ArcheAge CBT3 Review, Part 1 - 2 - 3
This is it, ladies and gentlemen, our review of ArcheAge’s third closed beta test. This is intended to be the most in-depth review article you’ll find anywhere, but it’s by no means definitive. We might forget a detail here or there, so feel free to leave a comment on this post if you’re confused or have a suggestion to make.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
Download, Installation, and Patching
We’ll be honest: ArcheAge’s installer/patcher isn’t the best we’ve ever dealt with. It’s based on a custom BitTorrent client and immediately connects you to three web seeds (basically http download servers masquerading as BitTorrent seeds) that XLGAMES has set up with a CDN (content delivery network). After connecting to the web seeds, the BitTorrent client uses DHT and other peer sharing methods to find other ArcheAge fans who are also patching their game. It doesn’t ever connect to a traditional BitTorrent tracker as far as we can tell, which is an interesting decision.
In spite of all these technical details, ArcheAge’s intaller/patcher seems to operate very inefficiently, almost as if there’s a soft downstream/upstream speed limit imposed or if the client limits the amount of connected peers too heavily (there are no toggle-able options within the client, unlike some others based on BitTorrent). I was able to open the main ArcheAge download torrent in my favorite BitTorrent client, uTorrent, and my download speed jumped to five times the speed that I was getting using XLGAMES’ client (identified as “x2client” in uTorrent’s peer list).
Our recommendation? Find a better, more efficient BitTorrent backend to base ArcheAge’s installer/patcher client off of, or fix/tweak the existing one, and this discrepancy should vanish.
Account Login, Character Creation
We just want to make a quick statement about ArcheAge’ login screen: we think the second closed beta’s animated version was better. Not that CBT3′s randomized login screens were bad, they just were boring in comparison. Static images just don’t give the same visual impact upon first launch as gorgeously-rendered trees and grass swaying in the wind. That’s our honest opinion, make of it what you will.
We’ve got a lot more to say about ArcheAge’ character creation tool, so sit down and buckle up. Let’s start with the tool’s limitations: it’s not like Aion’s oe EVE’s character generators, you can’t modify bone structure or body height or chest size, etc. There also not many hairstyles and colors, faces, or decorations available, though the ones that are available are high-quality (check out that Heath Ledger Joker facepaint, we hope it makes it into the retail version).
Having said all that, XLGAMES is very aware of its character creator’s current limits and has publicly declared in the past that eventually it will be powerful enough to sate the creative appetites of all but the most picky players, so we’re not too worried about this feature at the moment. If the tool’s power doesn’t increase by ArcheAge’s open beta, however, we will become very concerned.
Part of character creation is choosing a class. We’ll cover how specific classes perform in-game a bit later, but for now we’ll say that ArcheAge has the best class-choosing system of any MMO, ever. Choose three schools of learning and combine them to form one of 120 possible professions. Do you know of a MMORPG released within the last five years with the same setup? We don’t.
Tutorial (Starter) Areas and Questing
Let’s get this straight for the hardcore anti-questing crowd out there: you can stop doing quests after you get your free horse and never worry about doing them again. You’ll miss out on a good chunk of experience points that makes leveling nice and breezy, but you will probably be able to keep up with the quest-lovers by gathering and crafting, if that’s what you’re into (seriously, gathering and crafting in this game give considerable amounts of XP, unlike some other games).
For the folks who prefer to do quests, whether it’s because they like being told what to do (sounds kinky) or they just like reading lore: there’s plenty of interesting quests for you to complete. We’ll get to listing examples a little later, though. Let’s first talk about the tutorials areas themselves and how they’re unique.
Each race has its own unique starting area, which is an upgrade from games like TERA which lump all the races into one area that gets more and more repetitive on each playthrough. Fresh Nuian characters start near the coast and journey further inland as they learn more about the game. Elves start in a heavily forested area inland and journey outwards as they progress, as do the Ferres (on the other continent).
