Atlantica Online is a strategy, turn-based MMO with a lot of really good points that make the game almost, but not quite worth playing. My one belief in games is that, no matter how hard-core you want your player base to be, no matter how well you treat them in the higher levels, no matter how unique your game... If in the beginning, you don't hook them, it doesn't matter. This game has loads of goods but it's hard to find the fun. There is, however, one area where this game shines, and explains why so many players enjoy it; the combat system.
Unlike other MMOs, combat is turn-based. You travel along with (mostly invisible) mercenaries who appear when it's time to fight. You control your mercenaries' movements and attacks as well as your own. Mini-chess, in a way - you can't just pound a bunch of keys and try to beat your opponent and any lag you happen to be experiencing that night. You can tell which character is able to move by the green circles underneath them and you can select the specific opponent you want to attack. The format is 3X3 blocks. This combat style is my favorite feature of the game. I truly enjoyed it, as will anyone who likes that level of control in game-play. There's less of a mash feel when you can spend 15 seconds to control all of your mercenaries.
The opponent gets a fair shot at you as well. It also means you change your play style a bit. The only time that this was awkward was when attacking normally mundane creatures that wouldn't have a 'strategic' style of combat. Imagine several little Bambis lining up in formation and attacking tactically -- it just looks odd. I can see people playing this game simply for this turn-based style of combat - it's why I will still be logging on. The combat is that cool and that fun. It's also why I didn't get as far as I normally would. I enjoyed studying and learning each of the different mob's strengths and weaknesses so much and I lingered in the starting areas. That'll slow anyone down. If you combat enough of the mobs, you gain knowledge of the mob that goes into your handy dandy notebook. You can use potions and scrolls in combat as well as magic. There's a system to picking and placing your mercenaries as well, and it'd be a mistake to just randomly pick your mercs. Truly, the combat alone is a reason to play this game.
The Handy Dandy Notebook
This notebook lets you keep track of NPCs you meet, mercs, mobs you've gained information or knowledge on and quests, including the Quest NPC you next have to meet. The handy dandy notebook was easy to use and understand and I often used it.
Graphics and Feel
The graphics and settings are well-done. The settings are based on realistic geography - I started in Sappora -- and content is updated fairly regularly. The settings themselves were visually pleasing but a little generic. Overall, the feel of the game seemed to discourage wandering - some of the areas seemed small and closed. This was a negative because there is so much walking in a game that although large, seemed small. Since I really was working on mastering how to use the turn-based combat system, it wasn't too bothersome at first - but players who are inherent explorers may feel limited. The key is, if you're an explorer, to try to ignore the boundaries of some o f the areas and just keep wandering anyhow. Level limits keep you out of some areas, but as you level and they open, so will your exploration options. While containment is common (and really necessary), usually there's an attempt to give the illusion of wide open spaces. As for character graphics, there's not a lot of customization. I decided this didn't bother me since it is a 'free' game, but a few more customizable options would be nice.
The user interface is similar to every user interface in a game that works - it's simple, it's not hard to figure out and it doesn't get in the way of game-play. Occasionally, little texts would pop up announcing events or random tidbits of information I mostly ignored. I will say this, it never got to the point where it was obnoxious, and so I didn't mind it as much. My only complaint here is I am a big jumper in game, and I couldn't stop myself from constantly opening the inventory box by hitting the space bar. Old habits are sometimes hard to break.
The inventory/looting system rewards you randomly, with pieces you can use in crafting and random pieces of armor or weapons usually found in boxes that aren't going to be near as good as the ones you could buy in the item mall, but still fulfill that need to get 'stuff' that I have. This system worked for me and I had no problems with the slot-like method with which your reward was chosen. It was kind of fun, watching the items roll, but after a while it became part of the background of the game. Also fun were the random gifts I received from other players. It is indicative of a community, even if other players are being nice only to clear out their inventory. One thing to remember is that since crafting later on is a huge component of the game, you'll want to learn crafting skills.
Lvl 20: Rome/Free League
Rome is the place where the bazaars and shops are located, and it isn't controlled by any guilds. You can teleport there at level 20 and explore, but most of the fun is outside of Rome. Towns are usually controlled by guilds, and this is a game where if you want to stay around and have fun, joining a guild is an almost-must. Rome is also where you can access your warehouse. At level 20 you can also join the Free League, which is a risk-free PvP option. You don't lose anything and can battle other players and gain some coin and loot from the opponent's mercs, if you win.