, while one player keeps an eye out for danger from both sea creatures and other players.
The ocean represents the true sandbox of ArcheAge.
Back on dry land, I had a problem. I used the majority of my logs and lumber supply in building the Clipper. My house was partially built using two stone brick trade packs, but needed a large stack of lumber to finish it off. Although I could just continue to plant trees in my farms, that takes a great deal amount of time: ten hours a pop. I had to find another way to get the logs I needed.
I was going to steal it.
Crime is a thing in ArcheAge, and it’s punishable. Lesser crimes such as stealing are an easy way to get you wanted, but you can also see yourself become a criminal by assaulting and murdering innocent players. Every time you commit a crime, you have a chance to leave footprints behind. Players nearby can then report you for the crime they witnessed, and leave a small description of the act.
With the buffered population of free-to-play players, I went on the hunt for tucked away hidden farms. The reason behind this is that free-to-play players can’t own a house or farms, unless they pay for a patron subscription. They’re not all out of luck however – they can either use public farms where it’s protected for 24 hours, or plant their stuff in secluded spots in the world. The latter is risky because it’s not protected – players can uproot your produce, or try and steal it when it’s ready for harvest.
That was my plan, and after a bit of searching I found a secret farm of Oak trees that a player left on top of a high mountain. I was lucky as they only had a couple of hours left before they were harvestable. Uprooting things early usually destroys the item, getting you nothing, but you do have a small chance to reclaim the infant sapling/seed to use for yourself.
After committing the deed, I thought I was scot free. That was until I started to accumulate crime points. I must of left a great deal of evidence of my crime, and before long I had over 50 crime points.
I was classed as ‘wanted’.
Now this isn’t an issue straight off the bat because you are only sent to trial on your next PVP death. Unfortunately for me, I ventured a bit too far out to sea on one occasion, and fell prey to a group of pirates.
Upon death, you’re transported into a holding cell. You are given a choice: go to trial, or plead guilty and serve an average sentence in jail. Wanting to see how my chances would fare, I chose to go to trial. The trial room features a variety of players to decide your fate. You yourself stand as the defendant, a random selection of five players are used as the jury and the people who reported your crimes can sit in the back as witnesses.
Once everyone is in, your crimes are read out to the jury. There’s a step-by-step system that progresses the trial, involving the jury reviewing your crimes, the witnesses giving evidence and finally your chance to defend yourself. Of course, since this is largely an experience governed by players, it largely depends on the type of players you get.
I tried to put on a sop story to have some fun, claiming that my family was sick and I needed the wood for a fire. Funnily enough, this led the jury to believe I was purposely wanting to go to jail to try and become a pirate by building my infamy points. If you’re found guilty, you also accumulate infamy, and at 3000 you’ll become a pirate. Pirates are shunned by both factions, and are forced to live in neutral areas – namely the sea.
Due to this, they decided that the best way to punish me was to find my “Not Guilty”. I was cleared of all charges, released and also lost all my crime points. It was a surprising outcome, that demonstrates the volatility of a player run system.
Now lets take a step back and see what would’ve happened if I didn’t have such merciful jurors.
When found guilty, you’re sent to jail for a set amount of in-game time. This is determined by a few factors: the amount of jurors who thought you were guilty, the number of past crimes you’ve been found guilty for, and your total infamy/crime points. Because the ‘trial’ chat is public – and strangely enough the public can chat within it – I’ve seen a fair few criminals being sentenced. The smallest sentence is around 15 minutes, but I’ve also seen as high as 12 hours. Remember, you have to spend your sentence while in-game to reduce your sentence.
In jail, you can pass the time by chatting to fellow criminals, kill rats or playing some good old football in the yard. But what if you don’t fancy doing that? Well the good news is you can break out of jail, albeit difficulty. In the Nuian prison, inmates can find spoons to use to dig their way out. With some teamwork, you can escape, but your prisoner debuff will remain for the sentenced duration. This does limit you on taking part in certain activities, and if you’re caught again while a previous sentence debuff is present, it’ll be added onto your new sentence if found guilty.
Being a free man, I headed back to my unfinished house to apply the illegally acquired lumber. The base small house is rather lacking as it’s just a single room, single floor plot. To make it a bit more home-like, you’ll want to furnish it.
It was time to go window shopping.
Mirage Isle acts as a sort of showroom hub for both factions; portals to it can be found all over the map. Here you can purchase various blueprints for houses and ships, as well as costumes and other items. The majority of these cost Gilda-Stars: a currency gained from completing story and daily quests.
