If being a part of a faction in MMOs sounds stale to you, why not make your own? ArcheAge Update 2.9: Ascension goes live today, and that’s exactly what you’ll be able to do, creating your own nation to stand alongside the game’s established powers, waging war and peace, managing security, and building up your economy to become a major player on the world stage.
Oh, and riding a giant, fire-breathing wyvern. George Washington did that, didn’t he?
I got a chance to discuss the upcoming update with ArcheAge Producers Merv Lee Kwai and Amanda Fry, and much of our talk centered around Ascension’s most prominent feature: the ability to found a new nation in the world and compete with the NPC nations of Nuia and Haranya. Like establishing any nation, it takes lots of hard work and dedication from a lot of people with a shared common interest, but the rewards can make it all worthwhile.
Nation building 101
You can establish a nation by building a castle in one of four zones on the southern tip of Auroria which has “changed drastically” since the zone was released about a year and a half ago. They took me on a tour of the castle and its supporting buildings – farms, a storehouse, a diplomacy building, etc. – that really make the place look authentic and organically developed.
There’s a lot to keep track of, whether you’re part of the ruling class, an ordinary citizen, or just a visitor to the realm. I’ll admit that many of the more mundane tasks, of crafting and currency management, all went a little over my head when Kwai was explaining them to me, but it’s the kind of minutae that devoted MMO fans love – ArcheAge fans that much more.
When you’re the lord of a castle – i.e., a leader of the guild that controls the castle – and enough of that groundwork has been done, you can found a nation and become the sovereign of that nation. That gives you access to a fancy outfit, the ability to form alliances, and that wyvern we were talking about – eventually. You’ll have to hatch him first, a process that takes months, and then grow him over time so he becomes a flying, fire-breathing monstrosity that would make Daenerys Targaryen proud.
Space for nations is limited, however, to the four spots available on the map. A single nation can hold all four, thus raising the number of people it can invite to its nation but potentially making them harder to manage. I posed the question of whether you could overthrow your king from within your nation, and the answer was… sort of. The nation member cap is greater than the guild member cap, so a nation will often consist of players from separate guilds. “The opportunity is absolutely there, if you have three or four castles, that if someone gets greedy in that secondary guild, for them to kind of overthrow,” explained Fry. Ah, drama.
If your nation loses its last castle, it has 63 days to retake a castle before dissolving into the mists of history. But any guild devoted enough to go to the trouble of creating a nation is unlikely to let it fall so easily. “In the Korean version, that’s only happened two times, and one of those was due to inactivity,” Kwai said.
With only four slots available, though, I wondered if competition would be a little too fierce, as with the “land rushes” early in ArcheAge’s history. It wasn’t a perfect analog, as Kwai explained to me. “When you’re trying to place a house, if they place it first, you have no way to compete against that. But in this system, you can absolutely get your guild together and take it from them. It’s built to support that kind of [competitive] gameplay.” Just like in the real world, if there isn’t enough space for you to build your kingdom, your only option might be to take someone else’s.
It’s good to be king
Anyway, back to the wyvern. The property of the sovereign, it has 100,000 HP, is as big as a house, deals siege damage, flies – not glides, like other aerial mounts – and breathes fire. There’s an additional seat for someone to ride along with the sovereign; Kwai joked that a sovereign in dire financial straits could sell rides. If the nation is in better shape, he can use the Lord’s Pence ability from atop his mount, tossing bundles of coins all about him, for the peasants to scoop up. Grovel, knaves, grovel for your king!
But what if you are one of those knaves? I asked whether there was enough to do – and enough rewards – for players who weren’t part of the ruling elite. “It’s really built for everybody. You can just live outside the castle and help work,” Kwai explained. “Maybe you don’t even want to join that nation, you just want to hang out and talk to those people and get your tokens.”
And the people have the power. “The common people, the citizens and the visitors, actually have the power to disrupt the nation. If they don’t contribute to these farms, the nation does not get any resources. It’s in the ruling guild’s best interests to encourage people to come help.” (And not raise taxes too much.) “A viable strategy we’ve seen in Korea is that, if the ruling guild is just a bunch of jerks, no one supports them. They starve them out, and they wind up not producing anything and ultimately get sieged because they can’t accumulate Lord’s Coins to repair their buildings after each siege.”
Those Lord’s Coins are an important commodity, limited in how they are obtained, but used to acquire a number of valuable items. One of the ways for a sovereign to gain more is to set one of his full warehouses to produce them. He can do this in a “safe” or “risky” manner. In the “safe” way, he gets Lord’s Coins in 24 hours. In the “risky” way, it takes 48 hours and gives double the coins.
But in those 48 hours, players can try to plunder the warehouse and steal some of its loot. When this happens, players are alerted and can attempt to stop the thief. It takes five minutes to convert the pack into coins, so you’ll need to find a safe spot to unpack your ill-gotten booty – and hope nobody comes looking for you.
Castles, kingdoms, wyverns… you know what really gets me excited about Update 2.9? The Equipment Encyclopedia! This feature is basically a searchable database in-game, similar to what you’d see on a lot of fan-made websites or wikis, that lets you search for weapons, armor, and accessories, using any number of different criteria. It comes with tier seven obsidian equipment, which is accompanied by a reduction in cost for tier five and six equipment.
Older content has also seen updates. The PvP Mistmerrow region has also been updated, with an occasional PvE encounter against a giant tree-thing named Kadum that all factions need to team up to defeat. The Mistsong Summit dungeon also added a fourth boss, and unlike prior bosses, he doesn’t look like a k-pop star. He’s big, he’s armored, and he makes the floor tiles disappear as the fight goes on. “He’s definitely now the hardest five-man boss in ArcheAge, and players will struggle immensely as they try to fight him.” So two, maybe three weeks tops, for the first kill?
As with Update 2.5, Trion Worlds is doing a promotion to bring players back to ArcheAge, as well as providing lots of stuff for new players in 2.9, with a special focus on guild membership. In addition to all sorts of individual loot, there’s also the Homecoming Guild Member Supply Chest, which can only be opened once you’re a part of a guild. It contains a coin that can be exchanged for a 30-day version of a discontinued mount or glider, including such highly sought-after items as the dolphin or pegasus.
Say what you will about it, it’s impressive to see this much content coming to ArcheAge on such a relatively quick schedule. It still may not be very free-player-friendly, and it still seems like it requires a bigger commitment than many people are willing to give to a single MMO these days, but for people who love its style of gameplay, it provides a gameplay experience unlike any other.