Free Play Review: Anarchy Online (Archive)

((This Archive Post has been edited to better reflect the online status of the games mentioned, also with new pictures and screenshots))
Hey everyone, Riknas again, and this weeks Free to Play MMO is:

Anarchy Online by Funcom

The Story

I’m going to get started with the story first, because it is just such a huge aspect of the game. For all it goes, I could write an entire article just on this game’s story, and forget about the blog. Hell, I spent so much time reading in on it, I forgot why I was reading it in the first place.

The idea is that eons before today, there was a race of powerful immortals known as the Xan. Being the only sentient species, they were rulers of all that they saw. However, when civil war broke out, they managed to turn their planet into a husk of what it once was, and lose their immortality.

Still having the mentality of immortals though, they laid the foundations for new species to learn and grow, in the hopes these new races may one day find the secret to returning their immortality to them back on their home world of Rubi-Ka.

Millions of years later, in 2007, an Ex-Communist from Russia had become CEO of the corporation Farmatek, and he held what could be the secret to eternal life: Nanotechnology.

In 28702, humanity had discovered a harsh planet known as Rubi-Ka. Although most of it was inhabitable, on the planets surface was a powerful energy source known as notum, using it, it vastly increased the power of nano-technology. Farmatek, now known as Omni-Tek, had “rented” the planet for the next thousand years to harvest notum, and used their new nano-technology to create several new breeds of humans, most with the purpose of helping harvest, or work with more notum.

Eventually, more and more issues were being uncovered with Omni-Teks work ethics with the notum miners. These miners would rebel, all calling themselves members of “The Clans”, which was composed of loosely organized groups of Rubi-Ka citizens seeking freedom from Omni-Tek.

As a new citizen of Rubi-Ka who just crash landed on the planets surface, it’s up to you to try and make a difference in the world by joining Omni-Tek, The Clans, or seeking a more peaceful life in the world as a Neutral.

(For the full story, click here)

Game Play

The only thing more complicated than the story would be the game play. When you get started, you’re going to spend a lot of time reading. I mean a whole, freaking, lot. The game features huge amounts of numbers to try and wrap your head around, with your stats like strength and constitution, and how they provide multipliers to skills ranging from how good a swimmer you are to how well you will be able to handle an SMG, and what kind of nano-programs you can use, is dictated on your breed and class. This system could be seen as similar to the Xbox and PC game Elderscrolls: Morrowind. But let’s break it down for those who haven’t actually played the game.

Breed: What type of human you are, dictates your stats, health, and “nano-pool” (Magic/Mana, basically)

Class: What your job consists of of, and what your skills are focused on. Most classes are geared towards a certain race, hopefully you can figure this out based on the descriptions given to you in-game. If not, you might want to just stop reading now.

One thing I find to be interesting as far as classes goes, while games like World of Warcraft try to portray all classes just as balanced, and easy to pick up and play as every other, Anarchy Online actually goes out of its way to give different classes different difficulty ratings, for example, my soldier was classified as a “Low/Medium” difficulty, where as the Bureaucrat was classified as “high” difficulty.

With all that in mind, you want to put a lot of thought into your character creation, and how you a lot your skills as you level up, and with 200 levels for the Free Gamer, you’ll be number crunching for a while.

For all the complications there are though, once you’ve finally got the controls nailed down, you’ll find that, if you’re playing an easy or weapon orientated class, that the combat starts off a bit on the underwhelming side for all the time spent trying to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other. Ranged weapons can not be used while moving, so you can find yourself shooting something when it’s kicking you in the shin, or better yet, when you manage to miss, as you watch your bullet go flying past them while you shout at the screen, “BUT IT’S RIGHT THERE!”

Fortunately, things start so spice up as you start to encounter more aggressive enemies and begin using nano programs.

Getting Started

In somewhere much less pretty than this.

Should you choose to watch the intro-movie, you’ll get to see a space shuttle arrive at the Rubi-Ka space station, coming to pick you up, and bring you down to your new home. But before that, you need to clarify what you are.

So, they have you clarify your breed, and then class.

Character Creation

Breeds:

Solitus: The descendants of humanity that had survived the virus spread across their homeland so long ago, there is nothing remarkable about them, but they have no glaring weaknesses either. Your traditional jack of all trades race.

Opifex: Genetically altered humans , with an emphasis on agility and speed, however this has left them rather fragile. These are basically your DPS or Rogues.(I don’t care what anyone says, these guys look like elves)

Nano Mage: Genetically altered humans meant to work well with Nano-Technology, and are extremely intelligent, however they are even more fragile than the Opifex. Your caster, only uglier really.

Atrox: Genetically altered humans built with the sole purpose of mining notum. They have been so heavily augmented that they are now a genderless race, and are extremely strong, though they aren’t particularly bright. Your tank.

After selecting your breed, you will be given the option to alter your appearance. Although better than the character customization in Dungeon Runners, (Now defunct) it’s still leaves more to be desired. You choose your height (With the choices of, short, average, and tall), and size (with the choices of slender, medium, and heavy) and the ability to choose several different faces.

Once you’ve finished making your character, you will decide how you will handle conflicts, by choosing one of 12 classes (There are 14 in total, the last two are only available if you purchased the Shadowlands expansion or have an active subscription.)

Classes: (The Pay-For classes will not be included in this, to reduce confusion.)

Adventurer: Your basic jack of all trades class, with room to learn just about anything.

Difficulty: Low/Medium

Agent: Snipers who hide using special stealth nano-technology

Difficulty: High

Bureaucrat: Your leader class, using nano-technology to help boost the strengths of his allies and weaken his enemies, or even convince them to fight alongside him.

Difficulty: High

Doctor: Pretty self-explanatory, don’t you think?

