Archeage Ahoy!

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So my new gaming adventure is going to be in Archeage.  I’ve only played two beta weekends, but it feels like I’ve been playing it for quite some time already.  There is a lot to figure out in this game, but every minute I play I appreciate more and more the effort and thought that went into Archeage.  I appreciate the steep learning curve.  I appreciate the huge open world.  I appreciate the beautiful landscapes and the places to explore.  I appreciate the consistency of the world and how it brings the community together.  I also appreciate how much fun it is to play with everyone.

I first heard about Archeage about two months ago on Steam and how it was in Alpha access/beta testing.  I saw the videos and the art style and had some sneak previews of the content.  I saw there was open-world housing, and farming and gathering.  I saw you could take a glider off a mountain and float over the landscape below.  I saw you could ride carts and airships and raise mounts.  I saw there were open sea battles and PvP all taking place in the same world as the players chopping trees.  I saw cat girls.  I saw people riding donkeys and carrying packs across the world on trade missions.  I saw some awesome character building that didn’t lock players into just one specific class.  I saw a thriving economy based on supply and demand.  The game seemed perfect.  So I followed it.  I followed it hoping it wouldn’t suck, but fully knowing i’ve been hosed by other games in the past.  I watched videos, I read reviews, I played the beta, and I must say it is just about as good of a game as I could hope for.

Archeage is a “sandbox” MMORPG.  If you’re wondering what that means, you are not alone.  Sandbox MMO’s are not normal.  Most games are classified as “themepark” games.  Themepark games are the “pick your class, level, quest, do dungeons, level, get loot, get mounts, level, quest, dungeons, raids, and get more loot” type of games.  Games like WoW and TERA Rising and Guild Wars are more theme park.  They are fun but it is mostly about combat and gear and achievements.  A sandbox MMORPG as more of a live-in world.  Yes it is still a MMORPG and there is still the ability to level up and grind on mobs and do quests – but there is much more freedom and content in the world.  You don’t have to spend your time in battle if you don’t want to.  You can spend all your time gathering or growing crops and selling items for profit.  It is more like a “second life” of MMORPGs and encourages players to just hang out and enjoy the world and not so much worry about being the best.

The game is going to be F2P – which to be honest was hard to think about.  A game this good being free to play is going to draw some bad crowds.  But the more I think of it, the more I understand the need for the community to have people coming in and out all the time.  It adds variety and it adds player-driven content on a large enough scale.  The game comes from Korea and has been out for the past two years.  It went to Russia and is now coming to North America.  For a modern MMO it doesn’t look quite as beautiful and sharp as I would have hoped.  But it does have content.  Two years of development before being released here – so the game has ironed out a lot of wrinkles with how everything interacts together.  There are already plenty of reviews and videos explaining what to expect and how to play different classes.

The classes in the game are defined by players picking any 3 of the 10 skill trees available.  Whichever three you pick creates your class.  There are 120 different combinations to choose from, and you are free to swap out skills at any time if you change your mind.  If you start out with Battlerage/Defense/Sorcery for example so you can be a “Crusader”, and find you like magic better than melee attacks, you can swap out battlerage for witchcraft and defense for occultism thus becoming a “Demonologist” with more magic attacks and combinations for your character.  There is a sense of liberty when you finally find that perfect combination.  And there is no law saying you have to learn some skills before others.  If you like three of the sorcery skills but don’t want any of the rest – just take the three abilities you want and spend more points in the Shadowplay skill tree instead.  If you’re not interested in the poison arrow, spend that point to learn whirlwind slash instead.  There is a lot of freedom.

Back when FFXIV 1.0 came out – a lot of people didn’t like the game for its lack of content and vast empty world with nothing to do and the poor crafting system and fighting system.  But when I saw it – when I saw the complexity of the world,  the size, the amount of freedom and how much potential it had – that’s what drew me to the game.  Yes there were no chocobos yet, but there were going to be.  Yes the airships were closed, but they would be there.  Yes some landscapes were copy/paste, but there were huge areas and hidden places to explore.  There was much potential in that game, but they tore it down and remade it into a themepark MMO.  It was a champion sandbox game that just wasn’t finished so nobody gave it a chance.

Now that those days are gone and the world of Erozea is small and cramped and full of waaay too many mounts and aetherites and instant travel and concentrated mob spots and instanced areas – it just doesn’t have that open world feel anymore.  I have been looking all over for a game to bring back the early FFXIV feeling, and I think Archeage has it.  I am looking forward to the good memories and fun times I will have here.

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