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Anarchy Online: Shadowlands Media Tour
Anarchy Online: Shadowlands Journey
by Stephen Harris - 08/25/03
The Journey Shadowlands Commentary Tour Gallery

The Journey through Shadowlands (Page 2 of 4)
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Elysium: A New Frontier
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We arrived on the beach of Elysium to a breathtaking view of a vortex sun that illuminated the horizon. As we pressed further inland, we noticed the remnants of an ancient civilization and huge spires of blue energy surging into the azure sky. Our guide explained that the pulsing blue spires were notum veins. In the world of Anarchy Online, the planet Rubi-Ka was terraformed for the purpose of mining the rare mineral, notum. Notum was essential to the production of nano-machines, an industry that was the backbone of Man's technology. He who controls the notum controls the universe. In the Shadowlands, notum flows in its pure form, as a liquid, that erupts from the ground in notum veins. As players delve further into the story of Shadowlands, the true nature of notum comes to light as the very essence of life itself.

Wandering further into the vast plains of Elysium, we encountered two distinct cultures among the wildlife. Ziana explained that in the Shadowlands, there are two main factions who call this place home, the Redeemed and the Unredeemed. "Note the dark fence there?" Ziana pointed. "The architecture gives a clue as to the faction you may find in the area as well as the creatures." The Redeemed resembled celestial creatures that are ethereal in nature and majestic in stature. They existed across all aspects of the Shadowlands, remaining vigilant in their cities of unblemished beauty. The tall white spires of a Redeemed city could be seen for miles across the plateau. Ziana told us the Shadowlands is in a state of perpetual decay and that the Redeemed use their powers to preserve the life-giving energy of the notum until the very end of days.

The Unredeemed, however, are the antithesis of the conservative Redeemed. Living in broken spires of blackened machine-cities, these demonic creatures exist to exploit the notum for the purposes of increasing their power. Not surprisingly, as Ziana clarified, those who venture into the Shadowlands would be brought into the struggle between these two races. With the two existing factions of the Clans and Omni-Tek fighting for control on the surface of Rubi-Ka for deposits of notum, their struggle would only expand with the vast resources of the Shadowlands. Thus will the Redeemed find an affinity for the freedom-fighting Clanners and the Unredeemed find brotherhood among the affluent Omni.

"There is a third side to the conflict," Ziana clarified. "ERGO: the artificial entity built by the Unredeemed to control all the tracts and Notum Veins." "ERGO sees the humans coming back as his saviors," she explained. "Maybe they can help him get rid of the monsters of the Brink who eat away at this place of creation, eating away at his technology." "ERGO is the gatekeeper of the Shadowlands," she added. "There are other factions as well, but these will be secrets for the players to discover..."

As players interact among both sides, as well as with the neutral Yutto nomads, they will find that their actions will determine how they are received by members of either faction. This unique gameplay mechanic is called the Faction System. Players will gain or lose points in one of several factions they encounter based on their own alignment, as well as how they behave towards sided NPCs and certain monsters. "The Faction System is so integral to the Shadowlands experience," Ziana stated, "that having the right faction standing is important to get entrance to Gardens, to create some items and to place certain towers." She also noted that many new weapons, armors and abilities will be determined by the strength of your allegiance to your faction.

Before long we came upon a Notum Control Tower, a player guild-owned creation that mined the precious notum from the earth to enhance the abilities of its owners. Notum Towers were a recent addition to Anarchy Online that allowed players and player-guilds to fight over land for mining rights and the ability-buffing Towers. With Shadowlands, the land control war will expand exponentially as the stakes and power become much greater. Ziana smiled and continued, "...it's full of conflicts here, man vs. nature, man vs. man, technology vs. nature."

As riveting as the conversation was, I found myself drawn to the box of candies Ziana had given me and continued to munch while taking another swig of my bottle. Sugared and buzzed, I decided to stagger off towards a pretty little Unredeemed pyramid I saw over a cliff. Sensing my inebriation and obvious stupidity, Elleonal asked what out next destination was. "Scheol," Ziana answered. "Forget paradise...," she smiled, "think darker..."

 
Shoel: A Descent into Darkness
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The dark skies of Shoel was enough to ruin anyone's buzz, as wicked spires of ancient machines shot out of pockets in the earth. Pulsing with an almost sickly glow, these pylons hummed as they leeched the very life from the planet. A land of electric storms and the more frighteningly magnificent Unredeemed cities, Shoel was a place any sane human would find uncomfortable.