What I was after however was furniture. Mirage Isle showcases all the different types of houses you can buy, complete and furnished. Players can then walk around these mock-up homes and purchase items just by clicking on them. Now most of the furniture only gives you the option to purchase the design; requiring you to build the item yourself. There are however some items which you can straight out purchase, and rather cheaply too.
I went to town on what I could find, and furnished my house as the above. It’s still missing some key features such as a bed, drawers, chairs and a table, but that will take some time. I was glad however that I wasn’t stuck with a bare house.
The process of putting down these items is easy and slick. You select the item in your inventory, place it down where you want and then you can finely rotate to your liking. Many of the items are also interactable; I need to find some fish for my aquarium. Later I plan on setting up crafting stations inside my house, but those are very expensive in terms of time and materials.
Check back tomorrow for my next update, as I venture closer and closer to end-game. On the agenda is the inter-continental trade run; I might even bring along our Fraser Brown to get his feet wet.
Levels 10-20: farming, trade runs and dungeons
It’s now just after the weekend and the frustrating server issues are showing signs of abating. While it was hard to play for more than a couple of hours at the weekend – usually having to wait equally long in a queue beforehand – the queues seem only to crop up in the evenings on weekdays. Thankfully, Trion have just implemented the grace system as of late last night: if you’re kicked out of the game, you now have five minutes to get back in without sitting in the queue.
Today however also marks the day where the game officially launches, to any and all. You’ll be able to download and play ArcheAge for free from 6PM BST tonight. Paying players will be marked as patrons, and will have their own privileged queue, but I still foresee long wait times for both when the tape is cut. Although wary of introducing too many servers – which can turn into ghost towns after the first initial month in any MMO – Trion have introduced an extra server to both NA and EU to help with the influx.
“Craft, Claim, Conquer” is one of the popular slogans used with ArcheAge, and it’s not far off.
Lets start with farming. In ArcheAge players are encouraged to grow their own crafting materials, as well as find them in the wild. To do this you’ll need access to a farm – either through public farms or your own. At level ten you’re introduced to this via a quest, in which you’re taught all the basics: planting, watering and looking after livestock. You then receive your very own Scarecrow – a square of land which can be placed in designated areas in which you can farm from.
Now as I mentioned yesterday, space is a bit of an issue. There was such a big rush at the beginning of headstart that a lot of the good land was taken within the first hour. At first, I couldn’t easily find a place to put down my Scarecrow, and had to postpone it for a bit.
Luckily though, I found a spot near some of my friends houses that was tucked away. You’re given all the materials you need to construct it with the quest: lumber and a few tax credits. The latter is required to maintain ownership of any plot of lands in which you claim. The more you own, the higher the tax will be. If you don’t pay the tax, your property will become public and can be destroyed by other players. It should be noted that the plot plan and any decor will be mailed to you, so the only things you’ll lose is the materials which you used to build it. Tax credits can bought from the cash store, bought from other players or crafted with Labour points.
What are Labour points? Well a lot of the activities you do in ArcheAge outside of combat cost a certain amount of these Labour points e.g. gathering, crafting, farming, constructing. You attain Labour at a steady rate while you’re logged in; even more and also while offline if you’re a paying patron. It forces players to make intelligent decisions about what they do, while also preventing players from flooding the market with various goods. It’s basically a timegate system, but strangely one that I’ve had little issue with. I think it gives everyone a sense of purpose in what they do, while also handily stamping out botting – something which I’m still get to witness.
Back to my Scarecrow, I needed something to plant. A short distance away I found various merchants offering their produce to use. Seed merchants sell small plants such as potatoes and mushrooms. Sapling merchants offer bigger flora such as small bushes and trees. Finally you have your livestock merchant, who sells various animals such as chickens, sheep and cows.
I wanted some logs to help go towards a ship me and my friends plan on building, so I opted to plant some Aspen saplings. Everything has their own prefered climate, which affects how quickly they grow to maturity in which they’re ready for harvest. My small Aspen saplings were best suited to a temperate climate – lucky for me that’s where I was, resulting in a time of ten hours before I could harvest them. For comparison, smaller plants can take only minutes to a couple of hours to grow.
Fast forward a bit and I had enough farmed produce to create my first trade pack. These bundles, depending on their contents, are used for constructing, but also for trade runs. Trade runs are quests which require you to transport goods from one place to another for some tidy profit. Think like hauling in EVE Online.
