I’m faced with a dilemma. No, it’s not whether to donate money to end world hunger or buy Girl Scout cookies, but it is still a dilemma nonetheless. For the first time that I can remember I have access to two MMORPGs that I don’t want to put down. This may sound crazy but it has really never happened to me before now. In the past I have always lost interest in one MMO before I became interested in another. While it is true that I log into Neverwinter on a daily basis to pray and collect my Ardent Coins so I can one day buy the Angel that costs 360 coins and once I achieve that goal I’ll probably never log in again. At this point I honestly don’t know why I even bother other than the fact I have about 300 of the stupid things already and, hey, I might as well right? What it reduces down to is I’m a serial monogamist when it comes to MMORPGs. Or at least I was.
If you haven’t guessed it by now from watching This Week in ESO I’m totally hooked on Elder Scrolls Online. But I also just recently gained access to ArcheAge and I don’t want to put it down. If you have watched my Twitter feed and Facebook status I have developed sort of a love hate relationship with ESO. I love the game but I’m discouraged by the level of polish. Because of the business involved with marketing a MMO and setting release dates I don’t think the day will come again where we see a MMO not actually ship on its date set in print. But just because a publisher and developer doesn’t want to miss a deadline doesn’t excuse them from launching half baked products that don’t work right. Is it the industry trend? Yes. Do we do ourselves any favors by defending them from the people that complain about it? Absolutely not. In the end if we still keep buying up the games and don’t hold them (developers/publishers) to task will they keep doing it? You betcha. I’ll end that rant there. I only complain because I care!
I’m not trying to sell anyone on ESO but I really enjoy it because it does a great job of mashing theme park style game play with some sandbox elements. It pays to wander off the beaten path. Talk to a certain NPC and a new point of interest could open up on the map. Find a wanted poster hanging from a stable and you could find a new adventure that not everyone will do because they were not paying attention to the details hidden in the game. Sure, you can go to Bing or Google and look it all up; but why? I’m even having fun with spreadsheets in ESO tracking my crafting traits. What the hell is that all about? I stare at plenty of spreadsheets all day at work and now I’m making them online. (Feel free to reach out to me in game if you see I have something you need). So while ESO is definitely not for everyone, and that’s OK, it is for me.
I’m enjoying AA for a lot of similar reasons and because of the promise of an even bigger sandbox to play in. The game starts of with what amounts to an extended intro that is very much standard for any themepark. Unfortunately it feels to me like this is a necessary evil in a sandbox MMO. If the developers just dumped us right into the middle of the world a lot of people would probably have no idea what to do, myself included. This acts like a double edged sword though because you don’t get a real taste for the game in the first few hours.
Combat in AA is tab target and hot key based. There is a global cool down and on my melee character it appears to be at around 1 second. Also your spells and special abilities are tied to mana, even your ability to sprint. Even in a game with a handful of complex systems they keep it kind of simple when it comes to managing your combat resources. Combat also features combos which are more or less the standard anymore on MMO imports from Korea. Additionally I like how everyone is apparently a bard. You can just whip out your guitar in the middle of combat and play to heal yourself.
The questing in the early going is pretty standard. However; after a handful of quests into the game I came upon one that asked me to defeat Shichimi Pillagers and Retrieve the Cargo. The quest text didn’t tell me how many of each I had to do. In fact it turns out I didn't have to do both. The quest had a progress indicator. I could do one, the other, or both until the quest bar became full. If you want to be sneaky you could just steal bags. If you want to be bold you could just kill the bandits. Fortune favors the bold so I went on a killing spree and slaughtered bandits. It is little choices like this that I hope keep presenting themselves as the game progresses and ultimately become more impactful on the way you decide to progress your character and play the game.
It never ceases to amaze me the things we go crazy for the ability to do in game but would never want to do in real life. While I don’t mind actually spending time in the sun mowing my lawn, dear lord don’t let my wife decide we need to go to Home Depot and do some gardening around the home too. If she came up to me and asked me to start a garden so we could grow our own corn I would tell her that is what the grocery store or farmer’s market is for. Yet I can’t wait to start a virtual farm in AA and create spreadsheets about it and share them with all of you.
This column was a bit of a departure from what I normally do. I hope you enjoyed it. It’s a struggle but I’ll continue my new found polyamorous ways with ESO and AA for you dear readers and report back in next week on the sandbox elements I’ve discovered in AA and whether they are working for me or not. Let me know what you think about AA in the comments below.
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can find him spending his free time checking out the latest games and technology. Feel free to hunt him down on twitter @Grakulen