This is one area where I think Horizons really stands out. There is a really well developed storyline for the game. The players are trying to battle back the Undead hordes of the Withered Aegis. Blighted areas are scattered throughout the world, cities overrun and either captured and destroyed by the invading army. The Living Races need to retake these areas and rebuild the destroyed cities and structures. Entire races have been enslaved by the Withered Aegis, and once the players free them those races will be playable. Horizons is the first game which not only gives crafters an opportunity to participate in the storyline, it requires that crafters participate. Not even a month into the games release there are already major events being run by Artifact concerning the first race to be freed. Four tunnels have been discovered in the world guarded by large forces of undead. These tunnels have to be rebuilt by prestige crafters before they can be used. Adventurers need to stand guard and keep the undead forces from harassing the crafters while they work. Even lower level players can get into the storyline by working as couriers for the crafters working on the tunnels. All this combines to ensure everyone can play the type of character they want to play and have no fear of missing out on the storyline of the game.
Character customization for the most part is well done. There are nine races to choose from; Dragons, Dwarves, Elves, Fiends, Gnomes, Half-Giants, Humans, Saris (Cat People) and Sslik (reptilian people) and 49 different classes. Once you pick a race you go through the standard customization options: height, portliness, musculature, hairstyle, hair color, facial hair style and color, eye color, different faces, etc. The unusual races naturally have some special customization options, Saris have fur color and fur pattern, Sslik have scale, horn and feathers, all of which you can choose a different design and color. Dragons have scale color, underbelly scale color and scale pattern. Once you get into the game though customization breaks down somewhat. All the armor looks the same for each twenty levels for each type. So if you are a level 15 chain wearer, you're going to look like every other person level 1-19 who wears chain. The same is true for 20 through 39 and on up. The only difference being the material the armor is made of: bronze for 1-19, iron for 20-39, etc. Artifact has commented that they do plan on implementing crafter customization down the road, which would allow crafters to customize their work as they craft it. This will add a much needed change in the way everyone looks in the world.
Value / Fun
Overall I would definitely say this game is worth both the initial and monthly costs. Artifact has provided some very nice events to further the storyline already and the game hasn't even been out for two months. People who have to have PvP will probably do best to avoid Horizons as there is none in the game, but Artifact has provided the player base with plenty to keep themselves busy. Freeing the enslaved races so they're playable and rebuilding the world seems like it may very well just be the beginning of what Artifact has planned for the storyline. It will be very fun and very exciting to see where they go with the story and how it all pans out.
Artifact has done nicely in making Horizons a very community driven game. The storyline itself ensures that the entire world will be shaped by the actions of the community. The community has to work together to retake the world from the undead hordes. The economy is entirely player driven, all armor and weapons are crafted. All player structures are crafted by players. There are Consignment Merchants in every town for crafters to make their wares available to other players. Even the chat system is setup to encourage community interaction. Permanent server-wide chat lines can be created. On the Energy server, for example, there is a General chat channel just for everyday server information, like setting up raids and such. Then there is a Marketplace channel for crafters to advertise their craft and for people to advertise that they are looking to buy certain items. There are also many other channels, and some strictly for role-playing aspects such as the Gnomes channel. Even the Guild system is well done with a very easy to use interface to make starting and running a guild a lot easier on a Guild Master. All this leads to a lot of players getting to know each other who may not have otherwise.