ArcheAge Unchained has had a turbulent launch full of ups and downs and everything in between. Gamigo swept in and purchased ArcheAge when Trion Worlds was struggling to keep its feet on the ground, reinvigorating the mmo’s playerbase and inviting back old friends with warm, open arms. The primary feature of Unchained was meant to be its “Buy-to-Play” model with the absence of any “Pay-to-Win” features in the cash shop. With a passionate crew at the forefront vehemently condemning any Pay-to-Win items, things seemed to be looking up for the hopeful reboot ArcheAge Unchained.
My journey on the continent of Nuia, named after the goddess that sacrificed herself to teleport the mortal races of Auroria to safety, has been greatly hindered at times by queues, mysterious crashes, poor optimization, and devastating exploits. You can read more about my nostalgia and review in progress articles that touch on my initial experience with these issues for ArcheAge Unchained here, and here. The first of many frustrations for this launch was the queue time to log into the game without a grace period.
If you work a typical 9-5 job and come home at 5, sit in a queue until 8, only to crash at the login screen and have to start all over again, you more than likely aren’t going to make any progress that night if you have work the next morning. This was my experience for the first solid week and a half of launch. I did attempt to remote into my desktop a few times at work, but at the beginning of launch that still wasn’t enough to save me from the inevitable queue crash that would send me all the way back to the end of the line. However, in between all of those problematic issues, I have still managed to push through and log in almost every day to an entertaining and incredibly enjoyable game. Almost every day.
What keeps bringing me back to play ArcheAge Unchained is the vast amount of autonomy you have as a player. In a sandbox MMO, you have the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Most of my time spent in the game has revolved around establishing my beautiful rustic home and rose garden to fund my fishing addiction. Working on those specific goals that make me happy still ended up netting me experience that could help my character progress to the next level. Oftentimes, it came as a pleasant surprise when I earned a level and realized that it came from doing something I enjoyed. The beauty of ArcheAge Unchained’s sandbox element is that it rewards you for pursuing those things you love, be it crafting, exploring, trading, fishing, or PvP’ing. Unfortunately, some of the newest features that Unchained brought ended up creating more problems than they solved.
A primary feature of ArcheAge Unchained was meant to be the introduction of a system that would allow you to earn items previously thought to be Pay to Win, by completing tasks in game and earning them through your own blood, sweat, and tears. This system came to be called the ArchePass. Within the first week, I actually enjoyed what the ArchePass brought to the game. Being a lazy gamer who loves to spend every last bit of silver on teleport stones called Hereafter Stones, the ArchePass gave me a pretty steady stream of reliable gold to fund my laziness. There were four tracks you could choose from: basic, vocation, combat, and equipment. I chose the vocation pass, because I was more interested in earning vocation badges and establishing myself as a crafter in the world.
Daily missions popped up everyday in your ArchePass that allowed you to complete them for gold, progress through your chosen ArchePass track, and after finishing a level in your track earn special items. Nevertheless, the missions were the only way to complete levels in your ArchePass, so it felt very strict and and went against that wonderful feeling of autonomy I grew to love about ArcheAge.
Some missions felt like they required too much, while others just involved teleporting all over the map and killing random quantities of enemies. For example, if you chose the vocation track there were usually missions that required you to earn 1,000 vocation badges. If you were lucky enough to be in a family like I was, you could easily complete this requirement by completing the family daily quest which rewarded 3,000 vocation badges. If not, you would have to go out and manually farm 1,000 resources that yielded one badge a piece. If you had land, you could take care of and harvest animals to meet this demand, but animals take up a lot of space. If you only have an 8x8 farm you probably won’t have enough of your own resources to complete the quest. You weren’t forced to complete the ArchePass, but with that system being the only way to gain some of the more desirable items in the game for character progression, it felt like a daily requirement if you wanted to stay relevant. While this seemed to solve the pay-to-win issue that I had with the first iteration of ArcheAge it became very apparent, very quickly, that this system was not going to work in its current iteration.
Less than a week into launch, I woke up to the official discord and subreddits for ArcheAge Unchained on fire. In the few days we had been able to log into the server and get our footing in the world, a major exploit had been found in the ArchePass that allowed players the ability to swap tracks and abuse the amount of times you could complete the world boss quest that awarded 50 gold per mission. Large guilds started to abuse this exploit and passed off the thousands of gold they had made to alternate accounts and friends.
Much of this gold ended up being invested into the Explorer’s set that all adventurers start with in the game, creating an impossible gear gap between opposite factions because of the gold sink required to upgrade your gear to its endgame Hiram status. I am all for one-on-one PvP and even fighting someone that has a small level advantage on me. However, when you have hostile players running around with impossibly high-tiered armor ganking players who are nowhere near that level of strength, you have a problem. We’re talking about hundreds of gold that you’d have to pour into this gear to get it to the extent that some players now flaunt openly in chat.
