I’ve come to realize that ArcheAge is a game I really enjoy and without a doubt plan to play for a long time to come. However, as with any other product, it invariably will not appeal to everyone. I’ve covered why I personally play and love the game, but what of the features that give me pause? What might keep others away? What should you, as a potential customer, know about it that might change your mind? Today we’ll look past the game’s glossy exterior and focus in on its sharpest shortcomings.
Burning the PvP Flag
As mentioned in The Errant Logbook: Adventure on ArcheAge’s High Seas, PvP in faction controlled territory (any zone designed for players below level 30) is nothing short of broken. In the current system, invaders are unable to attack except in self defense. Superficially, this sounds like exactly what you would expect from past MMOs, but it isn’t. It’s only “self” defense. Not faction defense. Not even group defense. Self defense. Until you, specifically, are attacked by an enemy, no action taken by them will allow you to attack them. This leads to situations where one highly leveled or geared character can demolish a raid one by one while their team mates are powerless to intercede. Worse yet, healing the aggressor will not result in a flag either, so that one individual can be backed up by a veritable army of healers you have no method of retaliating against.
Some have attempted to defend this system by saying that you have no reason to be in those zones, but this is a blatant falsehood; the final trade-quest (which I’ve written about here), of paramount importance due to it granting the large farm, requires players to transport a trade-pack into a zone with exactly this flagging system. This has turned the trade-run into a suicide mission, because no matter how many people you bring, they won’t be able to protect you.
The ramifications of the system extend beyond the quest as well. For players on the game’s western faction, this means they have exactly one trade port to drop off packs where they are allowed to defend themselves. When trade runs are changed to only reward gilda stars for intercontinental routes in the 1.0 patch, this system will leave western players with only one option to trade for gilda, and that option is already heavily camped. A change to this system would greatly increase the availability of intercontinental trade-locations, and this could only benefit the game.
Now this system is truly and universally recognized as being horrible, and as such, we do have confirmation from Trion that they are attempting to get a fix from XLGames. If we get it and what that will be remains to be seen. With 1.0’s deployment to the alpha server impending, let’s hope this fix arrives sooner, rather than later.
Crafted Gear and the Church of RNGesus
It’s expected in a Korean MMO that crafting will be a treacherous grind rife with RNG, and ArcheAge delivers on that expectation. Players are confronted by this early on as they struggle to craft their first sets of gear, but as it is the best gear in the game, they power through and come to accept it. What most of those players don’t yet know is that it gets much, much worse for late-game gear.
In the beginning, crafting is limited by costly materials and RNG-dependent quality rolls. Each piece of gear that you craft is required as a material for the next level of item, so to craft a level 24 chest piece, you first need a level 20 crafted chest piece (thankfully, crafted gear does not soulbind even after equipping it, so trading can help if you start late). As you ascend through the tiers, each upgrade becomes more and more costly. Each piece of gear that you craft has a chance to proc up to a better quality and can never proc down; if your level 20 chest piece is green, it can proc up to blue when you craft a 24 piece, but it won’t proc down to a white. It’s important at this point to note that ArcheAge has 12 tiers of quality, so there’s a long way to go for the top end equipment.
Most players come to terms with this system while leveling, and while its costs are burdensome, find they can deal with the level of RNG and grind offered so far. They have no idea what’s in store for them when they craft to level 44.
At 44 the rules change, resulting in a severe turn for the worse when attempting to craft one’s gear. At this point your gear can proc down in quality and you are no longer guaranteed the exact piece of gear you want; the stats remain unknown until you unwrap the completed item. Your hard-earned strength set could turn into spirit and intelligence gear, and from there, you have to start from scratch. Making matters worse, you only know how to craft one specific set, so unless you get lucky and get that set again, there is no way for that gear to be upgraded to 50 (where it once again procs random sets) and you have to start over, abandoning your extremely expensive and extremely useless crafted gear.
The kicker is that unlike the flagging system above, this is incredibly unlikely to change at all. Trion has very little power to change the game themselves, and for the most part, must request changes be made by XLGames. While an objectively bad flagging system is a prime candidate for such changes, a rework of the crafting system from a style favored in the company’s region is almost certainly off the table. The only good news I have is that crafting is not the only way to gear up in ArcheAge, and if we choose to use the slightly lower quality raid gear, I’m sure we won’t be alone.
I Hope You Like PvP
ArcheAge is primarily a PvP title, and while you can take great lengths to avoid a lot of it, PvP permeates almost every layer of the game. Trion has already confirmed that there will be no alternative ruleset servers, so if you were hoping for a PvE server, you’re out of luck.
I don’t actually consider this a shortcoming of the game, but it’s definitely a feature some players will be put off by. PvP is an integral part of ArcheAge‘s gameplay experience, and there really isn’t any way it could be removed without severely harming the game experience; if you absolutely cannot stomach being ganked, ArcheAge simply isn’t going to be the game for you.
We Aren’t Making Any More Land
Much has been made of the lack of farm space on the alpha server, particularly by those who were a bit late to join. Each housing area is packed to the brim with farms and housing, and new entrants find themselves tasked with the virtually impossible task of hunting down their own plot in the crowded world. Expiring plots are heavily camped when their timer is up, as competing players attempt to be the first to claim it for themselves.
That said, this problem has been hugely exacerbated by everyone on the server having patron status (allowing them to place land) and the recently revealed fact that the alpha server is operating at triple the expected population of a live server. I much prefer ArcheAge‘s open world housing to any of the instanced attempts seen in games like Wildstar, so as long as the available space can handle the population on a live server, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
See correction below.
Building is a Guild Effort – But There Isn’t a Guild Bank
In the past I’ve applauded the game for the way it encourage to guilds to come together to accomplish great things. Sure you can build a galleon on your own, but you really don’t want to; bringing the guild together for communal resource sharing and building has been one of my favorite parts of the game, and when this is so prevalent, why in hell is there not a guild bank?
My assumption is that this is meant to be handled through the game’s housing system. You can place chests in these with limited storage, and users with permissions (guild or family – a sort of mini-guild) can interact with the chests to obtain materials. While a passable alternative, this doesn’t offer the control that a formal guild bank with a transaction log and multiple permission levels would provide. Organized guilds will find this to be a large step backwards that is extremely limiting, as this will almost assuredly result in guild officers being required to join a family together. Alternatively, as ArcheAge is a free-to-play game, we may see guilds looking to mule accounts shared by their officers.
For me, the aforementioned issues are ones that I can work past. ArcheAge has a great deal to offer, so I continue to enjoy the game while staying outside of enemy controlled zones and avoiding crafting gear – the rest of the crafting system is perfectly fine, after all.
If you’ve read my Why I Play article, liked what you heard, and haven’t been put off by the above, then the odds are that ArcheAge is worth giving a shot. Nothing compares to hands-on experience, so if you don’t want to take the plunge, sign up for beta, cross your fingers, and hold on to your seat – you’re in for a hell of a ride.
Correction: Scapes has clarified that Trion was not referring to the population of the alpha server in comparison to a live server, but in comparison to their expectations of demand for alpha. While the exact population levels planned for live servers remain undetermined, they are likely to be “similar to what you’re experiencing in Alpha”. [Source]