Now that the blogging break is over (ie: back at work), it’s time to catch up on some reading and start posting regularly here. It’s amazing what a few days of inactivity does for your page views. While the past week was a break from blogging, it was certainly not a break from gaming, so hopefully this will be a good week of posting.
As mentioned earlier, I gave Atlantica Online (AO) a shot a few weeks ago, and continue to enjoy it. It’s a MASSIVE grind, and does very little to hide it. In fact, it’s almost refreshing in how honest the game is about it’s grind, in that you know exactly how far you have to go, and basically how long it will take. Which is to say, VERY long (unless you cheat and RMT yourself up, more on that later), but in a way that long grind represents an ever-present carrot, rather than different carrots springing up as you go. Your mileage may vary if that’s a good thing, but clear-set goals work for me.
By far my biggest surprise with AO is the PvP, in that it’s actually really good. It’s NOTHING like WAR’s RvR, but rather what would happen if you could pit your Final Fantasy party against your buddies party. Again, if that sounds awful to you, there ya go, but for me it’s entertaining. The PvP is a bit like chess, in that both sides have access to basically the same pieces, but it’s how you mix and match those pieces, and when you use them, that determines the winner. Of course facing a lvl 90 as a lvl 40 will get you creamed no matter how skilled you are, but a 50 can take a 60 with good skill/strategy. Since the combat is turn based (each side gets 30 seconds), it’s zero twitch, which again is a huge plus for me.
PvP can happen in a number of ways. The first and most common is Free League matches, which pop up every three hours, and consist of up to 8 fights. You start at rank 18 and work your way up, and your rank is determined by your win/loss record. Since you can start participating in Free League at any time, you sometimes see very high level players in the lower ranks, but they quickly rank up, and generally you end up fighting players near your level. As the fights are free, and you don’t lose anything, they are a great way to test out strategy or just overall improve your game.
My guild was part of a Nation (collection of guilds) and a rival Nation declared war on us. War in AO is ‘kind of a big deal’, because it means anyone from the rival Nation can attack you any place outside of a city, and not only do you lose gold/xp for dying (the normal penalty for death in PvE), you can also randomly lose one piece of gear. Since the loss is random, it could be a near worthless piece, or it could be your main characters prized weapon, making it a painful defeat. The overall point of war is for one Nation to cripple the other Nations capital city (guilds can own cities, which provide some very nice benefits), but the lead-up to the final battle to determine a winner is a week of open PvP, and anyone level 30 or above is fair game.
The strategy of such a war in AO is rather interesting. Since both Nations have lvl 90+ players, along with a slew of lower levels, the war itself becomes a game of cat and mouse. Players can only teleport around once every few minutes, and since battles can be quite lengthy, the enemy’s high level characters can only be in so many places at one time. As I had done a good amount of Free League PvP, I was able to take down anyone near my level (40ish), meaning if I ran across a 30-50 player, I would PK them and generally win. For me the war was very profitable, as I gained far more than I lost (most defeats came when said 90s would teleport and join the fight, leading to quick death), and overall I was low enough to avoid the heavily camped areas of the world. On the other hand, one of our guild mates got robbed blind during the war, as he was just high enough to enter camped areas, but not strong enough to put up a fight. Granted he was also rather dumb to continue returning to those areas, but in the end he lost a good amount of his gear and gained very little. Another important aspect of the war was where you attacked someone. If the fight starts right outside of a city, it’s very easy for the enemy to call in reinforcements. If however you get the jump on someone deep in a dungeon, or between towns, it’s possible to take them down and flee before the roving 90s hit. And then of course you can set traps, attacking one player, waiting for a 90 to show up, and have two 90s of your own jump into the fight and turn the tide. Since only three players can join in per side, it’s important to consider who joins and when. A second 90 is not likely to jump into a losing battle, since item loss at such a high level is extremely costly.
Our Nation ended up losing the war, as only a few guilds in the Nation actually put up a fight, and ultimately we decided to leave the Nation after a members vote. It’s not that we want to avoid war, as most of us had a lot of fun even in defeat, but it was discouraging to see so many of our Nation members refuse to help each other out for fear of item loss. We are currently reviewing our options for other Nations, but hopefully we jump back into the city control scene soon.
Finally, I just wanted to make a quick note about the RMT aspect of AO. Simply put, its garbage. Since you can basically buy XP and gold in the item shop, anyone with money to blow can quickly boost themselves to the upper levels of the game. Granted this causes you to miss most of the game, but when you involve PvP, it gets a bit silly. It appears however that the vast majority of the players don’t use the shop (or even know about it), and since the game is mostly about grind, I have a feeling skipping said grind would leave you with far less dollars and very little to actually do. It seems many players in AO are just there to fill time, and don’t find the game good enough to justify spending money. The fact that the item shop is far from cheap also contributes to this, as making purchases in AO quickly goes far above a monthly cost even for a small boost.
I personally think AO would be worthwhile at $5-$10 a month, as its entertaining enough to justify the cost, but not exactly a AAA MMO title. The overall game imo is marred by its inclusion of RMT, and constantly reminds me that AO is ‘yet another Korean MMO’ rather than a solid stand-alone product. Again, still very worthwhile to try out and play around with for free, but not something to really settle down with.