End Game: 3/5
Archeage, an MMO developed by Lineage’s Jake Song, was released by XL Games in Korea on January 15, 2013. Rift’s Trion obtained publishing rights, and released the North American and European version on September 16, 2014.
Nominally a “Sandpark,” it has elements of both a “themepark” and “Sand box” MMO, but cannot be truly classified as one or the other. Archeage has multiple currencies, which I’ll list here for easy references.
Gold: the standard, in-game monetary unit.
Credit: Purchase with Real Money at the marketplace. Can be used to purchase Patron status.
Gilda Star: a particular in-game currently used by a race called the “Daru,” Gildas are obtained through specific quest types or specific intercontinental trade runs.
Merit Badge: A merit badge can be earned through achievements such as drinking your first healing potion, or by specific daily quests.
Loyalty: Loyalty points are a type of currency that can be used to purchase specific in-game items through the marketplace. Only patrons can earn loyalty, at a base value of 5 per day, per log in.
Archeage can be Free to Play, but a note on “Free to Play” versus “Pay to win”— There are arguments about whether Archeage is Pay to Win. Strictly speaking, it is not. Anything you need to do in the game, you can do without paying a single red cent. There are absolutely no items that you can ONLY purchase with cold, hard cash. That being said, cash makes a fine grease when you’re stuck. It does get things moving a little faster, if you’re the impatient sort. If you’re patient, you can make trade runs, save your pennies, purchase an “APEX” with gold, then cash in your APEX for credits, which you can then use to buy anything in the marketplace, including Patron Status. Patron status opens up a lot of doors, including the ability to get loyalty on both an NA and EU server, which you can in turn use to buy things, sell for gold, and use THAT gold to buy another APEX, which you turn in for credits… you see where this is going. The game IS free to play, and you CAN be competitive as a free-to-play player. Eventually. If you insist that the only way you can have fun is to be able to win 1v1 duels within your first month, though, you’re going to want to bring your credit card.
Archeage’s graphics are beautiful at highest settings, but it requires a much higher-end PC than the recommended minimum to maintain such beauty without lag. There are a lot of options for graphics controls, but as you approach the easiest load on a lower-end PC (mine’s one year old, and helplessly out of date, the horror!), the details become an uncomfortable blur. The best way to play this game is to load it onto an SSD, particularly if you plan to use more than one account at a time.
Sound and music are average, with a minimum amount of sound options available. The music background music is neither irritating nor inspiring, but the changes do let you know whether you’re in combat, in a safe area, or in a housing zone, so the musical cues at least do their job well without being so grating that you would rather play in silence.
Cons: Requires a serious gaming system to play at highest settings without noticeable lag
Pros: While having a questing/dungeon similar to other fantasy-based MMO’s, Archeage’s unique draw is, arguably, their “Land Ownership” system. Any monthly subscriber, called a “Patron,” has the ability place a design and build a structure. These structures currently include houses, farms, private workstations, or a communal “Fellowship plaza.” The initial price of the designs is quite low and within easy reach- a level 10 character freely obtains an 8×8 “Scarecrow Garden,” with a small house obtainable at any time with 15 “Gilda Stars,” a currently obtainable through specific quests. (You can easily get 50 of them by level 30.)
Cons: Placing your design, however, can be somewhat more problematical, depending on your server. If you are on a very popular NA server like Kraken, for example, the space for planting your design simply isn’t available right now. Land, much like in real life, is a finite resource. While the Korean version of the game limited the amount of accounts one person can have, which in turn limited the amount a single character or account could grab, the North American version has no such limitations. You may have as many accounts as you like, with as many patrons as you see fit to have. This has allowed a kind of “land baron” mentality in many players, who hoard land as if it were gold… and in fact, it often IS, as they sell their plots for amounts of money that far outstrip a beginning player’s ability to pay it. The converse of this is, that land IS available to buy- you just have to be persistent, and willing to fork over the gold for it. On less populated servers, on the other hand, land is not nearly as precious a commodity, and even a beginning player can find free plots of land for their 8×8’s and starter houses. The cost of this, of course, is that you may not have as many people available to play with you in arenas or in dungeons.
Archeage’s customization is, frankly, the best out there right now. Bewilderingly, however, it is severely under-utilized on the North American and European servers. On the face of it, Archeage offers a pitifully sparse amount of interior and yard decorations. If you’ve played Vanguard, Star Wars (Galaxies or Online), Wild Star, or Everquest 2, for example, AA’s available choices are embarrassingly small by comparison. One thing, and one thing only, pushes AA back up into the realm of “unprecedented customization”: Crests. A dozen or more items in the game, from the sails on your ship, to a face mask, to paintings and cubes and columns, can be customized with literally anything you can think up to put on them. You buy a “brainstorm,” punch it up on an in-game workstation, make a “stamp” and start customizing everything from your wardrobe to your car. The Korean gamers have seized on this to create some truly beautiful and unique scenery and interior designs. North American gamers tend to limit it to painting their sails, cars, and skateboards with a guild logo, and call it a day. The potential here for decorating your house is truly beyond incredible, and the lack of enthusiasm for it boggles the mind.
