If there is one game genre that has given me some of my most memorable moments, it would be MMORPGs. At this point in my gaming career, I’m not sure I even want to know the exact amount of time I’ve spent playing games like World of Warcraft or how many energy drinks I’ve downed while grinding for that one…last…thing. My love for the genre goes very deep, but it it is for that same reason that they can also cause the most frustration. Most console games I pick off the shelf normally don’t have to worry about major issues popping up on day one. True, there is the occasional day one patch nowadays, but the game is essentially complete and out there for the masses to play. Things are a little different with MMORPGs. ArcheAge, a game developed by XL Games and published by Trion Worlds, is the newest free-to-play MMORPG, released on September 16th. ArcheAge has been out for quite some time in Korea, but has finally come to Europe and North America. There is a lot of good within the game, but there is also some bad that needs to be brought up as well. First, let’s look at the good.
I love this game. It has its flaws, but overall I am greatly enjoying this game and can see myself playing it for a long time. ArcheAge is considered an open-world sandbox game which means you have a lot of choices on where you want to spend your time. In a game like ArcheAge, you can’t simply present a linear path that players are meant to take. The player should believe that they can go out into the world and play it exactly how they want and I think ArcheAge does a great job of that. There are a lot of ways to gain XP that don’t involve questing such as growing crops, raising livestock, gathering, or crafting. See an iron node? Go over to it and mine it from level 1 and get some XP while you’re at it. Thus far, I have never felt like I have needed to go quest and that’s a great feeling to have.
Not only are you given the choice of how to gain XP, but you are given the option of 120 classes to play while within the game. That is a huge number of classes, even if some of them don’t seem very viable compared to others. As you level, you will end up picking three classes which will ultimately give you your actual class. For example, you can take Occultism, Sorcery, and Witchcraft and you will be a Demonologist. Not liking the feel of how the class is playing? Drop any of the skills you currently have and pick up another one. You’ll have to level up the class again, but the choice is still there meaning you aren’t locked into one class for the entire time you play this character.
There is a lot of good in this game with a lot of elements you may have seen in other games, all jammed into ArcheAge. I can pick whether I want to focus solely on creating trade packs for money, whether I want to reach end-game and get the best gear I can, or whether I want to kill any other player I see in the open-world PvP areas that break out, assuring that I’m one step closer to become a part of the pirate faction. Committing a crime can get me crime points if reported and I may end up going on trial and ending up in jail for a period of time that is played out with in-game time. There are a lot of other things I love about this game so far (carrying a tiny elk on my back and growing it for a mount at level 5 being one of them), but like many games, there’s much more to the story.
In ArcheAge, almost everything you do requires labor points. Mining a node, opening a coinpurse, chopping down a tree, and countless other things all require labor points. These are gained offline and online for players that have paid for the monthly subscription (patrons), but only online for those that have not. Some people may argue that this belongs in the good column, but I think it has brought more bad than good thus far. For one, the rate at which you earn labor points is much faster for patrons while you are online (and the only way for unpaid players) meaning there are a lot of players going AFK to gain labor points while they are away at school or work. As you can level your mount as well by riding it around, some people will do this for hours, simply riding in circles and coming back to a lot of labor points and a leveled up mount. While Trion is currently taking steps to address this by kicking out these players, it doesn’t get rid of the main issue. Some actions you will take in the game will cost you a lot of labor points and if you run out and wanted to do a bunch of crafting, then you’ll have to wait…or make a purchase in the store to instantly grant you some labor points.
Gold sellers have also been fairly rampant thus far, as one can expect from a free-to-play game. If they get banned, they can simply make a new account, hop in the game and start their spam once more. Adding them to the amount of AFK players trying to get more labor points or train their mount while away from their computers and you have a decent amount of players in the game that simply shouldn’t be there.
Bugs are to be expected in any game of this magnitude, but some are much worse than others. When the game launched, a large amount of players were given the patron status while others purchased it and are still waiting for it to appear. Patrons and non-patrons are supposedly put into different queues while loading into the game making it so patrons can get into the game faster as well as gain more labor points and own land. When you give this to all players, it’s bound to make a few people upset.
Most people will say that you should expect MMORPG launches to go bad. They all do, so suck it up and just deal with it. While it is true that many games have issues on launch, there are two things that need to be considered here. The first is that just because it has happened in the past with other games doesn’t mean that we as consumers should be required to suck it up or get used to it. Just because something has happened often in the past doesn’t mean it should continue to happen in the future. Along with that, it depends on how the company deals with the issues during launch when they arise and that is where Trion is sorely lacking.
Players are absolutely livid right now about a multitude of issues. One look at their forums and you’ll see page after page of unhappy customers venting their frustrations. One particular thread has reached 150 pages with over 100,000 views and 1500 posts. And that’s just one thread. Throughout it all, Trion has been fairly quiet about the issues that are being brought up. First, are the queues. Wow, are they bad. Even for many patrons, they are waiting for hours on end just to get into the game. And you better hope you don’t get disconnected while in queue otherwise you have to start all over. Trion has added more servers as well as raised the capacity of them, but it’s still not enough. They seem to be open to adding more servers, but that is only really helpful for the new players at this point. With no server transfers currently, people that are founders or made a character early have no choice, but to either make a new character and start over or sit in a long queue to play the character they actually want to play
Queues are a natural part of launches for MMORPGs, but I have truly never seen queues this long for many players. When a queue says you aren’t even in the top 5,000 or 10,000 players waiting and you only have a few hours to play, you might as well just shut your computer down. These massive queues have persisted even when it is not peak hours (or on the weekend) and many players have joking started calling the game Archequeue in response.
All in all, ArcheAge is great when you actually get in, and many players will agree that it isn’t the game that’s the issue. From a “head start” period that was riddled with disconnects and queues, to a launch filled with bugs, queues, and a lack of communication, on top of starter packages released on day one that players believe are better than the ones they bought before launch, ArcheAge is already fighting an uphill battle. It still has the possibility to be a great MMORPG that lasts for a long time, but steps need to be taken much faster by Trion to assure that their players stick around after launch or after their subscription has ended.