I’ve been struggling to articulate why I find ArcheAge so compelling since I first began hearing about it. I described it many times in the past, talking about its many systems or how it supported the virtual world concept. Now that I have my hands on it, I think I’ve come to a conclusion about why this game has captured me so much, so quickly, and why I think it will do the same for a lot of people. It is this generation’s Vanguard.
Think about it. How many things do these games have in common? A huge, expansive, multi-continent world? Check. In-depth crafting skills with tons of interdependence? Check. The ability to build and decorate houses? Check. Build boats and great ships? Explore for exploration’s sake? A deep class system? Non-combat pastimes that can last the whole game long? Dozens of mechanics and systems that exist purely to deepen the overall experience? It’s all there. These are two games cut from the same cloth. Except ArcheAge seems to be doing it right.
I was a huge fan of Vanguard but never got the chance to experience it to its fullest. By the time I had a computer that could run it, everyone else had moved on, including the developers. Still, there was something magical that many of us look back to today. Part of that is capturing the essence of a virtual world, which is something that ArcheAge does very right. More than that, though, was this overriding sense that this was a game that begged you to go deeper, to keep digging because there was more and more for as long as you wanted to keep going. And if you wanted to go off in another direction, say Diplomacy, you could make your own way and be just as rewarded for doing so. That’s the sense I get from ArcheAge and it, so far, is doing a lot to rekindle my excitement for a genre that has been too long steeped in more of the same.
Everything I know says that this is a game that isn’t about the experience, it’s about the entirety of the experience. It’s not just about the 15 crafting professions available from the start (the wiki says there are 21 — maybe more will open up?). It’s not about the siege warfare or emphasis on world bosses over raid zones. It’s not even about being able to raise your own farm or castle, feeding your goslings, or growing crops that you physically cart off to trade. It’s about all of it. That at any given moment you can uproot yourself and strike out in a new direction and there are options for you. If you want to be a pirate or a trader, a farmer or fisherman, I can do that. It’s about the small systems, like the treasure maps or raising your mount from a cub, making sure to give it water and play with it to form a bond. It’s about being able to turn in quests early for less experience or keep on grinding for more. It’s these needless but meaningful touches, like the entire composition system — which puts LotRO’s music system to shame, I might add — that immediately seem to elevate the experience.
Forgive me if it sounds like I’m gushing. In a way, I am. But Vanguard was a big game and if you were even a little excited about it, this is a game you need to be paying attention to. ArcheAge is Vanguard’s rebirth with all of the renovations of a modern MMO, minus the action combat for action combat’s sake. Even the game’s quest system has so far been trumped by the fun of being a part of the world. It’s fun just being out there, taking part in combat, and seeing what there is to see. I’m curious to see how this feels 20 levels from now but I’m guessing I still won’t mind. Traditional questing doesn’t bother me, as long as it’s done well.
But here’s the most important thing: after six years playing nearly every major MMO release, I’ve grown a bit jaded. Those early days of excitement never seem to glow so bright and even so fade quicker than ever before. It is hard to reignite wonder in a player that spent so much time poring over systems and mechanics, comparing title after title after title. It’s a blogger’s curse. Maybe you can relate. I’m still in early days but this game has done it for me. For the first time in a long time, I’m wanting to stay up late and get up early to log on. That’s pretty neat.