Fallanx – eplayer

MMO & Co

Archive for July 2011

ArcheAge

with 4 comments

To keep up with with korean’s mmo theme, I couldn’t avoid mentionning this ambitious project.

archeage logging screen

When I first heard about ArcheAge, I was really impressed by the amount of interresting  features announced. A sandbox mmorpg using the latest version of CryEngine including physics with PvP, PvE and indepth crafting. I had to put my hands on this promising game and managed to access the 3rd stage of the Korean closed beta.

Developped by XL Games since several years now, Jack Song, who was also known for developping Lineage; is in charge as the lead designer. So once again we are facing a major Korean product with a strong NCsoft influence. ArcheAge is taking place in another heroic-fantasy world divided in 3 main continents, two are faction owned  and one last remains free to be conquered. Allowing players to build houses, castles, ships to fight with. It supposly have everything players might expect from a new AAA mmorpg.

The character creation process is quite regular with predetermined classes such as mage, tank, stealther and so on. You could also create your own class by choosing 3 sub-classes but i found this option very innefective due to the total lack of balance compared to premade classes. Your character is also bound to a classic level system with specialisations as in most mmo nowadays. Depending on your race you will have access to various mounts who will level up as a pet. You can also fight mounted but it quickly appeared to be inneffective. Each type of mount will also have specific racial skills.

The sandbox aspect of the game is backboned by an elaborated crafting approach, XL Games managed to encourage players interractions without forcing it. To do so they introduced a Labour Points system. You’ll need to use your Labour Points for each crafting related actions. Gathering materials; refining them and also crafting final products will cost you precious LPs. They are available in limited amounts  with a slow regeneration rate. This system as it flaws since you cannot craft all the time as you quiclky run out of LP while gathering. Hopefully they will introduce some countermeasures as it is frustrating if you’re aiming for a full time crafting carrier. On the other hand, with a small group of players you can quicly achieve interresting crafting projects. Building your first ship is quite impressive as you litterally see the hull slowly taking shape as players work on it. Same goes for building houses, starting with basic foundation first and then with a solid structure. Building large castles will require large guild members effort with skilled crafters.Numerous video perfectly illustrate the crafting process such as the following.

Guilds should quickly get an advantage in the game as they will managed to craft more structures on a already announced limited amount of building plots.

PvE mostly consisted of uninteresting quests with a few exceptions; mini bosses and unfinished dungeons.  AI and pathfinding were also pretty poor with numerous bugs compared to competitors. They did some efforts using the physics engine to reach specific areas with a rope or destroying bridges full of monsters but generally speaking it was trivial and under exploited. The PvE aspect was definitly unpolished and by so,  failed to impress. On a side note I have to admit the barrier language didn’t helped much :p

The best quest, real players blood..

Killing monsters was too boring, so i decided to taste the PvP actions; starting with my own faction. Once at level 20 you can attack innocent players from your own faction. I quickly realise my mistake when i found myself judged after killing several comrades; some afk i confess. When you kill a player from your own faction; he litteraly drops a pool of blood. Only witnesses of the murder can pick it up and then report you to local authorities. After a few murders, i found myself teleported to my own trial; quickly sentenced and thrown in jail with a massive debuff for 30 minutes. In the future; trial should be a mini-game where you might be able to defend yourself using arguments. I believe if you are sentenced several times, your character becomes a red ‘PK’ also known as pirates, with substential malus.

With the ship we builded, we went to explore the other faction coasts to confront them in PvP. Epic in scope and thrilling in execution; this was truely the best experience I had in the game. With one captain steering the vessel and several other players manipulating cannons, we quickly ended up shooting every hostile on sight. This was great fun and surpinsigly smooth and fully functionning.

Unfortunately they didn’t implemented castle sieges in the beta but this should be one of the main PvP features. Hopefully this will be added in the next beta stage. During my PvP sessions i noticed that a tiny level difference  had a huge impact on the pvp outcome; implying that a race to the maximum level will take place at release.  I also took note of massive imbalance between classes/build. According to the development team this is working as intend and players will have to coop with it..

Despite some clunky animations, the overall visual experience was astonishing. Most characters are very well designed and the surrounding vegetations are truely amazing. The CyrEngine is doing a great job; especially during sea battles, with debris flying over and ship sinking in the deep with a burst of bubbles. Casting a freezing spell on a player in PvP also looked very cool, especially when he’s in motion. Graphic chart is surprinsingly not so asian oriented and avoid the infantile approach Tera had. They also managed to avoid the cartonish style many developpers like to adopt since blizzard’s blockbuster. Western players should appreciate this and it was an absolute treat for the eyes. the only downside is that you’ll need a high end PC to properly run it; limiting de facto the player base.