Each starting area serves the same basic function, to instruct new players in how ArcheAge works, but each does it in a slightly different way. To teach a Nuian player to climb object, the game asks you to retrieve an item that was taken from a child and now is stuck at the top of a tall, slender tree. To teach an elf to climb, the game asks the player to plant a quick-growing vine seed, then climb the vine and extract a fruit from the top of an extremely tall enchanted tree. Each zone has its own flavor, so if you want to make alts of every race, you’ll never have to do the same exact thing twice if you don’t want to.
General quests sometimes boil down to the usual “retrieve X and kill Y” missions, but often ArcheAge tries to introduce twists into the system to keep things fresh. For example, there’s an interesting quest midway through the Nuian introductory area which tasks you with setting fire to rabbit holes in a farm in order to flush the annoying critters out of their home and into open air where you can slaughter them. Upon finding a hole, you whip out a torch from nowhere, light up the hole, and wait for about five small rabbits to spawn, then gleefully destroy them. Upon killing your quota of cute farm pests, you’re tasked with taking out the biggest, baddest bunny on the ranch. If you go into the fight with the named mob expecting it to be easy, you’re in for a surprise…maybe even death!
Another interesting facet of ArcheAge’s quests is the idea of underachieving and overachieving the goals given to you. Some quests can be turned in even if you don’t finish them completely, even if you only kill or gather half of what the quest giver wanted. In that case your reward will be less than the regular reward. The same quests can also be overachieved, by killing or gathering or doing more than necessary, then turning in the quest. In that situation your reward is more than normal. It’s really an interesting system, especially if you are in a hurry to blast through an area’s content or if you’re the kind of person to take your dear sweet time killing sexy succubi for hours.
Honestly, quests in ArcheAge are a means to an end. They convey lore, help characters level, and give people who are confused or lost or bored some direction to go in the game. For people who know exactly what they want to do, quests can be safely passed up and returned to later, regardless of level. In fact, we dropped by the elf starter area on our Nuian character and most of their quests were open for us to do too.
Equipment, Items, Drops, and Quest Rewards
Gear in ArcheAge isn’t easy to get unless you buy it from stores or get it from quests, and gear from those sources normally isn’t that great. The best gear is crafted and upgraded with enchantment stones, and good gear (green, blue, etc.) is also rarely dropped by mobs. If you get lucky, mobs will also drop the stones that you need to upgrade your existing gear.
Unlike some other games, you can literally wear and wield whatever you want in ArcheAge. Want to be a axe-toting mage? Then do it, but know that your spells aren’t getting any extra power from your weapon like they would if you were carrying a staff. Want to play a warrior who wears priestly cloth robes? ArcheAge won’t stop you. However, know this: the more of one type of armor you wear, the better the armor performs.
Quest rewards normally consist of either food, potions, or gear, and food’s probably the best out of those three. Why? Because food gives some of the best buffs in the game, there’s so many types, and it takes a fair amount of ingredients to craft (easy to get if you plant a garden outside your home, however). Quest gear isn’t the worst in the world, and a lot of people will probably be using it because it’s easy to get. We just hope they don’t mind running around in shorts whose name translates to “An Old Soldier’s Pants.”
Rings, earrings, necklaces, and other jewelry are extremely rare to drop. We witnessed only one earring and one necklace drop (not for us, either), and the one necklace we stumbled across was a quest reward. If this drop rate holds true for retail release, crafting jewelry may be a big business in ArcheAge!
As for the question of why someone would bother to kill bosses at all if crafted gear is better than dropped gear: bosses drop mats to craft the best gear. There’s your answer. Now you have a reason to do both!
Exploring the Land and Getting Around
When wanderlust grabs you and doesn’t let go, there’s only one thing to do: explore until you run into invisible teleport boundaries, and then go running off in the opposite direction to do it all over again. This is what we did, and we’ve got to hand it to XLGAMES: when this world is finished, when all the sections of all the continents are ironed out and ready for virtual tourists, this world is going to feel huge. Bigger than big. Gigantic.
