Instead of playing the tired good news or bad news first game I’ll try a different format today: first some good news, then a bit of bad news, then more good news. How about that?
So here’s some good news: ArcheAge Unchained launched last Tuesday as planned. That is, as planned after it had been delayed from September 30th to October 15th. The EU servers were slated to go live at 10AM UTC, which they did.
The bad news is that it hasn’t been a smooth launch. Not even close. Long queues, disconnects (followed by more queues) for many people, character creation being locked on the busiest servers meaning folks couldn’t join their friends who had preordered, and some weird bugs were also thrown in for good measure.
Despite all that our own experience wasn’t too bad though. I was at home early all week, so I could easily log in before the queues were getting serious and also queue up Lakisa’s account half an hour before she came home. We had no disconnects and just one client crash as of yet, so once we were in we could usually play all evening.
Our biggest issue was Lakisa not receiving the ingame mail containing her preorder-pack goodies, which for some weird reason is directly tied to unlocking an account’s labor point regeneration. There’s a whole lot of things you just cannot do without labor points in this game, so that was a problem. Quite a lot of people were affected, and it took Gamigo and/or XL Games two days to cook up a solution. At the time of this writing there has been no announcement regarding any kind of compensation for the ~5k labor affected accounts lost due to this.
But enough about that stuff, because honestly, I’d rather have queues and hiccups for a while than Gamigo opening too many servers. The last thing anyone wants – or that I want at least – in a game with open world housing are server merges every few months.
So back to good news. Everything we really liked about the game back in ’14 is still here, while most of the annoying and outright shitty stuff seems to have been changed or taken out completely. I’ll get to all that, but for now I’d like to focus on what it feels like to play the game right now, while there’s so many people around, because for us that’s one of the biggest differences compared to our first go.
In the early zones the huge number of players has the same effect it would have in any other MMORPG: people have to fight over quest-mobs and -objectives. It hasn’t been much of a hindrance for us though. Respawns are quick, and overall folks have proven to be willing to work together. I throw a group invite at every player who is obviously doing the same quests as we are, and most of them gladly accept it. I know that not everybody likes being invited by random strangers, but in this case I feel it’s the polite thing to do as the two of us are usually able to tag any mob before a lone player can.
Once a character gets to around level 30 (which happens blazingly fast these days) the whole game changes though. At that point the main quest has all players venture into contested regions, where PvP is enabled most of the time. To clarify, players of both factions have to quest in the same regions, all the way from level 30 to 55.
Five years ago, whenever such an area wasn’t at peace and there wasn’t an event going on either you’d hardly see another soul. Now? It’s blood and thunder, all day long.
I know that the last two paragraphs alone would make 90% of commenters over at Massively OP wrinkle their noses in contempt, mutter something about ‘damn gankboxes’ and stop reading right now.
If you’re still here, good for you, because you’re in for a pretty great time.
The thing is, there’s so many players of both sides around right now that fights are going on constantly, but you don’t necessarily have to be a part of it. If you just steer cleer of the skirmishes you’re generally ignored. And even if you are attacked by ‘reds’ you can be almost certain that some ‘greens’ will show up and give you a helping hand. Of course it totally does happen that you get slaughtered mercilessly by a whole gang faster than you can even react, but death penalties are very light and respawn points usually not too far away. It can be frustrating from time to time, yes, but if you like PvP at all it’s a hoot more often than not. Jumping into an ongoing fight and tipping the scales in our side’s favour at the last minute feels great every time, and even when we lose it mostly feels like a good fight being lost, not like being ganked.
This abundance of fights also makes the rules these contested regions operate under shine. There’s three states they can be in: war, peace and conflict.
During war PvP is obviously enabled and even encouraged by an honor point boost, which is a currency you mainly gain by killing enemy players. The state of war lasts for about an hour and is always followed by a peace period lasting somewhere in the ballpark of 90 minutes. During that time you can safely traverse the region knowing that other players cannot attack you under any circumstances. After that the area falls into conflict, a state where PvP is enabled again. The tricky thing here is that there are six stages of conflict that need to be played out until the region goes to war again, and to advance to the next stage a certain amount of player kills or a large number of PvE kills have to happen.
This means that if there was hardly any fighting going on a region might stay in conflict for a pretty long time, so if you were planning to sit it out and only go there during peace you may well be in for a long wait. Right now though, with all the killing, I’ve seen regions go from peace to conflict to war again within five to ten minutes, which means that for every ~70 minutes of combined PvP-time you have ~90 minutes of peace. The game’s side-quests are also pretty lenient regarding the level you do them at, so you can absolutely jump back and forth between regions to ensure that they’re in the state you want them in while you’re questing.
The bottom line of this is that PvP oriented players get all the action they crave, questing exclusively during peace-time is also an option, and if you, like us, prefer a healthy middle ground you can have that too.
Like I said there’s more stuff to talk about, but this is already getting long, so I’ll save that for next time.