During this close beta who lasted less than a week, i tried to explore and get as much ingame experience  as i could. With the help of a few other players, we managed to build a basic house, a fairly sized ship to sail and pvp with. We also cleared the first dungeon despite numerous bug. I must admit that I had a great time, you always feel busy and I am confident they will fix the PvE.

With an already impressive features list,  they are still adding more fresh content. They just released a new video allowing players to glide using some sort of delta plane device. This makes me believe the development team will provide us with a rich game. Talking about an eventual release, the game is not even announced in the west yet and despite XL games denial, i know from trusted sources that they approached several publishers. Tencent already signed a deal to publish it in China. Word is there should be another closed beta phase before the open beta in november. These dates are not confirmed.

Most of my playing sessions were livestreamed and are still available on this page.

Written by Fallanx

July 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Tera: The Exiled Realm of Arborea

with 2 comments

I’ve been playing Tera on the korean server for over a month last march after Rift’s fiasco. This is the review i wrote once i cancelled my subsription.

Note that the game is not yet released in the west but will be published in Europe by Frogster and by En Masse Interactive in US. For the record En Masse Interactive is a branch of Blue Hole studio, the Korean developper.

The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the game are similarities with NCsoft products, especially Lineage 2 for the graphic chart but also with Aion.  They share the same graphic engine in different versions; menus are also pretty much similars. As it is often the case in Korea, most of the dev team consist of ex-NCsofters.

As an exemple; this Tera loading screenshot (on the left) is clearly reffering to the original Aion’s tower of eternity (on the right).

 

Despite this, the game looks pretty hot; offering some good particule lightning effects and other treats for the eye. I would describe the graphic chart as an asian-fantasy gothic environment with a tendency toward the “cute and childish”. The game as a nice ambiance generally speaking but its pretty much a ripoff of L2 on steroids. UI is poor compared to the latest MMO; offering less than the regular basic options with only 2 sizeable action bars. You dont have much skills to use indeed but i’m used to more choices and don’t like to have to switch bars using alt etc; even rift was better on this. Gameplay is very arcadish, it can be played with an x-box controller and you can feel this very quicly with the basic commands. If you do so, wash your hand afterward 🙂

The strong feature of the game is dynamic combats; quite different from the regular mmos as you will have to dodge and evade alot using a skill every class get at low level; especially versus elite mobs and boss. The manual targeting system is also unusual and give the game a personnality. The heavy scripted AI provide also some epic fights in dungeon or vs outdoor elites mobs. However, fighting against regular mobs/packs in solo gets quickly repetitive despite varations in the mob types.

Instancied dungeons are also pretty boring after a couple of runs; despite the size of the boss encounters you end up grinding them in order to get rare drops.  Groups are at the center of the game, you will have to find fellow adventurers right from level 10 in order to keep going. Group quest are offered in all zones 20+ so far and mostly consists in killing huge elite mobs. Without a group you can managed to keep going but you will miss a massive part of the game and i believe you better choose another mmo if you plan to do so.

Regarding the classes, it seems to be a bit unbalanced but nothing major compared to other games using the same static class system. Patches adjust them on a regular basis; i personnaly prefer a skill point system, less discriminative toward new players and more open. I found my priest doing alot of DPS for a primary”support class” and sometime too few healing but I like his abilities & the general feeling. I found the character customisation pretty interresting; consisting in glyphs to enhance abilities, enchants and crystals to improve gears stats but i hoped for deeper specialisation. The quests are pretty bad, the craft system is not innovative at all, the instanced zones give you the feeling to play alone most of the time, there’s no housin either. The main story is also linear, with average quality cut scenes. I’ll skip the so called ‘”political system” which was mostly broken when i played the game, allowing guilds to get votes from any players regardless of their level; creating weird alliances with other servers to convince them to create a char to vote for you.

The PvP aspect was also very poor, with some sort of forced duel system in the wilderness or premade group combats in instanced battlegrounds. In either case you had to be level 40 at least to be able to participate in the PvP.

Overall, i had fun in PvE’ mostly because the combat system was a bit unusual for a MMO  and the game has an interresting graphic environment but it quickly gets old; and after a while i got the feeling to play a console game on PC with cool graphics.

Tera’s dev team tried to not just create another Korean MMORPG within an heroic fantasy world, the game has indeed some interresting features but overall they miserably failed to deliver a unique gaming experience. Patches might change it in the future but the game in his current state is not delivering enough to commit to it more than a month.

You can clearly see the arcadish approach on this capture i made. It might looks cool but after a while the freshness effect is dispelled by the lack of content.

Written by Fallanx

July 27, 2011 at 2:39 am