Tuesday, October 22, 2019

ArchAge Unchained

So I went in blind on the recent ArcheAge Unchained released. I know next to nothing about the game and never played its previous incarnation. In brief my thoughts on the game are simple: every time I sat down to write a blog post I ended up wandering away and doing something else. Needless to say, it's not made much of an impression.

That's not entirely fair, but it's close enough. I had to actually log in again real quick to figure out what level I had reached (28). So far the game has been as cookie cutter as one can get. Accept a quest from a NPC, walk 100 feet to kill or collect, walk back and turn in, get breadcrumb to next quest, repeat.

There are some storyline missions about people who find a magical door and become gods and then screw everything up. This is mostly told through cutscenes of static images with a Ken Burns effect applied. My own character's motivation seems to change on a whim, looking for revenge against man who killed the friends and family I don't recall every actually meeting. I learned that skimming the quest text is the more prudent option.

I'm also a bit disappointed graphics wise. The game looks quite bad for only being a couple of years old. The textures are PS3/Xbox 360 level and no amount of anti-aliasing seems to get rid of all the jaggies. At max settings the game never dips under 100 FPS and the view distance is quite good. Like most MMOs the UI doesn't scale for 4K displays and I'm forced to play in either cumbersome Fullscreen  mode or Windowed with too small to see UI elements. No matter what I do, I can't get the game to play on my 1080p monitor either.


As I'm playing, I'm struck by the fact that Rift looks just as good as this game. Maybe that won't hold up to a side-by-side comparison but I'm very underwhelmed by how ArcheAge looks on good hardware.

There's also a nasty sound bug. At some point in your gameplay session you will hear a loud pop and all game sound and music will go out until you restart the game. Turning your sound quality to the lowest seems to fix it, but now my character continuously makes the same grunt every 0.5 second I'm in combat. The music is odd but catchy. This has lead to me muting in game noise while keeping the game music on full volume. That's a new one for me.

Character skills are interesting enough. Character creation asks you to pick a starting skill tree, analogous to an individual talent tree or spec in World of Warcraft. By the time you are level 15 you'll have three trees you can pick skills and passives from. I think it works well and I've built a sword-and-board warrior who alternates between one-shotting mobs and killing them in less than 7 seconds. I don't recall ever having died.

One thing I appreciate is that your "filler" abilities don't need to be spammed like in most games. You simply hold the appropriate button down until you need to cast something else. Both my wrist and 'R' key are thankful.

I didn't take part in the land grab on Sunday. ArcheAge doesn't have instanced housing but simply allows you to grab materials and money and plop a house down in the overworld. It's a neat idea but so far there has been no in-game explanation of any of it. Or of crafting for that matter either. Or what the ArcheAge Pass even does. Or what any of the currencies mean either. I was able to figure out how to upgrade my equipment from a combination of trial and error and reading general chat. I still have no idea what most of the buttons on my (tiny) UI even do. To say the game is non intuitive is an understatement. Google searching for answers is also often not helpful. There just isn't very much info out there for ArcheAge and a lot of it is out of date or needlessly verbose. I'll get to experimenting eventually, but I've simply not been in an experimenting mood yet.

Apparently level 30 is when I'm whisked way from the comforts of the leveling zones to the warfields on forced world PVP. Needless to say I did not know about this when I bought the game. Perhaps it won't be a big deal and I can mostly level in peace. But it probably will just be a giant pain in the ass and will mark the end of the ArcheAge experiment. It's not 2004 and there's just no real need to stick with a game that's underperforming. I want to make an honest effort at the leveling cap, see what the big deal is with farming, and see if the game has anything else to surprise me with. But so far things aren't looking bright.

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