I go through these periods where I’m desperately looking for MMOs to play. When these moods hit, I definitely don’t want to go back to World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2—they just aren’t cutting it, so I go looking for some free-to-play MMOs. When I first found out about ArcheAge, I was really excited. From what I understood before playing, ArcheAge was a very sandbox-y kind of MMO, which allowed us to have a truly player-driven economy where you could go out questing and fight monsters for loot, or buy a plot of land to build your house on. With your house built, you could grow crops and build trade goods that would actually feel more rewarding than clicking a button to craft a piece of gear that you would ultimately just sell to a vendor.
Basically, from what I read, it sounded like a cross between WoW, Clash of Clans, Grand Theft Auto (medieval fantasy edition), and FarmVille. I just had to see how they were going to pull this off.
I never got far enough in the game to see it. While I’ve been told by some of my friends that I have to be willing to put in the time for an MMO to get good, I don’t see why it should have to be that way. We wouldn’t spend 30+ hours waiting for any other game to get good, so why should we slog through an MMO? First impressions are incredibly important and the mechanics even more so when it comes to MMOs, since that’s what you’re going to be doing over and over again.
ArcheAge sounded like it was revolutionary and full of fresh game ideas that would make it my new favorite MMO. We could farm, build combat, go on trade missions where we were trading our own goods, have a ship and go on navel missions, or even have epic naval battles where we tried to sink enemy ships. With the game boasting this many features, I was dying to like it.
But like most MMOs that I’ve tried more recently, ArcheAge tripped over the first hurdle when I was on the character creation screen. I always like to start with a character who is a woman since it will (sadly) give me a better idea of just how bad the game and/or community can be. I was driven out of WoW by the toxic behavior toward women (like Kit was), and have been whispered sexually explicit comments in many other MMOs. Even in Pico, which is an adorable game where everyone is a little chibi person, there were people making sexually explicit or homophobic comments in the chats.
If you’re going to play a woman in ArcheAge, the first thing that you’re going to notice is the boobs. They’re impossible not to notice. It’s not that they’re the enormous melons held on with a teensy bit of tape that you can find in some games, but they jiggle like Jello on a spoon. Even turning my character so I could get a side view of them would have her breasts bouncing like she’d just done a hundred jumping jacks while not wearing a bra. Even more strange, her breasts would move independent of each other.
Try to imagine, if you can, moving your character’s image around and her breasts look like they’re doing the wave. Strike one, ArcheAge.
Once I was in the game, things seemed a lot more simple since I didn’t have to look at my character from the front. I was always looking at her back and the only time that the ridiculous chest physics reared its ugly head again was when I was talking to NPCs whose chest would bounce even if the character themselves hadn’t moved. Fine. I hate the way that breasts work in the game, but there were so many other features that I should be able to look past that.
Things were off to a promising start when I found out that if I had a horse mount, both me and another party member could ride the horse. And the more I looked around the world, the more that I could see unique little touches to it. This game has some aspects of WoW, but I wouldn’t call it a WoW clone. Just by playing, you can see that there are a ton of unique ideas that set them apart from any MMO that I’ve ever played. The world felt new and exciting! I wanted to explore it.
The problem with that was unlike WoW or GW2, ArcheAge‘s world felt flatter. Exploring wasn’t rewarding and I never met anyone who I was really interested in helping. I was so used to the amusing NPC dialogue that you could overhear in GW2 that the game felt strangely silent, as if no one in the game really wanted to speak until someone came to talk to them. The more I looked around, the less I wanted to explore.
Still, if the questing system had been any good, I wouldn’t have counted this as a strike against ArcheAge. The quests are as basic as they come, and even worse, you’re moving from one area to another so quickly that you don’t feel connected to anything you’re doing. I ended up falling into a routine where I would follow one quest marker on the map to another one with no sense of what my purpose was or what I was doing.
To be fair to ArcheAge, there wasn’t really any third strike. I’ve heard complaints about the community, but I never had any trouble with them. The servers were down for three or four days when I wanted to play, but they gave everyone little prizes to make up for that. I didn’t see anyone running around naked or going around being jerks to other people. I just didn’t want to keep playing.
Despite the clever little ideas that I would see here and there, there wasn’t anything that grabbed me. No mystery like there was in Secret World, no desire to explore like Guild Wars 2, and no … whatever originally drew me to World of Warcraft. I felt like there was a lot of grind in the game. That’s a common problem in a lot of MMOs, but it never felt as pronounced as it did in ArcheAge. While it was a free-to-play game, I found myself wondering if it was also pay-to-win. Beyond that, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about the story. Who am I? What am I doing? Do I care? Nope.
ArcheAge is free-to-play and you can download it from their website after you’ve made an account. There are plenty of things that are worth looking into—like the absolutely adorable Harani mounts and the personalized farms that you could sometimes see scattered throughout the maps. If you get far enough, you can put people who break the rules on trial and be part of the jury. All of these are fascinating ideas to me, but I just couldn’t stay invested.
For all its unique ideas, the entire game felt kind of empty and unfinished. It was as if I was playing a closed beta version of the game or even an alpha where the mechanics weren’t quite polished enough for me to enjoy myself.
Still, if anything I’ve said has caught your eye, ArcheAge is worth a look. Give it a shot, spend a weekend on it, and see if you like it better. I certainly don’t regret playing the game, but unless they overhaul the entire experience, I won’t be going back to buy a farm.