Pros: Unlimited decoration potential
Cons: At 300 credits per Crest Brainstorm at the Credit Marketplace, you’re better off paying 80-100 gold for an AH brainstorm to make your stamp, but 100 gold per block is probably stifling the “Make it look like Minecraft” crowd.
Trade routes are another gaming mechanic that are unique to Archeage. While appearing similar to any number of “go here, bring this” missions or quests in other games, an Archeage trade run does not need to be accepted prior to making the run. You simply bring what you want to sell to someone who wants it. The value of your resource changes depending on distance traveled, and how many have already been sold in the area. You can bring one or more items, and there are specific vehicles you can build to bring multiple packs with you at a time.
Pros: Reliable source of income
Cons: The best rewards come with the greatest risks, and you may wind up with your multi-thousand-gold cargo lost at sea to a fleet of pirates….or lost in a so-called “safe” area to a really inconvenient game disconnect. (The latter is the more annoying, if you’re interested.)
Archeage crafting (and gathering resources, for that matter) is done through a system called “Labor.” A free-to-play player gets 5 labor every 5 minutes they’re logged into the game, with a maximum labor pool of about 2000. A Patron gets 10 labor every 5 minutes, even if offline, with a maximum pool of 5000. Like any crafting system ever, the more you craft, the more stuff you can eventually craft. The Archeage take on it, however, is to limit how quickly you can level your crafting, by limiting your labor pool. (You can buy labor potions with gold, credits, or loyalty, however. This means you can level up your crafting as fast as you want to, provided you want to pay through the nose for it.) The other uniquely Archeage attribute is its upgrade system. Any piece of equipment can be upgraded from the basic “grey” level through to Mythic. However, it gets quite pricey the higher you go, and has a significantly increasing chance to destroy the item completely once you pass Celestial. For this reason, many players give up after they’ve destroyed their life’s work with one throw of the dice. Upgrading is not for the faint of heart… or for the casual player.
Pros: Make your own stuff for a fraction of AH values, sell your own stuff for profits. Also, fun.
Cons: If RNGesus hates you, you will be perpetually broke. One player told me, “If you’re wealthy in Archeage, you’re doing it wrong.” Upgrading costs a lot. A WHOLE lot. Pro tip: Save your gold and buy what you want; let some other poor schmuck take the risks.
A lot of Archeage players kill each other. There is content for pirates, who have chosen to forswear any allegiance, as well as cross-faction conflicts. You can also choose to do arenas, and try your hand at small scenarios or the regularly scheduled conflicts. If you’re in the mood, you can sneak up on a fellow faction member in a hostile zone, turn on bloodlust mode, smite them and swipe their hard-earned tradepack(s) while they’re dead.
You can build ships, and use fleets of them in coordinated sea battles. Hunt down the Archeage equivalents of the East India Trading company, kill the crew with all hands, and make off with the cargo. Or participate in the regularly scheduled in-game conflicts at sea. Find a Kraken or the Leviathan, and throw your guild against the competition to see who can take it down.
Pros: Kill anybody you want, in over half of the land map, and all of the sea map. Take people’s stuff after you kill them. Reasonably balanced classes. No class is “Overpowered” based on class, alone.
Cons: Bloody expensive to have the upgraded gear needed to be competitive without a highly experienced group at your back.
Let’s be honest here, any “end-game” dungeon is boring as hell after the first four dozen times or so. The good news is, you don’t HAVE to dungeon yourself to death in Archeage. You can get gear out on the wild, or buy purchasing it, or making it yourself. Never step foot in a dungeon at all, if you don’t want to. The “End Game” in Archeage is, like any good sandbox, whatever you want it to be. You will never have the best stuff in every way, unless you’re a literal millionaire and can throw around real money on a video game like Tic Tacs. (And if you are, I’m Mordoc on Sirothe, and I’m single.) Personally, it’s taken me months to build my little land Empire, and I’m still in the middle of decorating. I haven’t so much as touched my armor past my basic quest gear yet, and I’m far more interested in the new Tree Houses that are coming out, than the other admittedly cool things that will be Coming Soon(TM). Summary: End Game is what you make of it.
Community: This is where I have to say, it’s a good thing I’m on a lightly populated server. The Forum Community of Archeage is, in a word, toxic. I have no idea what possessed Trion to buy into the whole “Freedom of Speech” mumbo jumbo, but their lack of censorship or even reasonable moderation on their own forums results in a community that appears depressingly whiny. A look at their General Discussion forum is like staring into Millenial Hell. It’s not uncommon for the entire front page to be filled with variants of, “Trion, fix this,” or “Game is broken unless you give me that,” despite the fact that Trion isn’t even the developer, and can’t actually change the game or do any coding. Every new holiday event floods the forums with how the players weren’t given enough free stuff. It’s embarrassing to witness, and next to impossible to find actual discussion on matters of game play.
Overall, however, I give Archeage high marks in playability. Is it an MMO Farmville? Yes, kind of. Then again, Farmville is popular for a reason.
I’ll be over here milking my cows if you need me.