While you have a trade pack equipped, your character moves at a snail pace and are unable to use portals. This forces you to use public transport such as carriages and airships to try and cut a lot of the journey out. The rest you’ll have to make do on foot, boat or when you eventually unlock it, your very own donkey.
In the picture above, we used the river running down the continent to speed up our journey. Controlling the boat takes a bit of getting used to with its methodical rowing, but I eventually got the hang of it.
When I compared this to EVE Online, don’t be fooled. Later trade runs require you to go much longer distance: the most daring ones ask you to go across the wide ocean to the enemy players continent. Here you’re vulnerable to be attacked either on your voyage, or while you’re inside their lands. If you die with a trade pack it drops to the floor, free for anyone to pick up. Someone else can either use the materials themselves, or continue on to your destination and claim 80% of the profits.
ArcheAge was beginning to feel alive.
Taking a break from living the hauling dream, I unlocked my first dungeon at level 20. It was a three man dungeon, so I grabbed two trusty friends and dived in.
The setting was a bandit hideout deep within some mines, and we were called in to exterminate the criminals. The start of the dungeon saw us dispatch a bit of trash mobs before landing us at our first mini-boss. She was a nimble dual-wielding warrior who could disappear and launch dynamite. She was quickly taken care of by our party, and dropped some loot.
Weapons and armour in ArcheAge come in a slew of rarities; twelve in total. The bosses in the dungeon seemed to drop predetermined items at random levels of rarity. This knowledge seems overwhelming, but present experience seems to suggest that you’re gradually introduced to higher rarity gear further you quest and level up. Whether or not the endgame gear also comes in a total of twelve flavours remains to be seen, but I’ll be sure to touch back on it when I reach it.
After this first mini-boss, the dungeon moved up a gear in terms of progression. There weren’t anymore trash to kill either, and before I knew it I was at the next boss. This one was a lumbering stone golem, who we’d just witness annihilate some bandits trying to control it. It’s frontal slam attack was life threatening, but it was slow. We resorted to kiting it around the circular room with a ranged caster wearing plate, while I followed behind needling it to death with my swords. Again, another simple affair after giving it some thought, but this is after all the first dungeon.
Finally it was straight to the head of the bandits, accompanied by a flashy entrance cinematic to signify his importance. His fight was certainly more difficult as he was equipped with a lot more health and a few annoying attacks. Periodically he would also summon henchmen to try and disrupt our tactics, but they were easily repelled. The danger in the room was his stun attack coupled with giant tornados that spew across the room. Get caught in one and you’d be missing half your health. With some clear calls over voice comms, we managed to defeat him and claim our reward. He also dropped a chest, but we were unable open it. Later it would be revealed that this chest was a bonus, only obtainable if you had a mentor present – a player above a certain level helping you out.
Overall I enjoyed it, as I got to test out my mettle against tougher enemies, but it didn’t do anything daring or new that I’ve not seen in other MMO. It facilitates a group challenge with loot at the end, but nothing more for now. The story behind it was also largely forgettable. Being the first ‘noob’ dungeon however, my judgement remains open until I’ve tried a few more.
As I battle it towards level 30, my main goal is to construct my house which I recently managed to place thanks to some space opening up. Then, I can start to look at housing itself which includes decorating and functionality. Also on the horizon is my first inter-continental trade run, which I mentioned before. Whether or not I’m successful, you’ll have to wait and see.
If you’re planning on playing tonight, you can hit me up on the EU “Eanna” server by adding “Velvet” to your friends, if you roll a Nuian or an Elf. Keep in mind though, the server is quite popular already, so you might be better off going to more open servers if you hope to dodge the queues.
Levels 1-10: launch issues, character creation and initial questing
Head start launched on Friday and it was mayhem. Server disconnects, thousand long queues and client crashes meant it was hard to make any progress at all on the first day; I’m currently sat in a queue of 1300 players as I write this. Considering the current population is entirely comprised of players who purchased Founders packs, and not those of the free-to-play players, I’m slightly worrisome to see how the servers handle the influx come Tuesday.
There’s also another issue: land. In ArcheAge players can construct their own houses and farms, the latter of which is key to creating materials needed for crafting. The problem arises because there’s only a finite amount of land. A lot of players who managed to get in rushed through the game to secure the most lucrative spots, placing multiple houses to snag bigger plots. Naturally, I didn’t want to ignore parts of the game to do this, so It’ll be interesting to see how this will affect me when I try to find my own slice of life considering how important it is; even more so for the free-to-play players on Tuesday.
