Instead of praising more of ArcheAge Unchained’s individual features, like the class- and and farmland-systems I talked about last time, I’d like to have a look at the greater picture today.
Not that there aren’t any more features I like. I could – and probably will at some point – rave about the trade system, means of travel, naval content, varied PvP- and PvE-options and lots of other stuff all day long. However, for me the game’s main draw isn’t any single one of those features. It’s what the sum of all that does: it gives me the feeling of my character inhabiting a living, breathing world instead of me ‘just’ playing a game.
Erenor isn’t just an amusement park where I enjoy the rides that I like until I’m bored (and/or sick in my stomach). It’s a virtual world.
I’ll try to explain why I feel this way by giving you an example of something as simple and – usually – boring as daily quests.
There is a set of five dailies given out by NPCs of the Blue Salt Brotherhood, the game’s cross-continent organisation of merchants, traders and crafters. These are very simple quests that involve no combat whatsoever and only require a small amount of resources on your part to begin. Back in ’14 I did these pretty much every day and I’ve started doing them again now.
Initially my main reason for doing them was that they award gilda stars, a currency needed for house deeds, ship designs, better gliders and so on. I continued running those quests long after I’d accumulated all the stars I needed though, because they were and still are just fun. Not the quests themselves, mind you, but the way they let me interact with and experience the game world.
To do all five quests you need to cover quite a distance because the objectives are pretty far apart. The game does have a teleport-system, and I see other players port from one point to the next all the time. Personally, I only make use of that option once, right after accepting the quests, and go everywhere else on horseback from there. Making my round is what I call it.
As usual, performing the necessary klicks to advance the quests happens pretty much on autopilot. It’s almost meditative. Traveling from point A to B to C though is always a little adventure in itself.
By now I know the general areas where wild trees and other plants grow. On my way I always check if any fully grown specimens are up. Finding a ready-to-fell ash tree, for example, makes me happy every time because that’s 13 to 14 free logs right there. Especially at the beginning one can never have enough lumber, and trees take up a lot of space on your farm, so finding wild ones always feels a little like hitting a jackpot to me.
Since we don’t have placed our little house and all of our farms yet I also keep my eyes open for free plots of land. Right now the chances to find anything bigger than 8×8 (by far the smallest size of property and not what we’re looking for anymore) are slim of course, but that situation is always shifting and changing, so you never know.
Sometimes, albeit rarely, I run into a player of the enemy faction. The ruleset of these regions, which are technically always at peace, is that ‘foreigners’ can’t attack anyone, but resident players can attack intruders, in which case the attacked is obviously allowed to fight back. Unless both parties have learned each other’s languages there’s no way to communicate, so I have to assess such a situation and decide quickly if I want to attack or not.
Why attack at all? you might ask. That player has done me no harm and might have a good, non-aggressive reason for being there. Yes, maybe. But they might just as well be on their way to camp one of the passages between a peaceful region and a contested one, killing lower level players who are trying to do their story-quests over and over again. I’ve seen that (and have been a victim of that too) more than once. So, yeah, as long as they aren’t much lower level than I they’re fair game when I see them.
Then there’s the traderuns that are happening all the time. I’ll go more into detail about those in another post, but suffice it to say that the roads are always packed with players carrying those heavy packs on their backs. Some just walk, many ride their donkeys, and by now more than a few have built their farm carts and use those to carry multiple packs at a time. This, too, makes the world feel more lived-in and, well, alive. Also, when a driver uses eco-friendly fuel and axle grease (I’m not kidding) those carts are relatively speedy, so sometimes, when I don’t feel like manually riding all the way I hop onto one as it’s passing by and hitchhike for a bit. Conversations between all involved ensue more often than not.
When I’ve finished my round and turned in all quests about half an hour has passed, sometimes a bit more depending on how much I got sidetracked. Due to all those things I’ve listed here – and probably some more I’ve forgotten – it doesn’t feel like having done some daily chores in the slightest. Sure, I’ve finished some predefined tasks and made some predictable progress, but first and foremost I’ve traveled the world, seized different opportunities, maybe even socialized for a bit (radical idea for an MMO, I know) or protected my homeland from invaders.
What’s not to like?