Here is a review from Cody 'Neramaar' Hargreaves for the game ArchLord.
As the free-to-play MMORPG scene continues to grow, it seems that more and more pay-to-play iterations are following the trend, and allowing players to access their games for free. They of course generate revenue instead from offering players the ability to purchase ‘special’ items for real money once in-game, and at their prerogative. In simpler terms, life has never been better in the world of F2P MMOs, and if past trends are anything to go by, it’s only going to get better.
The Illusion of Variety
In the case of Archlord alone the decision to alter the payment model has increased the player base by several hundred percent, thus increasing the revenue gain and allowing for their now third expansion ‘Spirits Awakening’ that not only addressed many of the balance issues regarding certain items, but increased the size of the world significantly by adding new zones for players to discover.
Unfortunately the decision to alter the payment model has had zero effect on the style of the game itself, and when compared to the large selection of other free-to-play MMOs available Archlord seems to fall slightly short of the mark. The character creation elements are quite good, and offer at least the illusion of variety. Three races – Human, Orc and Moon Elf – are available, and each offer their own individually named and themed classes. Choosing to play as a Human offers choice between the Knight, Archer and Mage class archetypes. Orc offers Berserker, Hunter, and Sorcerer, and Moon Elf Ranger and Elementalist.
The ‘illusion’ of variety I mentioned above refers to the likeness of these classes to one another – and while each does present its own subtle differences – the difference between the Human Archer and Orc Hunter classes for example, really is quite small in terms of playstyle and gameplay. The remaining elements of character customization are quite limited, mainly due to the inability to choose gender, and the limited face and hair customizations. While not potentially game-breaking as such, not allowing players the ability to play as a male Moon Elf or female Human Archer does limit player choice more than it perhaps should.
Tried and True
Assuming that the majority of their player base is experienced with the generic MMORPG play style, Archlord has opted to abandon the often mundane tutorial system and instead offer players a more ‘instant action’ style of play. Players begin with a rude awakening in a town specific to their chosen race, and learn to play through a series of quests that introduce the combat and collection styled gameplay. Having previously played any other MMORPG available on the market will almost guarantee success in the earlier levels of Archlord as the gameplay does little to deviate from the standard path. The ‘Fed-Ex’ nature of the quests and ‘Click-to-Kill’ combat system is used in excess here, and outside of the excessive use of potions, combat requires little else other than clicking the mouse until players have learned their first skills.
Skills are obtained via the use of ‘Skill Points’ that are acquired through killing enemies, and as such it soon becomes clears that a certain level of grinding persistence is required in order to move into the higher levels of the game. Once obtaining new skills players simply assign them to the standard 1-9 hotkeys, and press to execute. Again, the ‘tried and true’ MMORPG recipe is predominant here, and while this may be considered a bother to some, others more conditioned to the style believe that it is the only way to play.
Archlord offers little deviation from this path in the remaining PvE elements of the game, with the abysmal movement system playing as the only real negative of mention. Both the ‘click-to-move’ and ‘WASD’ movement styles are offered, although neither of them function particularly well, with the ‘WASD’ option earning special mention with its awkward and often laggy inclusion detracting much from the overall playing experience.
A Sight to Behold
As with most games offering a ‘cloned’ experience, Archlord has taken many elements from existing MMORPG games, and applied to them a shiny new coat of paint. This particular coat of paint appears to have been colored awesome, and is my opinion is one of the key elements that define Archlord as a whole. The graphics truly are sensational and while the world offers little in the way of an interesting environment, the character models and equipment are some of the best I’ve ever seen.
Not only are the textures themselves polished to a mirror sheen, but the animations add tremendously to the overall effect giving each player a certain uniqueness and individual style. One implementation that caught my eye in particular involved another player’s character leaning his arm on his sword as he stood waiting in town. A small implantation no doubt, but one that I will no doubt remember for some time to come. Many other class and equipment choices have a similar effect on a characters posture, and similarly add much to the overall game immersion. Aside form the inability to select a resolution, the graphics in Archlord are sure to dazzle most that try it, and should be remembered as some of the best in the genre.
Simple Yet Effective
Of course, when it really comes down to it the main source of inspiration behind any grind-based MMO is the PvP, and fortunately, it’s in this department that Archlord shows its true colors. Aside from the Lineage 2 themed kill on sight involving similar penalties (i.e. you are allowed to kill other players on sight; however doing so without reason will see you accumulate rogue points and eventually ban your access to towns) players will be able to fight for the title of ‘Archlord’ giving them almost infinite powers.
There Can Be Only One
There can only be one Archlord at any one time however, and the fight for the title may very well be the most competitive one in history. Players will be required to compete against one another through a series of challenges with the victor gaining the right to challenge the Archlord to a duel for the title. This can only happen once every 21 days, although the inherited bonuses and abilities given to the Archlord are more than worthy of the effort required to obtain them. Alongside the more trivial abilities such as control over the day/night cycle and the weather, the Archlord is able to announce server wide messages, obtains a giant flying dragon as a mount, three permanent bodyguards and an entourage of monsters to fight by their side. The ability to control the taxes, and even summon meteor showers, are also worthy of mention.
As you can clearly see, the sole reason for playing Archlord revolves around the fight to become the Archlord, and the powers that are available to the brave few who succeed. This particular system became so popular that newer games like Ace Online and RF Online both have similar systems.
Final Verdict: Good
The unique inclusion of allowing a player the opportunity to become the ‘all-powerful’ Archlord and the fantastic graphical inspiration make it easy to recommend Archlord to PvP enthusiasts, however the limited PvE variety and lacking gameplay elements will deter almost anyone else from fully enjoying Archlord long enough to see any of the included potential.
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