At the moment, however, the world seems a bit small, and it’s no illusion. Only certain sections of the map were available for exploration during CBT3, and if you tried to go past them, you’d start seeing graphical anomalies and eventually be teleported back to the nearest town. Is this how it’s going to work at retail? Maybe if you insist on traveling past of the borders of the world map, but otherwise there shouldn’t be any invisible teleporting barriers, so don’t be worried.
Regardless of your race, you’ll receive a completely free mount around level 4 and cherish it for the rest of your time in ArcheAge. Your mount will help you (and one other person, if need be) get from point A to point B in a fraction of the time it would take on foot. It isn’t just an item taking up space in your inventory, however. It’s a real, living entity, it can be killed and it doesn’t regenerate health when it’s not by your side.
You could go to battle while mounted, but it’s normally not the best option due to the lack of mount skills at start and the length of skill cooldowns. Mounts can be equipped with armor, level up and learn new skills (both for combat and travel) if you spend enough time killing things with them. You can summon or despawn your mount if you want, but it’s technically better to have it follow you around instead. Why? So you can jump on it immediately instead of waiting a couple seconds for it to appear. Really, our only gripe with XLGAMES’ implementation of mounts is that you can’t name them. Yet.
Other modes of transportation include mechanical carriages which roll through areas at nearly the speed of horses and allow anyone hitch a ride for free, airships which fly above areas a little less than the speed of a mount but bypass all ground obstacles and take you from town to town, and in-town transportation that moves you from one side of a large city to the other extremely quickly.
It has been mentioned that players may be able to own a carriage and charge for rides, though why anyone would do so is beyond us (unless the carriages become considerably faster and safer than horses). As for airships, they are currently the best form of travel for folks who like taking screenshots, because they give the best view of the world XLGAMES has lovingly crafted.
Class Balance and Player-vs-Player Content
Let’s get this bit out of the way quickly: if XLGAMES tried to balance every class in ArcheAge, then we’d probably have to wait another five years before the game got released. Balancing classes in ArcheAge just isn’t going to happen, and it doesn’t need to happen, and anyone complaining about “balance” after retail is probably crazy. ArcheAge allows you to choose three professions and combine them to form a class. There’s no limitations. XLGAMES has given us players freedom to choose, and in doing so they’ve necessarily removed their hands from forcing a rock-paper-scissors class balance.
PvP during CBT3 wasn’t even close to what it is planned to be by retail. Few players bothered to kill each other outside of the 10 vs 10 battlegrounds, but some griefers would habitually destroy a rider’s mount (most mounts could be one-shot at low levels and there seems to be no penalty for doing so). The result was a lot of annoying running back to stables to get your mount resurrected.
Retrievable PK blood splatters were implemented and working during CBT3, as was the trial and prison mechanic, though they’re probably not finalized. We didn’t get to personally experience any of that since we (sensibly) didn’t bother to go on a murdering spree. Remember, blood can only be picked up by someone who’s not the victim, so make some friends before getting yourself killed!
As for battlegrounds themselves, they were mainly for fun and bragging rights during CBT3. How battlegrounds work is this: you get spawned into an instanced map with (hopefully) 19 other players, thus forming two teams of 10. The objective you’re given is to basically carry out a 15-minute arcade FPS-style deathmatch, where every kill gets you a certain amount of points (100). You get 500 bonus points for staying alive the whole match, 500 for killing the most people compared to the rest of your team, and 500 for killing the most out of everyone in the deathmatch. At the end of the 15 minutes the team with the most points (most kills) wins and its members are awarded an extra 1000 points.
The physical battleground itself is the interior of a castle. Scattered crates give players cover from spells and cannonfire that come from above. The cannons are reachable by ladder and not very flexible in their firing arcs (also seemingly underpowered during this beta test). If you manage to survive long enough to kill a few players, you can unlock special skills/summons like clockwork sentry turrets and minibosses to send against the enemy (as seen in the CBT3 trailer).
We could include ship vs ship battles in this section, but they were sufficiently awesome enough to earn their own paragraph in the next part of this review!
