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It’s been almost two years since ArcheAge released in the West. It originally debuted to strong reception, earning acclaim among many MMO fans for offering something that felt new and exciting.
Since late 2014 it has been improved through several updates, including the recent introduction of 2.9 Ascension. ArcheAge's bold foundation in addition to these improvements have made it something very special that has been called one of the most innovative games of its genre in recent years.
This week I decided to see what ArcheAge is like to play after hearing about it for many months. Little did I know that I was in for a very positive surprise. Here's what I learned.
A Stake In the World
ArcheAge’s world is called Erenor, and it’s a massive place with three continents. Unlike 99% of MMOs, this massive area is built on a sandbox. This isn’t a themepark where you’re ushered to pre-programmed entertainment during the full course of your journey. You and other players actually have a stake on the world, and can even shape it.
This is best illustrated by how players can own real estate within the game world. Players of all levels are able to build homes of various forms and sizes within Housing Zones. Housing serves a greater purpose than simply being a place of refuge. They can be decorated with a wide assortment of items including paintings, furniture, and storage. In addition, players can use outside terrain as farmland, cultivating resources over time that are instrumental to their progression. These even include livestock such as ducklings and elk, each of which may be supported at your home location depending upon the climate of the region.
Visiting a Housing Zone for the first time is a sight to behold. Instead of being greeted by a developer-built area, there are expansive areas with homes and farms as far as the eyes can see. Made better, these are delivered within the open-world with no loading times. They are a part of the world that players live in, allowing the community to effectively impact the world in a meaningful way.
As big of a selling point as it is, building a home isn't the only sandbox function that players engage in. Another major element is trade.
The factions and guilds spread across Erenor continually battle for economic power. This is achieved in multiple ways, none more important than trade routes. These consist of caravan routes that transport cargo, earning players gold and Gilda Stars in the process. Routes will commonly cross region lines, and are sometimes carried by players long distances for their reward.
As such, trade is an essential part of ArcheAge. Valuable goods are constantly being moved across zones. If you spend time engaging in trade, you'll soon find yourself coming across similarly-minded players. But not everyone has good intentions. Both NPC pirates and PvP players alike are always on the lookout for opportunity. You might want to bring a friend or two with you for your journey.
Speaking of travel, there are multiple means of getting around Erenor. You can walk, run, hop on one of the game's more than 100 animal mounts, carriages, monorails, or even a vehicle. There are also ships that can be piloted across the sea, and gliders that can soar across the sky. Given the sheer mass of the world, these means of locomotion are a vital and often times entertaining element of the game that help to accentuate its large scope.
ArcheAge is a dream come true for MMO gamers who enjoy playing multiple classes and experimenting with builds. The way its class system works is at level 10 you earn the ability to equip three skillsets. There are a total of 10 options that range across the entire archetype spectrum, and you have complete freedom when it comes to picking and choosing which skillsets you want to equip at any given time.
Functionally speaking, this allows you to mix and match sets of available skills resulting in one of 120 classes. Although tossing a random mix together is an option, some degree of forethought is a good idea as some abilities combo into one another.
In my case, I enjoy playing DPS hybrids as it allows me to bring utility and healing to group environments. By simply tossing Vitalism, Songcraft, and/or Auramancy into one of my three slots I gain access to powerful supportive skills that make me desirable in groups. If I'm playing alone and simply want to kill as quickly as possible, equipping three offensively focused skillsets is favorable.
Each of the 10 classes have a long list of active and passive abilities to unlock, so the options extend well beyond simply choosing three skillsets. Due to this, it's very rare that any two characters are exactly alike. This adds welcomed complexity to the PvP side of the game.
An Emphasis On Crafting
Most MMOs make crafting nothing more than optional content in the background of the core game experience. In ArcheAge, it is one of the fundamental pillars of the game.
There are a large number of items that can be hand-built by players. RPG staples like Alchemy, Tailoring, and Fishing are here, but so are things like Handicrafts, a profession which provides an opportunity for you to craft musical instruments, fishing tools and more. There are some genuinely interesting crafting professions including Commerce and Construction which feed into ArcheAge’s sandbox elements.
For many players, crafting is a primary focus of the experience. In ArcheAge a palate for diverse content is rewarded immensely with how impactful crafting is. You don't necessarily have to spend a great deal of time slaying enemies to complete quest if you don't want to. Gathering items and constructing goods is valuable.
For example, thousands of players desire items and tools to build and expand their house. So, they turn to the auction house where other players have placed their items up for bidding. With thousands of items up for sale, amassing wealth is desirable, and crafters can become the most properous players in the world given time.
A Strong Social Scene
ArcheAge provides many ways to enjoy the game with friends and accomplices. Guilds are here in full-force, with options to erect castles. Guilds can create custom player factions that participate distinctly in global politics, providing means for subterfuge and alliances.
There are also Families. These are smaller, cross-faction groups of friends that can communicate with one another through a chat channel.
These systems are supported by a tangible sense of social interaction. ArcheAge is a beautiful game that runs on CryEngine 3, and every player is finely detailed from head to toe. They are also well animated, with dozens of emotes. There are also lots of unique interactions in the game world, such as players being able to climb trees and engage with a range of objects.
Some of the most heavily invested players find themselves spending most of their time collecting items and building up their home property, socializing with neighbors and friends along the way. Not many games provide enough satisfaction for these types of experiences, making ArcheAge stand out.
This month an update will arrive unlocking all new Free-For-All Arena PvP. It will also include weapon auras, new clothing to collect, and events.
Soon thereafter, the 3.0 update will arrive. This is said to be the largest update for ArcheAge yet, delivering two new races, along with new enemies to defeat, an additional skillset to play, more areas to explore, and many more additions.
With that in mind, I can say that I'm hooked on ArcheAge. It's an attractive sandbox MMO that does things differently than most games on the market, and in a successful manner. If you want to try the game and see what it's like to play, you can download the game for free on the official website.