Lost Continent: Is it worth returning to ArcheAge?

Lost Continent - ArcheAge Adventures

Last time out I said some pretty mean things about ArcheAge. And let’s face it: The game earned every one of them. It’s inarguably pay-to-win, the comically intrusive cash shop is the bane of both immersion and economy-based sandbox play, and Trion made a lot of anti-consumer decisions in 2014 (hello “normalization,” Auroria launch, and so on and so forth).

Regardless, I’m back in ArcheAge because the rest of the MMO space sucks worse if you crave non-linear virtual worlds.

ArcheAge aquafarm

Meet the new ArcheAge, same as the old ArcheAge

It didn’t take long for the ghost of ArcheAge past to materialize and have a chuckle at my expense, as the “gods disconnected me” within five minutes of my logging in last Saturday. I headed to the forums to see whether it was just me, and nope, it sure wasn’t! Players from every server were checking in to say they’d been DC’d and to gossip about whether or not this was yet another DDoS attack on poor ol’ Trion.

But as I’ll explain, that’s OK — at least for me and at least for now. The servers rezzed a little later, and I got back in the groove with some fishing, some boating, and plenty of aqua-farming beneath my house in that stiltsville shantytown just outside of Austera.

And you know what? I really missed this stuff. You simply can’t do it in other MMOs, which nowadays restrict themselves to repetitive combat and endless, pointless progression across the board.

ArcheAge diver downOne MMO to rule them all

Over the past couple of weeks, I’d been searching for a column to write on Massively Overpowered. I hopscotched through a dozen different MMORPGs in the hopes of finding one that I can stick with long term. I’d played all of these before, mind you, and most of them to max level, so I basically knew what I’d find before I even started the exercise.

What I found was a pronounced lack of stickiness brought on by the industry-wide dearth of gameplay functionality unrelated to killing and looting. For me, MMO stickiness comes down to whether or not a title is feature complete. And by feature complete, I mean it possesses at least some of the functionality that Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies offered dozens of years ago on a fraction of today’s mega-budgets.

This feature-completeness is, of course, subjective, and clearly most of the folk playing in this genre right now are satisfied with combat lobby grinders. I want more, though. I want player-directed economic gameplay, meaningful crafting, serious housing, and non-combat options for both progression and for fun.

This leaves out all of the games I tried (and retried), from Elder Scrolls Online to WildStar to Guild Wars 2 to several other games that don’t really need their own MOP column because they’re old and wouldn’t lead to any page hits!

Sure, there’s EVE, which I try very hard to like multiple times on an annual basis. In fact, as of this moment, my sub’s still active. But I’m sorry, CCP, really I am. I love spaceships harder than anybody, but I don’t love being one.

ArcheAge Austere dock

And we’re back

All of that brings me back to ArcheAge. Despite its many, many faults, it is one of two modern virtual worlds in the MMORPG space. As sad and as melodramatic as that may sound, it’s a fact. You might not value virtual world gameplay, and you may be perfectly happy with game XYZ, but game XYZ doesn’t have the gameplay variety that ArcheAge has. Period. It probably also doesn’t have the exploits and the godawful cash shop that ArcheAge has, but we’ll save those rants for another column!

I mean, come on. This morning I went diving for sunken treasure in scuba gear that I crafted. Can you do that in Guild Wars 2 or Final Fantasy XIV? Yesterday I took one of my boats to the middle of the ocean for a spot of deep-sea fishing. And I do mean the middle; ArcheAge’s zoneless world is so incredibly vast that it takes a while to sail across the sea, and you’re well and truly unable to spy land for significant portions of the voyage. Can you say that about Elder Scrolls Online or RIFT?

Earlier this week I spent an evening making trade packs, which my partner and I then ferried to various destinations around the expansive world map for both fun and profit (a lot of profit, actually). We made use of her huge trading ship, which allowed us to make sick bank in a short period of time. Oh, and that huge trading ship? She crafted it herself after many weeks of satisfying gameplay that involved acquiring the building materials and then seeing it all come together to form an incredibly useful tool. Can you do that in WildStar or SWTOR?

ArcheAge fishing boat

Ambition and the lack thereof

ArcheAge is the only modern title that bothers to acknowledge the MMORPG’s potential, and that irritates the hell out of me. The rest of these games do what they do quite well, but unfortunately they don’t do very much, you know?

So I’m back in game and back at the helm of Lost Continent. I’m currently looking for a guild on Tahyang, if’n you know one, and aside from that I’ll be piddling around on my eastern and western characters and writing about various adventures. Based on what I’ve seen so far, nothing of consequence has changed since I quit. Despite all the warts, though, and because it’s not afraid to fly its virtual world flag, ArcheAge is worth playing.

At least for me and at least for now.

Jef Reahard has been playing ArcheAge since the 2011 Korean CBT and writing Massively’s Lost Continent column since 2013. It chronicles one man’s journey through XLGAMES’ fantasy sandpark while examining PvE, PvP, roleplay, and beyond.
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