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
- Exploring the Land and Getting Around
- Player-vs-Player Content, Class Balance
- Gathering Materials, Crafting, and Labor Points
- Building Houses and Boats
- Exploring the Sea
- Graphics and Glitches
CBT3 is officially over now, but news coverage of the event has just begun. Stay tuned for our review and many articles from other websites, too! Thanks for playing or watching, ladies and gentlemen!
While you’re waiting, check out this awesome Google version of ArcheAge’s world map! You can zoom in and out and see just how much of the continents were explorable during this test.
We return from riding airships, swimming to islands, and being shot at (and PK’d) by player-owned ships to deliver these four gameplay videos covering most of the Niuan starting area. Two more videos from this playsession are being uploaded right now and should become available within the next couple days.
After that we can either upload more Nuian videos or we can share some pretty cool Ferre gameplay videos! We’re leaning towards the Ferre stuff, but what do you think? Leave a comment! We’ll eventually upload everything, of course, but we’re trying to deliver what people want to see.
Also, look forward to reviews of ArcheAge’s CBT3 being posted on various websites this weekend! If you see one, use our contact form to tip us off and we’ll probably put up a link to it on our front page.