This is an unpopular stance these days, but maybe we shouldn't be so hard on Trion Worlds with regards to ArcheAge. I know, I know, hear me out. While it's nearly three years old here in the West, I have to give the company credit for at least being honest about it being a mess at times. The infamous “We don't have control over what XLGames makes us do” line from its Western launch might have been an excuse to shift blame – and it might have been a sign of a poorly negotiated deal – but it was also probably accurate.
Update 3.5: Erenor Eternal is set to go live today, and I had the chance to chat with Producers Merv Lee Kwai and Amanda Fry about it. We covered all the usual new content, but then I posed a very pointed question about how well Trion can get its ideas about the game implemented, expecting the kind of evasive, diplomatic answer I usually get from such queries. Without trying to sound too clickbait-y, “you won't believe the shocking answer I got.”
We'll get to that in a bit. For now, hey, look at all the shiny new stuff!
There are two new zones included in this update. We started our tour on Aegis Island, a snowy zone in the far northwest of Erenor and west of the continent of Auroria. This is where players will find an open-world battleground event, which follows the standard ArcheAge conflict rules, eventually ramping up into full-blown war. When that happens a zone event kicks off. Waves of creatures will spawn and players will be tasked with pushing them back toward their points of origin. Though PvE-focused, players can kill each other because hey, then there's less competition for the loot, right?
Our next stop was Whalesong Harbor, located on the west coast of Auroria, which plays host to another big event. Rather than being on the attack in this zone, players defend towers from NPC invaders. Both new zones are designed for max-level characters, but you can bring in lower-level characters if you feel daring enough – though Kwai warned that “you're probably going to get dumped hard” if you come in at too low a level. And of course there's new housing.
Ancestral skills are the major character-based new mechanic coming in 3.5, providing a means of advancement past level 55. These augment existing skills, lending them more flexibility and new types of synergy. Rather than direct power creep, the skills are “more utility and sidegrade,” Kwai told me. “You're not really increasing the overall damage or survivability of a class, you're giving them more options on how they use existing abilities.”
The new tier of crafting, Erenor Crafting, does introduce some power creep, though, which Kwai readily admitted. But crafting itself has seen some changes to make the process a little more player-friendly and less grindy overall. Currently, you have to craft five tiers of equipment, but that's being lowered to two with 3.5, to make it easier for new players to get into crafting. Also, sealed items crafted at level 54 currently can produce an item of no use to a player's chosen class. When 3.5 hits, you'll be able to pick the item and it can be upgraded. This comes at a cost of requiring more materials, but RNG is, thankfully, almost completely taken out of the equation.
And where RNG isn't removed, players will at least get a little more of an indication of what their chances are, such as with regrading. Currently, items only give you an idea of the chance of success when regrading, while in 3.5, you'll know the exact percentages, which have themselves been roughly doubled.
(Less of a) Slave to the grind
While nothing will completely take the grind out of ArcheAge, the steps implemented in 3.5, especially in crafting, did seem to make things better, primarily through less reliance on RNG. I mentioned this to Kwai, who counted many of the changes as “things our community has asked for” and said as much in his most recent dev blog.
But wait! Doesn't XLGames just dictate terms to poor, defenseless Trion about what goes on in ArcheAge? I posed the question to Kwai as to whether this represented a shift in the relationship between the two companies and how much “power” he and his team had to make changes to the game based on player feedback.
"As a producer on the game, my personal mission statement is to get rid of all the heavy RNG systems."
His response was direct and to the point: “I've got to be completely honest with you when I say, 'not much.'” But that doesn't mean he doesn't try, and meet with some limited success. “I often lobby on behalf of players to XLGames. Whether that results in a positive change or not, I don't have the final say there. Now, one of the things ArcheAge has always struggled with is the high amount of RNG that is not as receptive to our audience [as it is in Korea]. So I'd say that over the past two years, I have somewhat successfully lobbied for changes in systems. I don't want to say that I'm primarily responsible, but I do think XL is sick of hearing me say that we need to get rid of it.
“As a producer on the game, my personal mission statement is to get rid of all the heavy RNG systems. I don't mind a lot of RNG when it comes down to the randomness that happens before somebody gets an item. But I'm not OK with the randomness that happens after somebody gets an item that could ultimately result in destruction or uselessness. It's totally cool if items are rare, but when it comes to getting a thing that I have no use for, we need to get rid of that.”
He's still working on item destruction, a frequent consequence of high-tier regrading. He did let me know about Update 3.7, currently live in Korea, and coming to the West in about two months, which will change the way gems fail when being socketed in armor. Currently, the more gems you have – up to eight in the piece Kwai showed me – the greater the chance that, when you go to socket a new one, the process will fail and you'll lose all currently socketed gems. “That system is largely being changed, and I regard that as the last super-invasive RNG system in ArcheAge.”
So yeah, XLGames still holds the reins of ArcheAge here in West, but that doesn't stop Kwai and his team from at least trying to make it better. Maybe the next time we hear Trion – or any other game company – say “We're listening to your feedback and passing it on to the dev team,” we might believe it. (Whether or not the cash shop is lousy and the game is pay-to-win ... we'll leave that one alone, for now.)
Trader to your nation
The last major change coming to the game in today's udpate affects the trade system, which Kwai called “the backbone of the ArcheAge economy.”. The process will be greatly simplified and streamlined, split into three steps. After crafting a trade pack, you take it to one of three trade outposts on your continent. Then, any player can come to the trade outpost and, if there are enough trade packs to create a cargo item, that item can be bought by a player who takes it overseas to the other continent's trade tower – the quicker the delivery, the greater the profit. Then a player on that continent can take the cargo to an exchanger in one of the starting zones who hands out Charcoal Stabilizers, a primary crafting material.
"The overall goal is to make trading more interesting and less time-consuming."
Risk/PvP-averse players can experience the trade system through steps one and three, while the more adventurous types can take their chances on the open seas, where piracy is always a concern. The overall goal is to make trading more interesting and less time consuming. “There's kind of a meta where everyone's figured out the best routes, the best materials, the best time of day to do it,” Fry told me, “and it would just be, 'I'm going to join this train of 12 other people with as many packs as I can, dump them for gold, and come back later.'” Some large guilds would spend entire weekends doing nothing but transporting packs.
Finally … wanna buy a car? You can pick up the B200 Rampage, a sweet “mount” that seats four, plays music, and can hold three trade packs in the trunk. Kwai described it as “the Rolls Royce of ArcheAge overland vehicles,” and it can be yours for by purchasing the Archeum Eternal Pack for $150. That pack also comes with 90 days of Patron status and other goodies. Or, if you've got the time and lots and lots of crafting materials – or the gold to buy them – you can craft the silver S200.
As is typical with these game-changing updates, there's an incentive for returning players, as well. They'll receive the Immortal Guardian robes cosmetic item, themed after one of the 12 great heroes of ArcheAge. Me, I just want this Merv Lee Kwai-themed skin for my character:
Now that's epic, yo.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.More Stories by Jason Winter