Double E3 Preview: ArcheAge, Defiance: Castithin

My very first interview of E3 — immediately as the conference opened, no less — was with Trion, the developers behind Rift and Defiance. They were showing off a DLC for Defiance and a new MMO titled ArcheAge, and while there were some unanswered questions for each, it was clear Trion wants to continue expanding in the MMO space. In fact, that was perhaps the most clear statement from the entire interview: Trion has no plans of slowing down.

ArcheAge

The first MMO Trion demoed was ArcheAge, a Korean-developed open-world game with an emphasis on player interaction. My initial impression was “EVE Online, but in a fantasy world,” and over the course of the demo, this impression was shown to be the one Trion wanted me to have.

ArcheAge is much like your standard fantasy fare: kill monsters, craft items, and so on. Where it differs, however, is in scope and endgame. The eventual goal that ArcheAge wants you to seek is traveling to the Land of Origin, a continent of rare resources and player-controlled territory. However, traveling there involves setting up a boat for the voyage, packing up resources to bring to the new home, and fighting off pirates on the way out.

For those interested in growing a character, the class system in ArcheAge functions much like the one in Rift: classes have soul trees, which grant them abilities and can be swapped around as needed. XP to gain levels in these souls is received by simply doing any task whatsoever. Chop a tree? Have some XP. Cart some wool to market? XP! Naturally, you can also kill monsters if you like.

The sense of economy and player involvement was the most emphasized aspect of ArcheAge, but it was paradoxically the least detailed. Despite going on about economies, player jobs, and player-built economies, there were very few mentions of specifics, with the only direct mention being hauling a pallet of logs around. It was also made clear that players can’t just mine and farm all day; there is a “labor” system, and once you run out of labor points, you are unable to continue your resource production until you gain more.

This tied into another area Trion played coy with: the business model. While the official statement was “We can’t comment on it at this time,” the addition of time compression (through the labor system) implies that ArcheAge will either be free-to-play or a one-time purchase (like Guild Wars). You don’t include such a system in a game without plans to use it, after all.

For those that have run out of wood to chop and fish to net, there’s the Land of Origin and the player battles contained therein. In order to reach it, all players must pass through an open PvP sea zone filled with pirates and other nasty criminals. One of these sea battles was shown briefly, but it was very confusing and had little in the way of a coherent objective. It’ll be interesting to see how Trion fleshes out the naval combat.

The aforementioned Land of Origin didn’t receive much in the way of details either. There were a few tantalizing generalities – players will be able to construct castles and towns and infrastructure in their territory, and rule over it like a feudal lord – but rare few specifics. No details on how they plan on governing territory or preventing player monopolies were given, and questions on player-run governments were turned away as well. It appears to be all about player involvement, but the scope of this involvement wasn’t mentioned much.

Finally, criminals are in a bit of a bad spot in ArcheAge. If you ever become a criminal, you are constrained to the criminal-only port town and are unable to make good with those you have wronged. once you get the label of pirate, you are done for. For a game that purports to focus on player combat, having no way for pirates and criminals to regain their reputation is a death knell to that side of combat. Who wants to be a pirate when it sticks you in the middle of nowhere?

As a whole, ArcheAge was interesting but unimpressive. It looked to be a combination of several other MMOs – specifically, Mabinogi and EVE Online – but the ideals from its seeming inspiration were lost amidst vague answers.

A fantasy-based EVE Online could be cool, but we need one that’s a little more forthcoming on the details.

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