To Rubi-Ka (again)
Almost 10 years ago I started playing MMOs and Anarchy Online was my first MMO game to play. After my initial year with the game I have had some brief re-visits, but really never more than a few hours each time – almost to the point that it is negliable.
But with the 10 year anniversary it was time to jump in again and this time put a bit more effort into it. I am happy to say that I probably will get hooked into the game again for a while; learning and re-learning the game systems and mechanics is quite fun, as well as a few frustrations.
I have a bunch of characters left on the two English-speaking servers (Rubi-Ka 1 and 2 as they were used to be called), but to figure out how things work it is also good to start fresh. So I started a new character on Rubi-Ka 1 (aka Atlantean) to get my bearings again.
Todays newbie experience have been there for a number of years, but is a different once from when the game started. Pretty much everyone goes to the same place now and you do not select you faction right away. Instead you “crash” after taking a shuttle from an orbital station and you have to get your bearings on a small island.
Before that at the orbital station, you will select race, gender, profession and looks. The game has four races, three of which have two genders. As the game takes place far in the future, what once were humans have been engineered into some more special breeds.
There are differences between the races which will affect the profession choice, although there is not necessarily a clear-cut choice always. The game provides some suggestions in this area. Next is to set up the looks of the character, which is a limited procedure – one selects size and build (3 choices each) and can then select a face/head among a reasonably large amount – although a lot of them look quite ugly, IMHO.
Next is the choice of profession. There are 14 different professions available – for fantasy-focused people, think profession = class. It is a wide mix of different types of damage dealing and support professions, each with their specialties. Two of the professions (Shade and Keeper) require the Shadowlands expansion, but the rest are available to everyone.
For my new character I selected Trader. It is primary a buff/debuff profession with some crowd control and one which I remember I found to be fairly fun to play. I also created a Metaphysicist – a pet/support profession, which was what I played with my very first character in Anarchy Online.
The newbie experience in the ICC Shuttleport area is fairly streamlined, although there are some gaps in explanations. A chain of missions will let one try out a few different basic gameplay features, get some ok starting gear and weapon improvement (can get through missions, no need to buy it). By the time most of the missions have been done, one should be at around level 8 and ready to head off to the big world.
At this point one will make a faction choice – either Omni (part of the Omni-1 corporation), clans ( the rebels against Omni-1) or the neutrals. One then picks a teleport gate and is sent of to a suitable zone depending on faction choice.
A few things that might confuse people who have not played in the pre-WoW era: Mission NPCs do not have any markers above their head, you just have to talk to them to find out if they have anything on their mind – somethines thay starting talking to you if you are close enough to them though.
Every time one levels one get a number of Improvement Points (IP). These are to be put into both general attributes for the character (strength, agility etc) as well as different skill sets (e.g. 1 hand blunt weapon, run speed, parry, shotgun etc). All skills are available to all characters pretty much, but depending on profession certain skills may be easier to improve in and cost less IP to increase. This is one of the areas where character/profession customisation comes into play. All gear and powers have some skill requirements attached to them – sometimes also different for wearing and using. Since buffs and debuffs as well as implants affect skill values.
There is a suggestion option available for the first 20 levels which can assign some points for you – it may not be min/max.er optimal, but should also avoid really bad choices. So one can learn about the different skills a bit more before being forced to make the choices.
The user interface is in general a somewhat strange beast. I quite like the approach with rather non-intrusive elements by default as the picture above shows – most of the button/menu choices can fade away and there is only one hotbar visible. (but multiple alternate hotbar settings to switch between). But some features feels a bit weird by todays standards. Still, I think it works ok and I like that the screen is not so cluttered. But some UI elements would have been nice if they could have been moved around; some seems rather rigid, while other UI elements are quite flexible.
One thing one can see when leaving the newbie area and venturing into the real Rubi-Ka, is that the landscape has changed a bit in some places; at least compared to the original game. There are now player-created city areas as well as more stuff up in orbit or high up in the air than originall game had – the Alien Invasion expansion is one of the culprits for this.
Back in my old days, after you left the backyards (the old newbie areas) one would either hit the Mission Terminals and/or go out for general hunting in the different areas. Nowadays that is no longer the obvious choice; instead it seems that many low level characters go to the Condemned Subway dungeon/area. This is an area available for characters between level 5 and 24 – some parts are soloable, others will require a team to tackle it seems.
Back in the old days the death penalty could be a bit frustrating – you could loose both items and XP up to a point of insuring items at an Insurance Terminal – I have a few frustrating memories on that topic from my old days witht he game. That seems to be a thing of the past though; you never lose any items and any XP lost is just put into a separate pool, which is then trickled back as characters gain more XP. There is some resurrection sickness still left though at level 15+ and the XP loss/trickle seem to get into effect at level 20.
I had a bit of trouble with writing this post, because there was so much I wanted to cover here, but will have to take it in smaller pieces. Compared to some MMOs today, Anarchy Online has a fair amount of complexity/depth to its different systems. This can be both very interesting and attractive, as well as a bit intimidating. Combined with a user interface which is a mix of some brillaint pieces as well as some fairly limited/crappy pieces it may be something you end up hating or loving – or perhaps both at the same time.
Game combat certainly comes from the era of auto-attacks and is not as fast-paced as some more modern games. But it has its charms and peculiarities and a world and environment where the lore/background matters, but it is still not infested with forests of mission givers.
There will be more posts on this topic; it feels good to be back on Rubi-Ka this time.