Gamigo’s response to this issue was to ban hundreds of players and “disable” the ArchePass until they find a proper fix for it. However, just as quickly, I watched with a heavy heart as news poured in that many streamers and obvious offenders were unbanned and allowed to keep playing without punishment.
With the ArchePass now disabled, and the difficulties I faced just completing my basic quests because of high-level griefing, I turned to my home along the river and my humble farm. The ArchePass had rendered trading absolutely null and void - one of my previously favorite pastimes in the pay-to-win version of ArcheAge. Why would you waste your time creating the packs for trading when you could just farm the daily quests over and over again? I wasn’t aware of it in the beginning, but the ArchePass completely wrecked the economy from the outset, making many crafting proficiencies obsolete and tons of resources worthless. No one needed to run trade packs with the amount of gold they had pouring in from the daily missions, so there wasn’t a large demand for resources.
Not really sure what to do with my spare time or how to earn gold, I turned to decorating my home and placing down a few livestock. A pleasant surprise I encountered in building my home was that there is a small space around your home that you can use for farm land. Every bit of land counts when you’re trying to scrape by. ArcheAge has a pretty freeing decor system that lets you place items wherever you wish in your house. You can even double up items on top of each other, like placing a candlestick on a bed or statues on top of your fireplace.
With specific pieces of furniture that allow you to customize with your own imported images, you can decorate as much or as little as you like. Having a home also allows you the space to place down functional furniture like a tutor’s cushion so you can train and learn the other faction’s language. Pretty handy if you like smack talk.
However, as I was tending to my initially decorative garden, a thought struck me. Now that the repetitive nature of the ArchePass was gone, I was free to experiment with trading again. I filled my small scarecrow farm and my rustic cottage with roses, clovers, and other assortments of resources. What spare flowers I had left, I placed on the auction house on a whim and was shocked to see them sell almost immediately. It then dawned on me that the absence of the ArchePass was stimulating the economy once more. Land was scarce, and that meant people needed resources grown on farms to create their trade packs for money.
With this knowledge in hand, I decided to set out and see if trading would become relevant again. Depending on whether or not I was trading through territory during wartime, I found a new love for the vocation that actually brought me a hefty pile of gold and allowed me to enjoy some downtime with my friends. One of my favorite parts of trading is that it can be a group activity, and the shared paranoia and hilarity in a voice chat when people keep looking over their shoulders for enemies that are looking to sweep down and kill us.
To our extreme relief, you can earn a donkey of your color of choice through the blue salt quest line that speeds along your trade runs. Eventually, if you can acquire some higher tiered materials, you can also construct a farm wagon that will allow you to quickly carry more trade packs at once. Since I didn’t take advantage of the gold exploit when the ArchePass was available, it would be a long time before I could replace ole’ Biscuit the donkey with a farm cart.
My joy of trading hit an incredible speed bump, when I and two other friends found ourselves traveling through a zone that was “At War”. Zones under this buff encourage PvP, and as a result increase the value of a trader’s trade packs should they dare to risk their lives for the chance to profit. I have to reiterate at this point, that if you don’t like PvP, ArcheAge Unchained may not be for you.
One of ArcheAge’s more interesting features is called “bloodlusting.” If a player “bloodlusts,” they change their player’s status from friendly to hostile, and can murder you and steal your trade packs. This is exactly what happened to our group, a mere 100 feet away from the turn-in point. This is absolutely a crime (you’re killing a member of your own faction), and the player who committed it leaves behind a bloodstain for each kill that can be reported and potentially send them to trial to await a jury of players that decides their fate. Unchained implemented an increase to the amount of crime and infamy points you earn from murdering a same-faction member, but it will never really be enough to hinder those who have decided early on that they want to pursue a life of crime.
What troubled me the most about the conflict, was that the player that jumped on us melted us all in one shot. I had no time to react or defend myself before my body collapsed on the ground. Part of me couldn’t help but wonder if this insane difference in power level had something to do with the exploited gear gap as well.
Sailing off into the deep blue sea on your Adventurer’s Clipper is another way to get around some of the hostility on land, though you’ll find new dangers on the sea. There are boats that allow you to place trade packs in crates for transportation across the waters, but if you’re poor like me and only have a clipper, you can successfully pilot a ship with a trade pack strapped to your back. Just be aware that it slows your walking speed by an insane amount, and if you’re caught out on the ocean during war time you’re a sitting duck for pirates unless you’ve got friends riding with you. Though you’re weighted down by a pack, sailing feels just as satisfying as it did in ArcheAge.
Coming from the PTS to the live version of the game actually had me questioning the speed of my Adventurer’s Clipper. I might have been imagining it, but the clipper felt much faster than it did before, which is a nice improvement to help distinguish it from the other boats available to purchase for gilda stars. If you managed to secure some worms and a fishing rod, you can take your Adventurer’s Clipper out into the ocean to participate in one of my favorite pastimes: deep sea fishing. Fishing does cost labor, at 5 labor points per swing, and processing the fish yields Dawn Lake Light Essence that’s used in a few coveted crafting items. I thoroughly enjoy going out into the ocean and taking off to sail wherever I want to go, riding through a sudden storm, or nabbing a big catch against a beautiful sunrise. ArcheAge can be a beautiful game, both on land and on sea, but pretty sights don’t pay the bills.
