AA: The true spiritual successor to UO

With the lead weight that is Trion and F2P covered yesterday, let’s start digging into WHY you should tolerate Trion and play ArcheAge anyway, because yea, you should be if you enjoy virtual worlds and smart MMO design.

I always go back to this point, but for me the perfect MMO is basically a great RPG game that doesn’t end and greatly benefits from the fact that you are playing with others. It’s because of this that I inherently dislike themeparks over virtual worlds; a themepark MMO has an end, and it also has a preset path you travel along to reach that end.

When this is done well you get quality themeparks like 2005 WoW or FFXIV, which can be very entertaining but ultimately not hit the highs of a great virtual world. Nothing a themepark can do will ever top the best moments in games like UO or EVE for me; by design they simply aren’t capable of such highs, and so themeparks in general are a ‘waste’ of MMO development time compared to crafting virtual worlds.

To call ArcheAge a ‘sandpark’ is selling the game short, or getting an EG-level of experience with the title and claiming you ‘get it’. One flaw AA has is that its first 15-20 levels, which in retrospect are basically an overly long and probably unnecessary tutorial, are classic themepark questing gameplay, and if you don’t know better you might think that is actually a major part of what AA is about. But it’s not, not at all really. It would be like saying mission running in EVE is a major focus of the game, with the other bits being side activities, and hence EVE is a ‘sandpark’.

The truth is that AA is very much a virtual world, and it is indeed a modern-day version of UO. Where UO had very rough “bring the NPC here” ‘quests’, AA has all the questing mechanics and systems of today’s MMOs covered. Where UO had basic crafting, AA has crafting depth deeper than most titles in the genre, and crafting that isn’t a tacked-on mini-game but rather a core feature. Where UO had effective yet simplified combat, AA has all the lessons learned about modern tab-target combat included. Where UO had basic but open character building, AA has a very refined skill-tree setup, with a good mix of options and tradeoffs. Where UO had a large but somewhat unrefined world, AA has a ‘zones without actually being zones’ world, one that feels open yet at the same time organized, focused, and interesting.

Some or all of those points might be covered in future posts, but that’s AA in a nutshell; a virtual world MMORPG the feels like it was made in 2014, with 17 or so years of MMO lessons learned under it.

AA also feels like an MMO made by someone who has actually played an MMO before. For instance, players start with the ability to recall, which works just like it does in most MMOs; use the ability, and you get sent back to your bind spot for free. Simple yet useful. But AA also gives you a teleport book, which has all of your discovered teleport spots, along with a tab for your personal locations (such as your house). To teleport, you must have a craftable item in your inventory, and rather than moving you to the spot, a portal opens. If you jump through the portal, you teleport. Simple again, right?

Only if you have been paying attention to the genre, your first thought should be “someone is going to open a portal in the starting area to a death trap and grief new players”, or “someone is going to use portals to make PvP a complete cluster”. And if AA was made by someone who had never played an MMO, like say SOE or Trion, portals wouldn’t require you to JUMP through them rather than WALK through them. But XLGames made AA, and clearly at least one person there has played an MMO, and so they added that little yet critical tweak to something as basic as moving around.

Plus if SOE or Trion were in charge, not only would the game have gone live with the grief portals, but then the fix those clowncars would have added would be to make portals only work for the player who summoned them, killing another awesome feature that AA has going for it; being able to open a portal for your whole guild/group, and regardless of level or if someone has that location or not, everyone being able to travel together without the usual hassle and, wait for it, play together in an MMO. Mindblowing! And this is just one of many examples of AA feeling like a ‘next gen’ MMO, rather than telling us it is in some manifesto and delivering yet another generic and completely forgettable themepark experience. A title that has learned from previous MMOs and feels like it has actually been designed to not neuter, limit, or ‘make everything accessible’, but just solve the previous issues or flaws while still retaining what made the original ideas so great in the first place.

Speaking of feel, AA has that feel of playing to progress forward, without ‘forward’ being some developer-defined thing like a level cap, or a certain item level, or clearing a certain tier of raiding. It feels similar to playing EVE, that feel of always need more ISK, but not needing to always do the most ISK-effective activity just because the game or the devs laid out the path that way for you. I might not have a clear plan for the eggs I gather from the chickens on a farm, but damnit, gathering those eggs IS progress, however big or small it might be. And if a day comes where I can’t stand the thought of gathering another egg, or watering another plant, I can stop doing that completely and, so long as I have another income stream, never be forced to do that activity ever again while still being able to progress forward.

That is sadly the all-too-rare ‘feel’ of a sandbox, the ability to progress forward in a number of different ways, without any one way being the ‘right’ or the ‘required’ way.

Finally, don’t believe the lies and misinformation spread by some, because while AA certainly has a good amount of PvP-focus to it, it is even more limited than EVE in just how open that PvP is. Should you choose so, you can avoid PvP completely and still quest, farm, trade, and progress. Up to level 30 all questing zones are protected (you can attack enemy players and flag yourself, but they can’t attack you), and within those zones you can set up a house or a farm, complete trade runs, harvest, fish, etc. Even further zones change from allowing PvP to not, so a trade route, house, or farm placed in one of those zones could still be tended by someone looking to avoid PvP so long as they enter when the zone is safe (which is visible from the world map).