Difficulty: High

Enforcer: Melee combatants fighting with large swords and using protective nano-technology.

Difficulty: Low

Engineers: Although weak on their own, the Engineer is able to create machines to do his bidding for him, creating a strong duo.

Difficulty: Medium/High

Fixer: Fast agile fighters, relies heavily on dodging attacks rather than absorbing them.

Difficulty: Medium

Martial Artist: Fighting with his bare hands, the martial artist is the best at melee damage, and with their understanding of the human body, they are excellent at recovering from a fight as well.

Difficulty: Low

Meta Physicist: This is what your crazy hermit at the edge of town probably calls himself, except this meta physicist is able to cause his emotions to take a physical form and fight with them, and is able to use nano technology to bend the very fabrics of the world, strengthening enemies and weakening allies.

Difficulty: Medium/High

Nano Technician: The master of using nano technology as a weapon, they are able to create powerful explosions and teleport from one place to another, though they might accidentally shoot them self in the foot if you give them a gun.

Difficulty: Medium

Soldier: The master of gunnery, they use nano-technology to improve the power of their weapons, and create shields to protect themselves.

Difficulty: Low/Medium

Trader: Mainly trying to buy low and sell high, this guy is a master of making money, but in combat, he’s not too shabby either, and is able to use nano technology to drain the strength of their enemies, and use it to augment himself or his allies.

Difficulty: High

So, you’ve finally finished creating your character, just give yourself a name and you will be heading down towards Rubi-Ka.

Welcome to Rubi-Ka

Upon “landing” (And by landing, I mean crashing.) you will find yourself standing around a small beach-like area, surrounded by animals and a lone human standing around. He sends you around to kill some animals, teaching you to orient yourself.

The tutorial pretty much throws you into the game, more than explaining things to you, though I’m told this is a major improvement on what “noobie island” used to be, I’m not impressed. The interface is hardly intuitive, and the in-game tips can come up at awkward times, sometimes blocking the text boxes of people your talking to, so sometimes you aren’t aware that your actually reading a tip, instead of what a character is saying. Despite that, once you get the hang of things, you’ll get past the simple quests rather quickly and start to move on to better and more exciting things like trying to take on the very aliens that shot you down, and eventually deciding where you stand in the war between Omni-Tek and The Clans.

PVP

PVP would be best described as made for the paying players. The world of Rubi-Ka is divided into “suppression fields”, the explanation is behind it, but there’s several different kinds. In 100% suppression there is no combat allowed, (mainly in the buildings of NPC cities like apartments and shops.), 75 % suppression, where you can be attacked by NPC wildlife, 50% where you can be attacked by enemies of the opposing faction, and 25% where you can be attacked by damn anyone. Most of the people that actually PVP in the low suppression zones are supposedly composed up of twinks and subscribed vets, so it’s not exactly easy to jump into.

So if you want to keep things free but also like shooting up fellow players, either be ready to be the own being shot down, or look for another game.

The Catch

I’ve made several references to the catch about this game, this game really has the biggest catch of them all, and I can’t actually believe I’m saying this: It’s also the most convincing one.

This game let’s you pay through micro-transactions, purchasing expansions, and an optional subscription, all of which overlap in some ways, but all also have their own unique things you can get that the others can’t get you.

Expansions: Anarchy Online has only made one paid for expansion, known as the Shadowlands. For about thirty bucks you can get it through digital download. This expansion boasts extra items, two extra classes (Shade and Keeper) Improved AI, new lands(Including a new starting zone), increased level cap(From 200 to 220), and even a new graphics engine to boot (Which really is nice, considering the F2P version is rather dated…). And if you played you’re probably used to dealing with just a box price for an MMO, but it still doesn’t give you all of the expansions, which can leave you a bit wanting against the active subscribers.

Micro-Transactions: Funcom also allows you to purchase power points to purchase in-game items such as mechs, pets, and other ingame items, and you can purchase 1000, 2000, or 3000 points at a time (Every 1000 points is 10 dollars.) and might be beneficial if you just want that one mech or hover board you see all those subscribers showing off in your face.

Optional Subscription: This offers the most content in total, offering you everything the Shadow Lands, Alien Invasion, and the Lost Eden expansions have to offer. Normally, I like the concept of the Optional Subscription in paper, but I usually find myself put off by them, as they rarely offer anything that really entice me to buy it. More often than not, it seems that the optional subscription or micro-transactions make the game easier rather than more fun, which I found to be the case in all the games Andras and I reviewed, Dungeon Runners (Now defunct) Exteel (Now defunct), Ogame (Free Play #4)and Space Cowboy (Free Play #2, now Ace Online). In all of these games, it just made playing the game easier to do, maybe that new space ship would came that much sooner, the next level would come that much faster, but it was the same, old, game.

With this, you get entire new game play elements, and that’s what you should get when your paying extra, instead of removing a pain. If you will, imagine it like walking around with a pile of bricks on your back, by paying extra, they take off some of the bricks, when I think it should be more like, by not paying, it’s just walking around without the bricks, and if you do pay, they give you a pair of really comfy shoes to make things even more comfortable. It should be about making a game more fun, not less annoying. This is the one game I think I’m actually going to pay that extra money on.

Conclusion

Anarchy Online has the potential to be a fun game, if you can get past the initial difficulties, with this massive story and impressive art direction, you can find yourself well immersed without even paying. The optional subscription and the expansion is fantastic, and can seriously build on the game if you already like it, and make it something you might like if you normally wouldn’t be as interested.

On the downside of that, it can make the free to play game feel more like a free trial over a free game, however if it does come across as a free trial, it’s a damn good one IMO.

Thanks for reading this issue of Free Play, I’m signing off!

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