Also, if you’re wondering why we didn’t talk about sieges, it’s because they weren’t ready for this test.
Welcome to the final part of our ArcheAge CBT3 review! It’s been a long journey this past couple weeks, and we want to thank everyone who stuck by us and helped make CBT3 successful and productive, including everyone who took screenshots or livestreamed their gameplay. Together we managed to get a whole new group of people interested in this wonderful game. Thank you.
Now, on to the stuff that you guys have probably been the most excited about since it was announced: building stuff and sailing things. We saved the best for last!
Gathering Materials, Crafting, and Labor Points
To make anything in ArcheAge, you need materials. There’s no “god” material like Aion’s “aether” that can be transmuted into other things, so there’s no shortcuts gatherers can take to amass a quick fortune. You’ve got to pick apples from an apple tree if you want to bake something with apples in it. Cut down trees for wood, mine for stone, ore, and minerals, etc. Everything make sense, everything has a place and time and order and use in ArcheAge’s crafting system. Everything costs labor points to harvest or craft.
Real quick, let us define labor points for those of you who are learning about this stuff for the first time: labor points (LP) are one of ArcheAge’s three main character statistics, alongside health points (HP) and mana points (MP). Literally LP is displayed right next to those two stats near the top of the screen.
Labor points increase rather slowly, at a rate of around one per every ten minutes or so, even while you are signed out of your character. Labor points decrease much quickly. Some things, like crafting a simple item, cost 1 LP to do. Other actions, like mining, cost 2 to 3 labor points each attempt, depending on the difficulty of the task (mining minerals is more difficult than mining stone).
Weird glitch that caused mining nodes to be displaced vertically and horizontally.
There’s some cool details in ArcheAge’s gathering system that we noticed while playing during this beta test, including how mining nodes and tree cutting work.
First off, there’s three stages of mining nodes: fresh unbroken stone, broken stone with ore showing, and broken stone with minerals showing. If you see an unbroken mining node and you need stone, go break it up and keep on walking. If you need ore too, wait a second or two and the mining node will crack open like a geode and show off the metallic ore, which you can also mine. If that’s all you need, go find the next mining node and start over again. If you need jewels, however, stand around and wait a little longer. If you’re lucky the metal ore node will disappear and be replaced by a mineral ore node.
Second, trees give different amount of logs based on their size. If you cut down a young tree, it might give you one or two logs. If you cut down a larger tree you’ll get two to three logs. It pays to be patient.
Before you go off thinking this is some kind of divine gift to bots and farmers, pause and do some math. Even if every labor action in the game cost 1 LP, which they don’t, you’d quickly exhaust your supply of labor by just gathering materials on one character. “So what?” you say. “Just sign on a different character and keep going!” We tried this, and it doesn’t help much.
We used up around 1000 labor points to build a boat by gathering mats, upgrading mats, and finally putting the boat together. CBT3 accounts were limited to 4 characters each, and newly-made characters only start with 10 LP. Once you use up all your characters LP, you might as well just go to sleep for 17 hours until your points are recharged. “Why not just have a second account?” You’re going to pay for that? Really?
No, labor points are meant to be used sparingly, thoughtfully. You’re supposed to think before you waste your character’s labor power on chopping down an apple tree instead of harvesting from it (yeah, you can do that). You’re supposed to put your own character’s labor up for sale, sell your LP to the highest bidder so he or she can get her house or boat built in a reasonable amount of time, etc.
Labor power is one of the few things that makes ArcheAge truly unlike most MMOs. We like it.
Building Houses and Boats
Building a boat or a house isn’t easy, and we didn’t have time or labor power to do both during CBT3, so we chose to build a boat. Why? Because boats come with cannons pre-installed. Houses don’t. Boats also allow you to sail between the two currently-available continents. Houses don’t float very well, so you can see our decision was practically made for us.
Regardless of whichever one you decide to build first, both houses and boats consume quite a bit of materials. Houses need stone blocks, wood, and a few other mats and a nice chunk of labor power to construct (we saw a lot of half-constructed homes while out gathering materials for our boat). Boats need refined metal ores (iron, tin, copper), wood planks, and flexible cloth.