Eventually, I did manage to get into ArcheAge and create my avatar. Character creation is amazingly customisable – check out this guy replicating the Joker above – but only as long as you’re only concerned with your face. Outside of changing your skin tone, you can’t edit the body at all. This does lead to few double takes as you see players who didn’t bother to edit their faces, and look identical.
However, you only need a few minutes to play with the presets and sliders, and you can create something truly unique from the neck up. I’d even go as far to say it’s on par, if not better than that of Skyrim’s editing tools.
There’s currently four races in ArcheAge. On the west continent of Erenor you have the Nuians and the Elves, which are your typical human and elf races. On the east continent you have the Firrans and Harani. These two continents are hostile to each other, so take that into account if you want to play with friends. The Firrans are a beast-like race, looking like a cross between a cat and a rabbit. The Harani are a much smaller, more oriental human race. Each comes with racial bonuses, but they’re so minor it didn’t really factor in when it came to making a choice.
After you’ve finally selected your race and appearance, it’s time for your skillset. Classes in ArcheAge are comprised of three skillsets which can be interchanged on the fly for a small fee. With ten total unique skillsets, you have 120 unique combinations you can play with, each offering a different style of play. You’ve got melee skillsets such as Battlerage and Shadowplay, and caster skillsets such as Sorcery and Vitalisim. Armour also isn’t locked into the normal archetypes: if you want to wear plate armour as a spell caster, you can do it.
I rolled a Nuian with the Battlerage as my first skillset since I wanted to focus on melee combat. Later down the line I picked up Shadowplay for some sneaky melee skills, as well as Auramancy for buffs and mobility. I was a “Darkrunner” according to ArcheAge. I’ll talk more about these skillsets and my unique class after I’ve unlocked a decent amount of abilities in later levels.
Along with an endless torrent of players, I worked my way through the first introductory quests. Questing in ArcheAge is nothing new: you kill x of this and gather y of that. Normally I don’t actually mind such quests – being an MMO fanatic – especially if the combat is enjoyable. Swinging my swords felt meaty, and the animations are smooth as butter; it may explain why you couldn’t edit your body back in character creation.
There are some flavour to quests. Sometimes you can chose to complete quests early, receiving less xp and money, and the reverse is also true by overachieving objectives for a nice bonus. While this system doesn’t seem overly special, it does give you some choice in whether to breeze through quests quickly or satisfy that secret completionist in you. I usually go with the latter. You can also find hidden quests, which randomly pop up once you’ve met their elusive requirements. There’s no way to know if an area has a hidden quest or not, so usually it’ll just appear once you’ve done it unknowingly. A bit bizarre, but rewarding nonetheless.
Speaking of bizarre, I saw a familiar sight in which I first witnessed back when playing The Elder Scrolls Online. Due to the sheer load of players at Headstart, some players had to resort to orderly in-game queues in order to complete quests which only could be interacted with one at a time. It was nice to see the community band together to solve the situation, but it did mean I spent a great deal of time shuffling forwards in order to progress. Luckily, I’ve only stumbled upon these sort of quests twice.
You receive your mount in ArcheAge within your first ten levels, and there’s a reason why: mounts are a key feature in your everyday outings. Now I don’t just mean in order to get to your destination faster; they’re more integrated than that. When you receive your mount quest at around level six, you actually have to raise your mount from infancy to adult (with magic food of course).
ArcheAge wants you to have a personal bond with your mount(s), as they have their own leveling up system along with special skills to help in combat. Any action you take while your mount is summoned will give it xp – even just riding it. Because each mount is unique, it’ll unlock different skills: melee, ranged, stealth etc. Also it’s worth mentioning that – at least in terms of horses – ArcheAge has some of the best mount models and animations in any game I’ve played, let alone MMO.
Well, except when they get stuck inside a boat.
And boats are an even bigger part of ArcheAge. You get this lovely rowing boat as you near towards level ten, giving you freedom across the massive oceans quite early. Though you might want to be careful, as there’s nothing stopping pirates and sea creatures – which include leviathan Krakens I believe – from smashing you to pieces. But that’s for a later time, when I’m better equipped with weapons, armour and more importantly, a bigger boat.
The first ten levels have been a rather slow affair thanks to the server issues. My main concern right now is stability – which will be paramount come Tuesday when the floodgates open up to everyone. I can already start to see great potential in ArcheAge’s hybrid sandbox approach – to which I’ve only scratched the surface – but there are some familiar grindy Korean elements sneaking in. I’ll be back at level 20 when I should have touched on housing, farming, and dungeons.