January 24 2013
In recent years there seems to have been a revival of interest in sandbox-style MMORPG design - an approach that, with a few exceptions, has fallen out of favor with developers. XLGames of Korea is hoping to appeal to sandbox fans with their new online fantasy game ArcheAge, which features a large seamless world with deep economic components and territorial control.
The graphics engine being used for ArcheAge is Crytek's CryENGINE 3, and the visual results are first-rate. The artwork has a distinctly Asian influence and videos have already revealed some very impressive landscapes.
Although ArcheAge strives to be a sandbox, it has themepark elements as well, such as quests and instanced dungeons. Combat is also quite conventional, with tab targeting and the expected hotbars. It is certainly an ambitious project and it will be interesting to see if they can execute on everything they have planned.
Right now we know of four races that will be playable in ArcheAge: Nuian, Elf, Hariharan, and the cat-like Ferre. Each of these has unique racial abilities, and the word is that more races are planned for release.
Rather than traditional classes, ArcheAge provides players with a variety of skill trees which they choose from to build their character. At level 1 you select one of four skill trees, and more trees are unlocked as you level. Once reaching the level cap of 50, each character has 23 skills from 3 trees, including both active and passive skills. The system gives people considerable flexibility when it comes to shaping their character's combat abilities.
PvP is a big part of ArcheAge and will be available in a few different forms. So far the only safe zones are the starting areas, and it looks like the game will also have duels and battlegrounds. One of the three continents appears to be dedicated primarily to PvP-related activities such as building and sieging fortresses. The plan is to allow players to form their own factions and control territory on this continent.
The game will apparently have a legal system of sorts as well, although this still hasn't been fully implemented as far as I know. If you commit a "crime" (not sure exactly what that entails yet) you are put on trial with other players serving as a jury, and if found guilty you are sent to prison. Once jailed you can do your time, work to reduce your sentence, or try to escape.
A great deal of effort is being put into the crafting system in ArcheAge. Players will be able to build not only weapons and armour, but also vehicles, houses, and castles. Housing includes a plot of land on which crops can be grown. Unlike most games, ArcheAge requires you to transport resources to an appropriate crafting station before they can be used. This entails moving the resources in backpacks, which slow your character significantly, but can be facilitated with pack mules and other transport vehicles. Transport is vulnerable to attack, and you can't simply teleport resources from one location to another with no risk.
Only a handful of MMORPGs attempt to offer naval combat, but ArcheAge gives players the opportunity to both craft ships and take them into battle. Your vessel can be equipped with harpoons and cannons, and larger ships have positions for a crew of players. Ships are remarkably detailed and sails can be customized with your own insignias.
Beta testing of ArcheAge is currently underway in Korea, and they hope to bring the game to Western audiences sometime in 2013.