Your risk vs reward ratio won’t be the same as someone who does head into more dangerous territory, but AA is far from the fully FFA PvP experience of games such as Darkfall or Mortal Online. As stated above, this is yet another example of the game clearly learning from previous games, and rather than taking the easy or limited route, there exists a nicely working balance that caters to many different types of players.

Ultimately I believe AA is worth your time if you are looking for a solid virtual world experience. It’s not without flaws, certainly, but especially in a genre with such slim pickings, it’s easily one of the better-crafted experiences outside of New Eden.


About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in ArcheAge, Combat Systems, crafting, MMO design, PvP, Review, Ultima Online. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to AA: The true spiritual successor to UO

  1. Pingback: September in Review | The Ancient Gaming Noob

  2. Pingback: September in Review | The Ancient Gaming Noob

  3. Mobs says:

    Welp that was the first and last entry I have ever read in Tobold’s blog. I know everything I need to know now. What a whiner.

  4. kalex716 says:

    Nice writeup. Consider me interested.

  5. silvertemplar says:

    On a note of PvP and avoiding it, yes it is true, but there are this one little quest, the one very important one that gives you a bigger farm that sends you across the ocean to the enemy continent…you get this quest at like lvl 15 or so.

    Let’s just say, what a rude awakening that trip was. I loved the dangers of the ocean travels, Assasin’s Creed:Black Flag got nothing on this . It actually felt “real” sailing into a harbor at full speed with 3 clippers on your tail and doing a suicide dive for the trader only to be knocked out by a group of stealthed players waiting on the harbor for your slow arse to deliver that trade pack. So while i did manage to finish this quest, i think alot of players are gonna stumble their way (and most are going to try cross the ocean in a rowboat , they are in for a much bigger surprise).

    Anyway, it’s rare where i felt the world is alive and players PvP’ing in the open for an actual reason. Yes, the players are camping the harbors right now and setting up fleet blockades to get their hands on the trade goods that you are carrying… it’s something i would imagine happened in the real world . Players aren’t just camping there to PvP, (well some are), but most are there because it’s profitable.

    So yea, fun times , especially when it comes to trade runs.

    • silvertemplar says:

      Just correction, meant to say it’s a rare feeling in MMOs where the world feels alive based on player activity. AA feels very “real” and it’s clear alot of things are set up to make PvP / War / player behaviour have a purpose other than just zerging and ganking for tokens.

    • SynCaine says:

      I actually just recently did that quest, but if anything its just another example of XLGames learning from the past. In past MMOs, the reward would be something only from that quest, which would lead to somewhat more legit complaints about ‘force’ PvP. AA its a good reward, but not something you can’t earn doing something else if you absolutely refuse to put yourself in danger.

      I’ll have more on the whole trade route mechanic at some point soon, because it really is so brilliant on so many different levels.

  6. zaphod6502 says:

    Sigh yet another nonsensical blog post from Tobold. He hasn’t played ArcheAge and yet he feels the necessity to comment on it and be factually wrong about almost every point he mentioned in the post.

    The Tobold post positively oozes “troll”. AA was clearly marketed as a PvP sandbox and that is exactly what we got. I don’t even know why he comments on MMO’s anymore since he basically had a big hissy fit and turned to tabletop gaming.

    Syncaine please don’t link to his crap anymore.

    • jk says:

      Well it didn’t work. WordPress is embedding the playlist instead of an actual video I wanted to post. Look for ‘Archeage – Murder On The High Seas’ on youtube. Sync – sorry about the double postings, just delete.

      • SynCaine says:

        Deleting the other posts broke the nesting, but as the video is called Murder on the High Seas, I’m guessing it was boat combat? That happens in the PvP zone, which you can enter by choice. How does that help to disprove someone crying about “every activity that I am interested in can be spoiled by somebody”?

  7. carson63000 says:

    When you say “AA has all the lessons learned about modern tab-target combat included” .. what are the high points of AA combat for you?

    I haven’t played much – I certainly didn’t complete the “15-20 level tutorial” – but from the early levels, I have to say, I have only played one game where I found the tab-target combat _less_ enjoyable, and that was EQ2.

    I found it particularly unresponsive and sensitive to lag – indeed, my first thought was “huh, they STILL haven’t learned what WoW learned about latency and cooldowns and “soft” queueing nine years ago!”

    And while I’m sure the abilities get more interesting at higher levels, they certainly didn’t throw anything interesting at me in the first half dozen hours of gameplay.

    So what happens later on? What are the high points?

    • SynCaine says:

      Just quickly (details in a future post); the combo system + the pick 3 system working together, the armor/weap system working with the pick 3 system, the pre-built ‘nerf’ of CC for PvP, the counter-CC options, etc.