As my companions Elleonal and Yari decided to leap off the cliff to romp with the Unredeemed, Ziana spoke more about some of the "changes" that may occur to those who travel far into the Shadowlands. Explorers who become trusted by the Redeemed or the Unredeemed may be granted unimaginable power; these are called the Shadowbreed. "In order to unleash your Shadowbreed, you need top faction standing with your side," she mused. Only the most devout followers of faction will be granted these super powers and only those who make a conscious effort to do the bidding of their side will awaken to the ultimate forms of Shadowbreed. "Shadowbreed is like your inner soul which manifests as a god-like being, giving you tremendous powers for a brief time," Ziana clarified. "You need to think about your actions carefully." "If you scan an NPC or enemy you will immediately see what kind of faction he belongs to and thereby plan your course of action," she stated. I was getting a tad bored with the talk of metaphysics and allegiances, and Ziana knew it. Smiling darkly, she decided to show me her own Shadowbreed; which was enough to send me topping over the cliff. While her visual transformation was very brief, her powers were long lasting and enormous.

When I awoke at the bottom, I found my two companions taking snapshots of the architecture like a bunch of Japanese tourists. As I looked around me, I was in awe of the Unredeemed buildings that surrounded us. They struck out against the night sky like poisoned lances. The view was so astounding that the only sound I could utter was a meek Keanu Reeves "Whoa." Ziana simply smiled and said," As dry and arid as this is... we now descend into Adonis."

 
Adonis: A Forgotten City Lost in the Abyss
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"I can't swim," I bellowed as we found ourselves beneath the waves in the ruins of an ancient city. Ziana smirked and continued, "As Shadowlands is the cradle of birth for Rubi-Ka, Adonis is the cradle of birth for civilization." "Here lies the home of the very first humans." Our stay in the Abyss was brief as we found more ruins on the surface and the horrible truth behind Adonis. The city was originally on land, but now lay dead; fallen into disrepair and sinking into the Abyss ever slow slowly; a protracted death over countless millennia. To think that this mammoth city, once the very center of technology in the Shadowlands, lay derelict sent a chill down my spine. The once mighty skyscrapers of Adonis lay faded against a velvet sky, while the lower buildings lay submerged beneath silent black waters.

"I guess I need to learn how to swim, eh?" I chortled only to receive a bemused look from our host. "Nothing exists in Shadowlands without purpose, and neither are your abilities," she stated. "Though players will need special equipment to survive in the depths of the watery Abyss, as well as some of the other hostile environments here in the Shadowlands," she concluded. "As you will soon see, this world is not as hospitable as Rubi-Ka," Ziana explained. "Explorers will have to protect themselves from the elements using the resources available to them."

Ziana explained to us that explorers in Shadowlands would also be able to enhance themselves throughout the use of Perks. These are abilities and enhancements that are purchased through points that are earned every 10 levels of experience until the player reaches level 200, they are then obtained every level until the maximum level of 220. "Perks are enhancements that will allow you to specialize yourself beyond the limitations of your breed and profession," Ziana stated emphatically. "They are like buffs that last until you un-train them." "They will grow in power as you continue to train Perks in the same line." Her eyes shone as she continued," ...and if used in group play, they can combine for even more effects." "Group Perks," she clarified, "enable a higher level of social combat gameplay." Unlike the IP gained every level, Perk Points are entirely different pool aside from a player's self-improvement points. "When a new player enters the Shadowlands," she explained, "they will have approximately 90 basic character skills to chose from as well as over 850 Perks."

Ziana noted that by increasing the existing level cap in Anarchy Online from 200 to 220 for Shadowlands play, would not only be incentive for high-level players, but would directly tie into the Faction System. The experience gained beyond the first 200 levels of play is called "Shadowknowledge", and is only obtained from destroying enemies of your faction or completion of important quests for your side.

Waterlogged and a bit weary, we still had much to see. My two companions had eyes the size of saucers as they took in the amazing view. So much so, that I found myself excited at the thought of delving deep amongst the ruins in search of ancient knowledge. So off we ran, like an unruly band of elementary school kids who had escaped their chaperone. Ziana said we needed to chill out and that's exactly what we did next... in the frozen forests of Penumbra.

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