(this article is not sponsored or endorsed by any official person or company)
Ever an interesting time for the MMO-verse, I’ll be jumping out of the shadows for a quick heads up in regards to another new old release due in a few weeks time (October 15th).
Archeage, now nearly six years old in some parts of the world, was a huge success on release – in the West and East. It sported a massive open world, with trade and world PvP at its forefront.
Ultimately, it was unique in the fact that trade and PvP went hand in hand like the days of yore; if you crafted a trade pack (full of valuable materials, you’d be tasked to hand it in manually from A to Z on the map, sometimes traversing huge swathes of land and water via foot and boat) you’d likely be hunted by Pirates or PKers and the like. Your valuable goods could be stolen and thus, all your hard work could be for nought.
And so large social gatherings actually happened, the next ‘M’ in the MMORPG was relevant. Sure, you could go solo and go rogue and decide “A Pirate’s life for me!”, but you’d only get so far, and be limited in your experiences. Many guilds were formed to protect trade routes, and many counter guilds were formed, alliances came and went, and with it – the usual drama that followed.
I was part of the Haranya Alliance on Kyprosa EU made up of many guilds, small and large. Our guild was a smaller fair, focused on the namesake – Trade Pack Security. Down the line, we actually secured contracts from Allies and Enemies, earning gold for delivering specific goods to specific points of interest for certain individuals that maybe didn’t have the knowledge or group power to create the valuables they wanted.
You know its a real MMO when you come home from work, log in, and proceed to do your taxes on your estates and diverge gold to your guildmates in a fair order. Essentially – a second job.
Even I could get a bit fed up of the larger scale PvP, and so for people who enjoyed the smaller aspects of it there were plenty of other things to do. A five versus five arena (more like a battleground to be honest) existed and people played it, and a seldom seen one versus one mode operated well too.
Normally you’d chastise the aforementioned due to it affecting world PvP population, but this didn’t seem to be the case. Because the trade packs were so valuable, people only generally queued for arenas when there was downtime in the world.
The RPG aspects of the MMORPG were definitely there too. As was popular in previous games such as RIFT, Archeage sported a three-spec talent tree that allowed you to customise your class to brilliantly unique levels.
If you play around with the calculator for five minutes, you can see how simple yet diverse your class can be. Some classes were definitely outright better than others, but you could be a paladin mage if you really wanted to – you’d just have to master weapon swapping. Not many games allow that. It might not be the most capable – but you’d at least be a unique snowflake.
Of course, a meta did develop quickly, and since the Korean version had been about a while when the Western version launched, some had already predicted the cookie cutter builds that would come. You were never locked to your class too, if you leveled a certain way and weren’t happy with what you had, just pay a few coins and you could be something else entirely.
For non-PvPers there was also the Housing, gathering and crafting system that could very well keep you occupied.
So then, for all the goodness in this game – why did it fail? And if it failed all those years ago, why recommend it again?
Two major reasons strike me as to why this MMO failed.
- Lack of clarity about the cash shop, labour potions and so on.
First, I’ll tackle the cash shop. To be fair, most of this was harmless besides one specific item that caused a lot of trouble and controversy. If this was caught earlier by the community, it may have been prevented – but I do believe it was brought up by a minority, multiple times before the game released.
While playing the game, you generated a resource called ‘Labour’. Now to do pretty much anything in the game, you needed this resource (opening loot, planting crops, gathering, trade pack crafting etc).
Labour generated automatically, but at a very slow pace – to counterbalance this, a potion could be consumed every four hours, this potion was readily available for money on the cash shop.
It was a very decent advantage that you had over your opponent or compeer, if you could buy Labour potions on the regular. Bearing in mind that this is originally a Korean game, RNG was very much a factor in upgrading your equipment and other important things. Labour pots helped. It was the beginning of a very thin but thickening line that verged on “pay to win” game mechanics.
If you look at the up to date retail version of Archeage now, you can glance at the cash shop and lo and behold, the prophecy was foretold! Pay to win is the norm.
The second instrument of failure was how quickly the game client was compromised via hacks and the like.
It only took a few instances of fly hacking being witnessed – for me to tender resignation on the game. This combined with the cash shop fiasco, was a nail in the already corpse-ridden coffin.
So why recommend the game now?
Well, I do so with great hesitation of responsibility on my behalf. For as of current, there is a deluge of options in the MMO market.
WoW just launched Classic, so even if the retail version is stagnating as the next shake-up expansion looms – you can relive your nostalgia, and pretend you’re a kid again. If you didn’t experience it back then, you can see what all the fuss was about. Although with the latter, do have a sound head on your shoulders as you have to remember, this was what set MMOs mainstream – a lot of quality of life improvements are missing.
ESO is as strong as ever, and has great world PvP to boot – although a lot of people dislike the restrictive class/weapon system, and the combat has a lot left to be desired (apparently they’re working on this!) – it is worth a shot if you’ve never been to Tamriel.
FFXIV rivals WoW in story and PvE. I know a ton of WoW ‘refugees’ came to the game after the honeymoon period in Battle For Azeroth ended. However, as this is a PvP orientated blog, please see my previous article on FFXIV’s PvP, as even an expansion later the PvP space is still largely ignored by the developers.
There’s a bunch more out there, but nothing really ‘new’ or groundbreaking. Nothing to break the mould or shake the already rusted, fast-eroding the foundations of the MMO-verse.
What is Archeage ‘Unchained’ and why give it a shot?
I’ll provide a link if what you read about Archeage sounds interesting to you. Essentially, this version of Archeage will release on the newest version of the client, with a few new added classes and updated graphics. It’ll be free to play after the game purchase, a la Guild Wars.
The new (I have to emphasise that) publishers for this project have reiterated – this release is not going to be pay-to-win. The in-game shop will exist, but it will be cosmetics only. We have a Test Realm coming up soon, so we can see that ourselves shortly.
As for hacking, they’ve implemented Easy Anti-Cheat as a solution, I know of this protection as I’ve seen it elsewhere (Hell Let Loose, even Fortnite has this for example), as for how good it is within Archeage, time will tell.
Part of me is disappointed, game makers are hearkening us back, utilising our nostalgia for monetary value. I’ve paid for this game before, why should I give them more money when this disappointed so many fans? Well, for starters, I got more hours and memorable experiences out of a £30 pack in 2014 than I do with most modern AAA games starting at £60.
What it boils down to for me, is that even if the moment is fleeting and the glue doesn’t stick. I’d be happy for a good couple of months of distraction out of what many thought was a high mountain peak of MMO game design. Maybe it was because I was the leader of a unique guild, and part of a bigger experience on a server, but I do believe Archeage had something special – maybe like WoW Classic, it is found to be the community, and the social aspect that – even a lone wolf like myself – can appreciate and be a part of.
I feel melancholic when storytelling events that happened in previous MMOs, akin to the beautiful soliloquy of Roy Batty from 1982’s Blade Runner.
I mean, that’s why we play games right? To live another life, to be the best at something? Or maybe be a part of something bigger, when your real life is a bit mundane.
I’d like to add on to these stories, and relive the stories of old.
For I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe; attack ships of the straight off of the Castaway Strait. I watched pirates rack and pillage the world gates. All those moments will be lost, in time – like the waves in an endless sea.
Archeage Unchained releases October 15th – pre purchase packs here.