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ArchLord 2 open beta – first impressions

 
ArchLord 2 logo
ArchLord 2 logo
ArchLord 2 logo

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: PC
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 

We liked?


  • Attractive environments, along with attractive - if generic - characters
  • PvP gating means that combat will always be among those roughly equal in level

Not so much?


  • More balance is needed between gold earned and the cost of basic actions
  • Prepare for lots of grind. LOTS of grind...
  • ... turning into an appropriately chaotic - but not especially refined - brawl in PvP
  • Options of character customisation are what could at best be described as "restricted"


Final Fiendish Findings?

ArchLord 2 went into open beta last week – bringing with it a lot of grinding. A LOT. But at present PvP quickly descends into chaotic mashing, and the costs for crafting and modification need to be balanced better to income at the same levels.

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Posted July 17, 2014 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

Austerity? ArchLord 2 has different ideas to get an economy moving – grind, grind, and grind! (Then spend your small gains, in preparation for more grinding)

The original ArchLord was released back in 2005 (2006 outside of Korea) to below-average reviews, and followed the path of many MMOs of recent years – declining playerbase, a move to free-to-play, closing servers, before publisher Webzen pulled the plug and shut the game down entirely at the end of last year. However, the world of Chantra was not entirely doomed, with ArchLord 2 being released in free-to-play open beta last week.

Let’s start with the basics – we’re looking to step into a fantasy world, filled with wandering monsters to fight, resource nodes to farm, and people standing around randomly in town waiting for passing heroes to speak to them and solve all their problems. And if this all sounds generic so far, you won’t be surprised to see your choices on character creation are human and orcs, representing opposing factions.

(Though tooltips suggest that the other races from ArchLord 1 will soon be making an appearance, the Moon Elves and Dragonscions)
ArchLord 2 screen
So far, this isn’t just fantasy MMOs done by the book; this is photocopying the book, and presenting it as something new because it is on fresh pieces of paper.

Crafting follows the basic rulebook too – using resource nodes gains a certain amount of material and some XP towards that gathering skill, allowing higher quality nodes to be used; these items can then be turned into potions, weapons, armour and the like.

But financial gating hits quickly here – even if you’ve gathered a stack of copper, when you start crafting a gold coin fee per piece is charged… And it builds up fast, so before long you’re holding more resources than you can afford to use. [For example: a level 10 weapon costs 1,800 gold to craft, on top of materials gathered; a standard level 10 monster might drop 50 gold. You're better off hoping for random loot drops to sell]
ArchLord 2 screen
Crafting is one of my favourite parts of MMOs, and normally every last resource node is precious. This is the MMO I’ve ever played where I begin to skip gathering, instead thinking “no point”.

(You can also break loot for shards to create socketable bonuses to equipment – magic damage, increased critical hits and the like. This can be done for free, but the advanced methods of breaking them increase your success odds. This costs money.

Those shards then need to be combined into a random socketable item. This costs money.

You then need to speak to someone to socket the item. This costs money.)

Perhaps seen in a positive light, this is a method of fighting off the inevitable mudflation for a while longer – even a player at the level cap will need to craft potions, be breaking equipment and the like. And with a game as grind heavy as this there will always be the flow of currency into the system. It just feels unbalanced as it stands, something that turns an entire part of the game mechanics into a sideline of grinding for currency to burn.
ArchLord 2 screen
So what other ideas does it have? There are a few. Perhaps the most prominent of these is the ArchLord of the title, a returning concept from the original game. This is a title awarded to the top ranking player in PvP, giving them access to special abilities to influence the world – although open to challenges from other players on the rise.

The other point approached differently is the weapon skill levelling. Instead of simply picking a class, on character creation you pick a preferred weapon. As you kill mobs, the weapontype used gains the same XP you do. This leads to your skill gaining levels separately from your character and awarding points for that weapon skilltree.

This does allow some versatility – you could create a greataxe wielding orc, but let them work with a staff for a while to gain some healing skills. However, your chosen weapon gains double points per level, meaning that you will never be as efficient with an alternate choice.

It’s also an indicator of how much grind is expected. Quests do give some experience, but award nothing for your weapon, so advancement is ideally done via fighting. In the main PvE areas, you tend to be more than a match for most creatures and so can just initiate a fight, trust auto-attack to finish them, drink a potion if needed, target the next creature, rinse and repeat. In theory, the game could be played in the background while doing something else, just sending your character to fight every few moments…
ArchLord 2 screen
Of course, there are tougher creatures here and there, and off-site PvE dungeons with populated with a wealth of mobs who’ve all been working out – opportunities to use those skills that levelling your weapon has provided. Though access to all but the first of these requires an access ticket – provided by random mob drops, thus requiring some grinding to acquire.

The other main type of combat is PvP of course – predominantly contained in specific contested area maps (game hints implies that one faction’s players could press into the other faction’s PvE areas, although this would theoretically involve pressing through some form of gating, presumably high level guard NPCs). Here, the game shows one of its best ideas – the PvP maps have both minimum and maximum levels to access, preventing high level players traveling back to bully unprepared newcomers.

ArchLord 2 is sold as a predominantly PvP game, although fights quickly decend into chaotic button presses to trigger skills, mixed with tapping tab to try and cycle onto that guy with low health nearby… (definitely tabbing. Clicking – especially in a brawl, where there are likely NPCs on boths sides getting involved – feels unreliable.) Soloing is also an invitation to get ganked, although parties are quickly thrown together in the contested areas, and you simply need to hope that your PUG keeps together when the fighting starts…
ArchLord 2 screen
Graphically, the game is actually quite attractive – while the monsters may be fairly generic, the environments they inhabit are attractive, and the players look all very pretty… if standardised. The men all seem to spend several hours down the gym, definitely never skipping arm and chest sessions, and the women are predictably curvy.

You can of course adjust these things to a limited degree during character creation. But among the limited option, the ability to adjust your skin tone is very fixed across the two races. Humans are all depicted as fair, while the orcs are intrinsically tanned – the darkest human tone is roughly comparable to the lightest orc one. Add to this that orcs have dreadlocks as a default hairstyle (in several variant styles), but it is only a single option for human females, and there is an uneasy feeling that there is some unintended racial profiling happening… Hopefully as the beta progresses further options will arrive to offset this.

Indeed, with the game in open beta there is a great deal that can change. Whether this will ever offset the need for continuous grind is unlikely, but undoubtedly various pieces of balancing will be modified. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a pretty-but-generic fantasy world to explore and don’t mind grind, you’ll probably find reasons to explore ArchLord 2‘s world – but not compelling ones.

Archlord 2 is currently in open beta; to play you simply need to register for a Webzen account and download the client, which is approximately 3gb at present.


Peter

 
Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.