Level 20 Report (cross posting at Wanderers):
I was out for a week on vacation so it's been taking me a little bit of time to get back in the gaming groove. Finally made it back to Archeage and am still finding it enjoyable. It's kind of interesting because I can't say there's any particular feature or specific novelty that keeps me coming back. Pretty much everything in the game I've seen so far (admittedly a limited portion) I've seen somewhere else. But the good news is that for whatever reason, the sum of all the parts seems to provide a very enjoyable experience. This is one of the first MMOs I've played in a long time that really feels like a living, vibrant, populated world with real people, real choices to be made and real consequences to your actions. Is it all an illusion? Possibly, but at least the illusion exists in a form that sets the game apart from many of its competitors.
The basic gameplay is, as noted, pretty old school. Fairly standard questing moves you from location to location, with mob packs littered around every nook and cranny. If you are into varied and intricate subquests, you probably will be disappointed. These quests are pretty simple and generic and seem meant mostly to get you to explore and kill things. What's different from other games are the subtle things going on. Everywhere you go you'll see areas where people have planted crops, generally someone will be tending to their spot or you'll find scarecrows. Every town there are small crafting areas where people will be gathered. You'll see boats, large and small, coming in and out of water areas. You'll see horses, gliders and large carriages, and occasionally people carrying giant boxes on their backs. In the main chat there seems to always be something going on in the justice channel, where trials are held with judges and juries. I have no idea how one becomes involved in that system, but it adds to that whole "real world with consequences" sense. From what I've seen, the penalties are generally time in "prison" for a certain number of minutes, I honestly don't know how that is implemented. There are also occasional messages of a region going into conflict or war, which I suspect will be more meaningful to me at higher levels.
I think my favorite part of the game is the class/character system. You really get to make what feels like significant choices/compromises to tailor the character build to your liking, but at the same time, nothing is set in stone so you can revamp the choices if you so desire. You get a total of 23 skill points to spend by level 50 in 3 skillsets. Each skillset has a total of 10 active and 5 passive skills so that's 45 total choices, meaning for any given build you can only access approximately half of the total, and that even someone with the exact same 3 subsets will likely have a different loadout than yours. The passives require a certain number of points invested in the skillset in order to gain access to the higher level ones. It's totally up to you on whether to specialize in a single skillset or to synergize creating a hybrid between the 3. What you end up with will likely vary depending on whether you are PvE or PvP oriented, support or damage or tanking, etc. With 10 different skillsets to choose from, clearly there is a ton of variation to be had. Even at my relatively low level, when I'm out questing I don't ever feel or see another player doing things the same way I do. I like to pull with a freeze damage spell which gives me time to shoot a fireball. I then switch to a couple of instant arrow skills, at which point I can either finish the mob off in melee or snare and kite him, plus heal myself with an insta-HoT in between. I just added a pbaoe slow/dmg to my arsenal last night, as well as a passive that increases my spell range. My other choices were an aoe trap and aoe heal, so it was definitely a tough choice for me. Definitely plenty to obsess about if you're into that sort of thing :-)
This being a Korean-originated game, you can certainly see the mix of Asian influences with non-Asian sensibilities. The old style grinding of mobs is pretty much gone in favor of questing, yet there are always plenty of mobs spawning so those inclined to do a little old school farming can still do so. Like many of the newer Asian games, you are rewarded in xp for pretty much everything you do (even opening some loot bags gives a tiny bit of xp), but somehow it doesn't feel excessive the way it does in some F2P games I've tried. All in all I'm really enjoying the game more so than any of the last few I've tried (Wildstar, ESO, a couple other F2P games). Whether that feeling continues remains to be seen, as I (hopefully) head further into the real "meat" of the game. I think with an organized and dedicated guild this game could be a lot of fun, as it really seems to be converging into sandbox territory without giving up a lot of traditional MMORPG aspects. We'll see, I hope to be back to report in another 10 levels or so.