Much of the gold you end up earning from trading will undoubtedly go into the Explorer’s armor set that every adventurer initially earns through their respective main quest line along with infusions and scrolls to upgrade it. It’s this set of gear that is the culprit for gobbling up both hard-earned and exploited gold. Players choose to keep and invest in this gear because it eventually turns into the Hiram set. The more you invest into the set, the more gold it requires to upgrade. With the ArcheAge wiki being outdated for ArcheAge Unchained, there wasn’t a lot of info for new players to go on when it comes to this gear set.
You are supposed to keep all of this gear and continue to upgrade it until you reach max level. However, this is never fully explained by the quest NPCs during your questline. The only way that I knew to hold onto my gear was by consulting some friends who had reached out to their friends. There is a clear lack of meta knowledge concerning the topic, and for new players this can be extremely overwhelming and frustrating considering that if you don’t break down the gear properly (which many choose to do, so they can min-max their starting chosen stats)-you’ll lose those infusions and scrolls, never able to acquire them again.
Losing those infusions and upgrade scrolls isn’t the end of the world for your gear grind, but it certainly makes things easier during questing or PvP. Personally, I have seen a huge jump in damage and survivability just from one item infusion, so I tend to upgrade my gear as soon as I receive the components to do so. Once you get to max level you can start grinding for unidentified Hiram gear and pray to the RNG gods that you get the stat you want for your class combination.
The game in its current state is still insanely fun. There is still so much to do in the world, and I do think that there are systems in place that make it better than the original pay-to-win ArcheAge. It’s just going to take some work to fine-tune them. A lot of these issues could have probably been tested on the PTS server, but it’s my conspiracy theory that those players who were aware of the main exploits weren’t providing feedback on them because they wanted to..well..abuse them. If your goal is to make thousands of gold, and the developers aren’t aware of a certain flaw that aids you in your goal, you’re not going to just tell them about it so that you feel better about yourself.
ArcheAge Unchained has unfortunately been founded upon these critical issues that we’re seeing being steadily worked on right now. It would be a discredit to you as a consumer to tell you that the game is in any other state than it is right now. What I can confidently say is that Gamigo is still actively communicating with the community and working closely with XL Games to fix all of these problems and seem genuinely passionate about developing a great game. Because they have to go through so many channels to accomplish this, it is obviously going to take more time than usual as compared to a game that is being worked on by the same publisher and developer.
As of now, I can’t predict the future. Until I can somehow tap into my inner witch powers, I can only give you my final impressions based on everything I’ve seen and heard on whether or not the game is worth playing. It has been an extremely rough launch for ArcheAge Unchained and that is of course going to turn off many players-and rightfully so. You purchased a product expecting it to be finished, and it’s still ultimately being worked on. That is not your fault, and you have every right to want your money back.
With that being said, I am very surprised and satisfied with the transparency that Gamigo has had with their players. From the outset, it may have been better had ArcheAge Unchained been pushed back several times and have had a clean launch, but I am glad that they are continuing to be open with us and are still striving to put forward a product that they can be with which they can be proud. It has been confirmed that server transfers, the highly request grace period, as well as a reworked ArchePass should be implemented in the coming weeks, and I really hope that these changes haven’t come too late in the game for ArcheAge Unchained.
If you are interested in what ArcheAge Unchained has to offer, I would still highly suggest trying out the game for yourself, because, when everything is working just right, it is an extremely fun game to play. For now, it still feels like we’re playing the waiting game. With an ETA of about two weeks for some of the major changes, I would suggest maybe giving it another month or so before you dive into the game if you have any hesitations about its future. It’s going to take some elbow grease, but ArcheAge Unchained still has a ton of potential and I’m really excited to see what the future holds.
ArcheAge Unchained is a thoroughly entertaining sandbox experience, but still needs a lot of work and polish before it can truly become something great. There are too many overarching issues that should have been tested in the PTS and as a result have dramatically affected the game’s performance and player progression during the critical moments of launch. Despite those problems, it still doesn’t feel like the end of ArcheAge Unchained, but a very bumpy beginning. As mentioned before, the main issue with ArcheAge for veteran players was the pay-to-win system, and the ArcheAge Unchained team is still dedicated to upholding their promise to keep that out of the game at all costs. Only time will tell if the upcoming revisions to the ArchePass build upon that promise. Until then, I’m going to keep fishing and diving for sunken treasure out in the Arcadian Sea. Maybe eventually I’ll pull up a chest full of gold coins that I can melt down and form into a poor man’s Hiram set.