ArcheAge is starting to become as addicting as Farmville. Only in this case, I don’t really hate myself for liking the game. As I near the infamous level 30, my slower than average leveling pace isn’t due to lack of playing. I’ve just spent inordinate amounts of time roving the countryside, exploring crafting, and dabbling in a whole bunch of other things. The question I ask myself though is: am I focused on ArcheAge’s crafting and farming because they’re fun, or is it because the questing and combat progression is so old hat?
I believe that AA is going to take me a longer to review than most MMOs, if only because I’m of the mind that I should experience as much as possible within the game before putting a score to the thing. Now, that doesn’t mean its launch woes will be forgotten, nor will I be taking into account the Northern Continent if it makes it in before I publish the review with scores near the end of October or beginning of November.
Our own Mark Wilhelm has written a decent post about the current problems facing ArcheAge (the Hasla grind, the land-whores, and the bots), but the only one I have any personal experience so far are the land owners lording over their multiple plots. I get it, land is a premium resource in ArcheAge. I am part of a large and organized guild on Ollo, so eventually when we have our castle I should have no problem finding my own little nook to place a cottage. But for now? It’s damned annoying seeing houses owned by a slew of people, and then when they are scheduled to be freed up – to see them instantly taken over by bots.
I thought for sure that after the initial land rush, folks’ desire to own land would lessen and we’d see plots open up and normalize a bit more. I think we’ll be waiting several more weeks for that to happen. In the meantime, I’ve taken to farming a metric ton of cotton in order to build my own Clipper and live life on the sea. I’ll run trade packs for those who pay well, and learn to fish and treasure hunt while I’m at it, I think.
The best parts of ArcheAge are the parts where you see your freedom to choose your own path. Once you stop playing the normal MMO game of “questing and killing to level” and start just playing around in the world, everything seems possible. It brings back feelings of Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, and so forth. But then it’s such an odd juxtaposition when ArcheAge has exclamations and question marks popping up all over the map. Statically roving mobs beg you to pick them off one by one, and the traditional (and tedious when solo) combat becomes something you do for quick XP and loot, but not really for fun.
It’s as though XLGAMES knew or thought they knew that every MMO player needs traditional quests and combat mechanics to feel at home, and that this part of the game is just the “icebreaker” to help ease them into the larger life of the economy and more sandbox elements. The thing is, I don’t believe that was necessarily true. There’s so much bold and complex about the game that I’m not sure XLGAMES needed to sell themselves short with such rote quest and combat design.
Watch the video below of the first 3-man dungeon (Sharpwind Mines) and tell me it doesn’t look like something you’ve done 1,000 times before in other games. XLGAMES put the questing in as little more than a tutorial, but it didn’t have to be this way. With players controlling so much of the direction of the landscape and its contents, why not let players create quests? Why not let them conjure up tasks for their friends and strangers?
And that’s the weird place I find myself in with ArcheAge. I love everything about the crafting, economy, trade-system, even the oh-so-limited housing and the way in which player involvement in the world is fostered. Going back to a game where players can’t leave their mark feels so limiting after spending time in ArcheAge. But then when I do get the itch to “go adventuring”, I find my eyes glazing over with the repetitive nature of the questing. Of note though is that when I go out stalking for iron to mine? I don’t get the same sense of been-there-done-that. In a very real way, the best bits of ArcheAge are the bits where you leave the safety of the rails. It’s just odd that XLGAMES tries so hard to keep you on those rails for so long.
I’m hoping that by this time next week I’ll have finally built my clipper, joined a jury, and/or at least killed a few people during a Halcyon raid. The problem is… I really have to stop making junk, selling it, and farming. Okay, maybe after I’ve got my pack of fabric for my clipper’s sail. Then I promise I’ll finish the story quests.