A virtual world – ArcheAge Unchained

ArcheAge_VW1

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.

ArcheAge_VW2
I…think they’re trying to tell me something

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.

ArcheAge_VW6
Expert, highly accurate drawing of my route

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.

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A hornbeam doesn’t yield quite as much, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth

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.

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Real estate prices have skyrocketed lately in these here parts

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.

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Hello. I’m Peter. Where’re you from…originally?

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?

6 Replies to “A virtual world – ArcheAge Unchained”

  1. TBH, I’m already a bit bored with the game and didn’t bother to log in over the weekend. Still and all, since it’s the B2P thing it’ll always be there should I decide to log in again.

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    1. Arg, hit “Post” without finishing my thought…. hate it when I do that.

      I’m “older” with 4 kids, though only 1 at home anymore. Even so, I generally like to be able to log in to a game and “do a ride” in a themepark anymore, I guess. I used to love the games that were more a virtual world with lots of downtime, but anymore….. I’m more of a “log in to Warframe, do 3 missions in 15-20 minutes, call it a night of gaming” and get out. I used to love FFXIV, but canceled sub over a year ago for nearly a year. Re-subbed for the expansion… and still haven’t even bothered to finish the storyline of the expansion yet — haven’t logged in since July. Should really cancel that sub, frankly….

      So anyway, I’m glad you love the world aspect of it, but for me that’s just boring anymore. Add in that I’ve never enjoyed open-world always-on pvp in any game (especially when in a game like this there’s no penalty if you lose other than a trip to a nearby shrine making it completely pointless AFAIC), and….. I don’t think AAU is going to hold my attention much longer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fair enough. I’ve always been a sandbox kind of guy. 🙂

        That being said, I definitely intend to log into Warframe once or twice this week, there’s a Halloween alert chain to play after all.

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  2. It’s odd to read your account of ArcheAge. I wrote more than a dozen posts on the game in the brief time I played and i just went back to check a few of them. I played the thing as pretty much a straight quest-hub and leveling diku-MUD style MMORPG. The sandbox parts I was aware of because I read several other blogger’s tales about them but it seemed almost like a different game.

    I wonder what the F2P version is like now? Is it a ghost town like The Secret World? Have most people moved to the B2P? Or were people too invested? There’s a whole post to be done here, now I think of it, about these MMOs that don’t spawn sequels but just split themselves like amoebas.

    Maybe I’ll find my old login details and take a look one of these days. I bet my character’s still there…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good question, I really have no idea how many people are playing the F2P version now that Unchained has launched, nor if many were still playing before.

      Since the most punishing RNG systems have been taken out a while ago I would assume that even that version of the game should be quite playable now – if you’re ok with the fact that the subscription is mandatory if you’d like to own any land, that is.

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