It seems to me that often I don't get to flex my "cranky" muscle doing a lot of these reviews. Well, I'm happy to say an opportunity to remedy this situation has presented itself.
Astute readers will recall a while back I linked an article talking about how some MMOs were switching from monthly fees to fee-free/micropayment models. The big one quoted there was Archlord.
Lately I've been so burnt out on WoW that some days I think if I have to see just one more Dranei I'm going to scream. So, this weekend I took the opportunity to check out what, if anything, there was to this vaunted ArchLord game. Short answer? Not much.
Codemasters has laid a real stinker here. I can't believe they actually expected anybody to really pay for this turd at any point. I'll break down my gripes into categories.
The graphics are about 1999ish or so, there's no support for widescreen resolutions. Anti-aliasing is either "on" or "off," with no indication whether it is 2x, 4x, 6x or whatever, and on top of that having it "on" causes text to sometimes "hide" itself under things that are rendered behind it, even something as unobtrusive as open ground. The UI is clunky and slow, and for a click-to-move style game the pathing is nonexistant. The /ignore command does not work for shouts... so the spammer shouting "BUY MY PLATINUM CHEST! /w Charllot" every 8 seconds for 4 hours straight is only filterable by leaving the shout channel entirely, which should not happen. Speaking of which...
From every nation and every walk of life they come, and you can't get away from them. And they all want to chat with everybody, because let's face it, the game is pretty dull (see next section). But this is the internet, and when you put the whole world in one room all it takes is one chucklehead to say the word "Bush" and all of a suddenly the monsters seem to be taking more damage from angry european gibberish and jingo english tirades than from your +2 sword of uniformity. And speaking of uniformity, that brings me to...
Gameplay, AKA "The Asian Factor"-
Why is it every MMORPG game conceived in the far east seems to think that character customization doesn't belong in an RPG? Not only is there no stat customization (which can be forgiven if there are other options, a-la WoW), the extent to which you can customize your character's appearance consists of race, class, and 5 faces and 5 haircuts. You can't even pick your gender for crying out loud. Human fighter? You're a male. No choice. Mage? Female. No room for negotiation. There's no deviation from standard in body type, equipment, gender, and even the various available "faces" and "hairstyles" are incredibly generic and don't give you choices of colors within as a subset. There was a similar problem in Space Cowboy Online, if I recall. There's no tactics at all employed, either (and no support classes to enable tactics, either.. everybody's a fighter, ranged attacker or offensive magic user). Combat consists of target, turn on autoattack, and fire whatever timered abilities you have until they're all recycling or you're out of mana. Though that isn't an excuse, the game supplies you with copious potion drops, and no sort of cooldown between using them. So you can pretty much kill any number of enemies so long as you keep guzzling the potions. And only the most rudimentary quests are there to break up the grinding. Go here and get this, kill X of monster Y, and come back. At least RF Online (another Codemasters exercise in mediocrity) had the self awareness to know that if you were going to make potion gulping a requisite part of success you should provide an easy way to make the gulping automatic, and also used a cell-phone like mechanic to remove the "and come back to me" part from quests. But for the most part, what you are left with is a veritable army of identical drones grinding away in repetition in the same conveniently placed zoo-display like monster spawns. It's as if absolutely no thought went into monster placement in world design. All the level 1 monsters go here. All the level 2 ones go here. All the level 3 ones go slightly farther out, and so on. It's a bot user's wet dream... or perhaps a chinese gold farmer's easiest day's work ever. At least the translation is halfway decent, though you do see the occasional pidgin interject itself. I can has silver sword?
The Misapplied Budget-
I think I see why the rest of the game is so crappy. I don't know how much it costs, but I bet it isn't cheap to get your game's entire musical score performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. So at least you have pretty music to listen to while your brain dies of asphyxiation in this abominable abortion of banality of biblical proportions? Well, almost. The LSO may perform it, but whoever composed the score was having a serious case of the mondays that day. And there's one piece that I swear is lifted right out of the movie "The Mask Of Zorro."
Well, that about sums it up for me. One game, one day, 1.4 gig download, a few hours of playtime and already sick of it. No wonder it had to go free-to-play. A very unrepentant D.