This is a post that I've been meaning to write for some time now but have been putting off. But seeing the negative posts recently on some of the blogs I frequent, I thought I'd balance them out with a positive one.
I have to admit my first impression of this game wasn't a favorable one. I went in, as is my wont, having no previous knowledge of the title except that it was a F2P MMO of Asian design (I would later find out the developers are Korean). This explained the light anime graphic influence and the bad text translations to English. Neither of which were exactly endearing to me. The turn-based combat system was a pretty novel idea for a MMORPG but past experience has taught me I'm fairly bad at those types of games. Adding a timer to such a system certainly didn't help either. Instead of the typical MMO single character model, AO has you controlling up to 9 characters at once in a fight. These other characters are mercenaries that you can recruit or are given to you as a quest reward. About the only thing that impressed me right off the bat was the auto-move system. It was one of those now why don't more games use this feature moments. I would later have many more of those moments after spending some time with Atlantica Online.
So the game languished forgotten on my hard drive until I read this post and this post on Syncaine's blog. Wow, that certainly sounds interesting...what game was that again? Oh right, I already have that installed. Maybe I should take another look and see for myself some of these novel features he's talking about. I decided to do some research and find out more about this game. This led to a decision to reroll which wasn't that hard to make considering my original character was only around level 10 I believe. I began to get the hang of the combat system and I started to appreciate some of the unique features AO had to offer. The auto-move and enchanting system were just the tip of the iceberg. People actually are rewarded for being nice to noobies. I was bombarded with gifts in the mail containing gold and equipment and offers from strangers to be my mentor. Since I had done my homework, I knew that there weren't any strings attached like there would normally be in other games. Gift-givers get an XP reward based on a percentage of the gift's monetary value and mentors gain mentor points as well as a substantial gold reward after their students turn 30.
You know those other MMO's that seem to want to punish you for grouping for some reason? Not so here. There's no reason not to ever group as everyone gets additional XP as well as small XP books which can be saved up or used at your convenience. This system works even if the party is not in close proximity to each other and is typically known as LDP's or Long Distance Parties. Be careful of leechers and it's best to check with guildies first when doing this. Speaking of guilds, there is comprehensive support for guilds in this game. Guilds can control a town and multiple guilds can band together into alliances called nations. Nations can even go to war with one another which can result in players suddenly being able to attack one another. Other perks for guilds include access to guild dungeons and training centers as well as being able to add buildings to your growing town if you are the guild leader. The rank and file can also help out by convincing wandering NPC's to move to your town, doing town quests, and contributing to the guild crafting by killing mobs. But guild crafting is also a two-way street as everyone gains crafting XP as well just by being around when a guild crafting job is finally done. I've gained levels from different crafting skills without having to scrounge up one scrap of material because of this.
The graphics, especially the landscapes, can be stunning at times and not even the aforementioned auto-move system can detract from this. It actually enhances it, in my opinion, as you have more time to gawk at your surroundings when you don't have to worry about if you're heading in the right direction or not. The setting is a hodge-podge of eras from the real world with Spartans and Vikings fighting at your side along with the steampunk gunpowder might of Gunners, Cannoneers, and Inventors. The world map is very familiar as is the names of the cities and towns within it. Even the familiar is not to be taken for granted as I learned when I fought some camels with bulbous mouths for humps which spat out some deadly cannonballs.
This game's design reminds me a lot of Eve Online without the sandbox. In fact, there is a central storyline quest which will teach you everything you need to know about this game. But, like Eve Online, this game has features that dare to be different from your standard MMO. And all those features are tightly woven to produce a very complex MMO.
You say you want a revolution? Well, are you willing to make some time to play one then? If so, give Atlantica Online a serious try.