In a burst of ambition, I installed and played the Russian version of ArcheAge for a little while. You have to sign up for a Mail.ru account (which I guess is the Russian version of Google Mail) and then you can download it. At least you could over the weekend, I don’t know if it still works. I used these handy instructions: http://www.mmocast.com/featured/archeage-ru-account-registration-guide-english-patch/
Not being able to read or speak Russian hampers the experience a bit, but not as much as you might think. If you’re an MMO veteran you should be able to figure out which buttons to press. The only thing I wasn’t able to find was an invert mouse feature, which served to remind me again that I should strongly consider re-training myself not to need it. I play shooters and MMOs a whole lot more than I ever play flight simulators.
So about the game. It was … well … kind of disappointing. After the initial movie, which was pretty cool, the game’s graphics were not nearly as good as I expected. One of the things that attracted me to this game in the first place was the incredible screenshots I’d seen. In reality it looked a bit like Fallen Earth. Which is not a compliment.
However I should say that, to my eye, most Russian-style games look like Fallen Earth. They have a quality that is hard for me to define. They often look like they have no anti-aliasing, or that someone has sharpened the entire picture to an extreme. It’s as if they are intentionally trying to make the game look like it came from the days when 3D was done in software, before graphics cards. Perhaps they tweaked ArcheAge to look like that for its Russian audience.
I could forgive so-so graphics if the gameplay was really great. (Fallen Earth, for example, is kind of fun, if you like gaterhing and crafting.) But the ArcheAge gameplay was … ordinary. Of course I only played to level 2, so take that with a huge grain of salt. I played a spell-caster. I had one fire spell that worked exactly like you’d expect. Visually the casting animation looked a bit like the Loremaster in LotRO, that is, my guy looked like he was pitching a flaming baseball at his enemies.
(Interestingly, my spell-caster also had a bow and could shoot arrows right away. That was probably the most intriguing gameplay mechanic I saw in the first two levels.)
You start out standing in front of a quest-giver, just like every other MMO ever. Obviously I have no idea what he or she was saying, but you can just click the button to continue. Your first quest is to go to a second quest-giver, as I recall. Then you go kill some monsters wandering around nearby. Pretty much exactly like every WoW-clone ever. I killed some thingys and leveled up to 2, and then I logged out because I hate playing anything without invert mouse.
The world looks like it’s built in the same way as TERA and Aion. That is, it looks like a big world, but you’re actually just following a path from the start of the zone to the end of the zone, and you’re boxed in on either side by mountains or forests or whatever.
So after my first impressions, I can see why Trion isn’t rushing this game to market. Rift is a far better experience in the first two levels, and it’s free. Whatever strengths ArcheAge has are not at all apparent in the beginning. I think they’re going to need to bring out those strengths more if they want it to have any kind of mainstream appeal.
But having said all those negative things, I do want to play and explore ArcheAge some more. I wasn’t left wanting to rage-quit and un-install it. I was mostly left being frustrated that I couldn’t find an invert mouse feature. :) (I have seen mixed reports about whether it has one or not, but after clicking every single checkbox, I suspect it doesn’t.) Stay tuned to see if I get any farther.