  8. sid6.7 says:

    I have to say, I find the whole AA 180 degree turn-around to be a bit nauseating. It’s like you went from “game is trash” to “game is UO successor!” practically overnight. The most recent posts remind me of the your “Rift” posts when you fell in love with that game.

    I get it, though. You are just emphatic and excited about your new MMO. We’ve all been there and your fellow cynics like myself will be waiting to welcome you back with open arms in a couple of months. :)

    Enjoy it while it lasts….

    • SynCaine says:

      “Game is trash”, are you basing that off a satirical 30 min ‘preview’ post, or something else?

      Speaking of Rift though, lets hope and pray Trion isn’t allowed to do to AA what they did to Rift in beta and then with 1.2. They do have a precedent of taking a very solid game and trashing it, as has been documented here.

      • Mobs says:

        Trion has absolutely no hands in the code. They can simply make a request from XL and XL then decides yes or no. For instance trion initially pursued even more generous labor point regen and XL flat out said no. Trion is simple the caretakers and producers of the us version. XL will make slight tweaks to westernize it but I wouldn’t expect to see any major differences in gameplay. They seem very hardcore to their version. The creator is jay song, who created lineage . That dude does what he wants despite everyone’s input.

      • sid6.7 says:

        Click on your AA tag and start reading the first paragraph of every post starting with “Dear Trion”… The change from cyncism to fan-boism is what I’m remarking on as a little obnoxious.

        But fear not, I have faith that within a few months you’ll return to the ranks of the cynical once again! :)

        • SynCaine says:

          I just did, and again, other than the 30 min satire post, what are you reading that I’m not. Feel free to provide quotes.

        • sid6.7 says:

          Let’s not make mountains out of snarky casual observations… But seriously, I’m not going to re-read all the posts to pull out quotes.

          The way it reads is stark cynicism beginning with criticism about the beta process, the snippy snap judgement, then a whole I’m 50/50 post, and eventually the ‘this is the spiritual successor to UO’ which (from you) reads as extremely high praise.

          You obviously see it as an evolving opinion. I read a bit differently to me. Ultimately, they are your words, so you would know what you intended better than I.

        • Trego says:

          This has nothing to do with consistency–inconsistency would be playing the same game over time, learning to appreciate it/getting bored with it, and changing one’s opinion. Differing posts as one levels up in an MMO/continues to play through different expansions is no different than having differing opinions about WC1/WC2/WC3. They are different games. It is perfectly normal to have differing opinions about different games.

    • John says:

      @Sid also don’t forget the magnificent ESO :). Now about the article, yes you can avoid pvp but in what cost? Is like saying that you can avoid raiding in wow..

  9. maljjin says:

    From you description, I can see the appeal of AA. It still doesn’t convince me to play, but that’s just me getting old and trying to make peace with the fact that I don’t have enough time anymore to properly invest in a MMO. Keep us posted of your progress. I’m glad to know that people are enjoying a new game and that hopefully it can last more than 3 months.

    • silvertemplar says:

      The funny thing is, the Labor Points system is both a blessing and a curse. It has a bit of an EVE effect (the skills training) in terms of how much time you end up spending in the game as opposed to just waiting it out offline.

      If you are patron and you got the offline LP regen, you know what? If i hit 0 LP and find myself unable to mine/harvest/farm/do mostly anything other than quest+pvp , i log off and let the points regen and i still feel i’m making progress.

      So my time is also limited and i’ve found AA to be aiding in managing my time and forcing me to log off or idle as opposed to actively grinding stuff like a korean.

      I’m not sure if that was the intend of the developer, but hey, i’m happy to have this kind of “restriction” on how much i can squeeze out of the game in a single day.

      • silvertemplar says:

        It is also kinda amusing to also note that most players will ALSO have this issue with LP running out. So when you get to a quarry (where you mine ore) and see a ton of players camping the place for node spawns…guess what? You can literally count the minutes down before they run out of LP and can no longer mine. Giving you a opportunity to mine too, until you run out of LP and leave too….

        …it kinda just works , a small mining area that can serve a ton of players without any being able to truly “farm” the mine, no one can, you need way more LP to do this non-stop, even with that pot it will only extend your spawn-camping time by a few minutes.

        • SynCaine says:

          Its also a nice limiter on bots, which is especially important as Trion seems clueless on that problem as well. Visit any training dummy area and you will see plenty of people just building up LP, yet somehow no one at Trion knows this and sends a GM over to hand out temp-bans.

  10. Trippin Ninja says:

    After a short beta experience I wasn’t really feeling this game. But after reading more about it I jumped in as F2P last Friday and then ended up subbing on Sunday. The hooks are set pretty deep on this one now, I’m really enjoying it.

    I chain ran the first dungeon with two randoms last night and ended up with two great people on my friends list. And we found each other the old school way, standing outside the entrance. This game is such a great blend of old and new mechanics and it just works.

    I’m at the large farm trade run now and scared to death of making the run but the need for that large farm is going to force my hand. Gonna look into merc escort costs and maybe just row my ass over there without a pack first for a recon mission over the next few days. To me that sounds a hell of a lot cooler than doing some dailies in a theme park.

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