Refined ore has to be made from multiple bits of raw ore, wood planks are made from multiple logs, and flexible cloth is crafted from rough cloth. Ore has to be mined, trees have to be chopped down to acquire logs, and mobs have to be killed to acquire hundreds of rough cloth scraps (that step took the longest).
Once you’ve gotten all your materials gathered (takes quite a bit of LP) and refined (also takes quite a bit of LP), then you have to take them and the boat plan you bought from the dock manager to someplace with reasonably deep water clear of obstructions. You click the plan and place a construction dock in the water, much like aiming a cannon but without the firing arc, and then swim out to it.
When you manage to get on or near the dock, the boat’s construction can finally begin. In the video above we got quite a bit of free help from bored CBT3 testers with nothing better to waste their LP on than building our boat, but otherwise we would have used quite a bit of labor power at this point. At release I doubt people will be so generous with their time and energy.
After you complete construction of the boat, it is launched with great fanfare and the item to summon it is placed in the owner’s inventory. This is fine with us, since there’s literally not enough water for every player’s boat to be stored while they’re away from it.
Exploring the Sea
We saved our favorite section for (nearly) last. That’s right, we at ArcheAge-Online.com think sailing ships all over the deep blue/black sea was the most fun thing you could do during CBT3. Why? Brace yourself.
Freedom. Sailing a ship, exploring the unknown, discovering deserted islands or pillaging remote villages, this is the stuff children dream of, the kind of basic human desire that pushes people past the accepted limits of reality and puts human feet on the moon. We might be getting a bit too philosophical for our own pants here, but that’s honestly the best explanation we can give.
Owning a ship and sailing it wherever the heck you want, doing whatever the heck you want…it’s a pretty literal dream come true. Most people will never own a boat in their life, much less go wherever they want whenever they want. We did it all.
So the first time we set sail and passed the invisible swimming boarder (players trying to swim out into the open ocean eventually get teleported back to town if they pass a certain point), we went a little nuts on the inside. The first island we discovered was already inhabited, but it looked cool with it’s little wading pool and three lonely houses. We wondered if the people who built their houses on the island knew or even cared about each other. Then we noticed the next island off in the distance, shrouded by the most realistic storm clouds we’ve ever seen rendered in an MMO.
That’s where this video ends, but we explored much further in a later video, which we’re uploading right now. It should become available within a day or two.
While we wait for it, let us summarize what happened on subsequent trips into the open ocean: we discovered island after island, all of them inhabited by players who had constructed their boats and houses quicker. The stormy island we mentioned earlier was actually a pirate outpost (no pirates to be seen at the moment, however), as evidenced by the shrunken corpses hanging from scaffolding surrounding the island’s steep cliffs. The sea between the two playable continents seemed smaller than we expected, but we cough that up to buffed boat speed during the last day of testing (when these videos were recorded).
Graphics and Glitches
If you were wondering what our test computer’s specifications were, here they are. Be aware that this is classified as high or medium-level setup, so lesser computer should also play ArcheAge just fine.
If you were wondering what our test computer’s specifications were, here they are. Be aware that this is classified as high or medium-level setup, so lesser computer should also play ArcheAge just fine.
Just a few things prevented ArcheAge’s CBT3 from being glitch free. We’ll list them here really quickly, since they’re not the most horrible things in the world and don’t require entire paragraphs to explain.
Major graphic slowdown in some areas, sometimes inside towns/cities but also in the field, which we attribute to clipping errors when certain rocks or trees intersect with buggy geometry.
Mobs reset too easily, often while standing right next to them.
Mob/mount pathfinding was horrible.
These problems will most likely be sorted out by CBT4.
In summary: we had a lot of fun and learned a lot of new things during CBT3. ArcheAge looks to be well on its way to being a strong game in Korea and probably abroad, if XLGAMES continues to improve it.
Thank you for reading! Tell your friends about ArcheAge!