Korea. I've never been there but it sounds like an utterly fantastic place. This is clearly a country where life is such a thrilling series of events that its residents have to play a game that involves mindless, repetitious monster-bashing just to unwind after a hard day's exhilaration.
The problem with this is that we live in the UK, which in my experience is dull, slightly grim and suffers from an abundance of the most soul-destroying jobs in the world. As a result, when massively multiplayer games are shipped over from Korea, repackaged and shrink-wrapped for a western audience, they can soon begin to feel like an extension of the daily grind we're all used to as we trudge home from the office every day. ArchLord is just that sort of archetypical MMO.
Multi-level dungeons add a little purpose to the thuggery, but you get the feeling that ArchLord's heart really isn't in it. More's the pity, then, that the player-versus-environment portion of the game is spectacularly brain-rotting. There's arguably potential here, but it lies firmly outside of the quests, with player-versus-player fighting. The premise behind ArchLord is that, assuming enough people can bear to pile through the tepid early play, you'll eventually see massive team combat, with all participants fighting for the chance to elect a single leader.
Why elect a player to the head of the game? Each ArchLord wields enormous power: he can impose taxes upon other players, ride around on a unique mount and generally look down on everyone else. Control of this position should be fought over tooth and nail, but the current lack of players and the amount of toil it takes to get to the level required to compete for it means this all seems a long way off. At the time of writing, the game's been live in Korea for over a year now, and no one's even had a sniff at the throne because it requires a collection of these high-level characters to break through to the endgame. Besides, the reality is that only one person (and perhaps his or her guild) will be having an awful lot of fun. For the rest it'll be business as usual, with only crippling taxes to look forward to.
It doesn't help that the player-versus-player action is currently stalling. Combat is visually electrifying, but there's no gained experience from killing other players, and nothing lost from death. If anything, it's seen by some as a free teleport back to the nearest town. There is the villain system, of course, which is a fairly neat way of preventing the rank bastardry that tends to characterise some MMOs. Attacking anyone four or more levels below earns you villain points, and the more you accumulate, the more handicapped you become, with punishments such as trading restrictions and attacks from NPC guards. Gather 100 of these virtual ASBOs, and you'll lose the opportunity to strike first at all. The net result seems to be that, despite the fact PvP requires no consent, barely anyone can be bothered to engage other players.
A more pressing problem is the fact that the control system is fundamentally flawed. At the moment, the WSAD controls are so damaged that they're barely usable, meaning you're forced to use the mouse to navigate and attack. What's more, when you're attacking, any movement at all breaks targeting with the enemy, meaning you tend to have to stand still and take the punishment during battle.
ArchLord could work: there's a chance that the high-level guild play could be rewarding, and the concept of a single, vastly powerful character is an intriguing one. Also, whether or not players get the chance to become the big boss themselves, involvement in the associated tussles could be thrilling. All speculation aside, though, in its present state this game is extremely difficult to recommend.
Another fine idea choked by the grind
- Not ready