When it was first released, Anarchy Online was a nightmare. The developers didn’t iron out any of the bugs, and the game ran like a stinking pile of…cheese. However, they vowed to fix it into what it was supposed to be; an amazing science-fiction-based online RPG that would play better than any other massively multiplayer online RPG on the market.
After all this time, Funcom has finally succeeded. Anarchy Online has impressed me enough to name it the most refined and interesting online RPG I’ve played, and this is in the wake of my recent experiences with the stunning Dark Age of Camelot.
Anarchy Online completely surprised me by presenting a cohesive, central plot that develops over the four-year cycle of the game. What will happen after that is anybody’s guess, but the events leading up to it are certainly interesting and momentous. The plot itself is incredibly complex; by visiting the website, one can read up on the incredible history behind the planet Rubi-Ka. I won’t get into it here, simply because it is not as relevant to the actual game itself as the present plot is.
The current plot involves a continual battle between Omni-Tek, a massive corporation, and a band of rebels. When you are creating a character, you can pick which side you’d like to be on or if you’d like to stay neutral. What gives these sides more meaning are the constant updates in the plot about them; visiting the Anarchy Online website for updates or reading the new updates on the log in screen become just as much a part of the game as actually playing it. Press releases from Omni-Tek update the gamer as to their position; are they really as evil as the rebels make them out to be? Is what the rebels are fighting for, a sort of “anarchy”, really what is needed? The plot continually evolves, and will end in an all out war between the two in three years.
The character creation system has the sci-fi touch to it. When you are creating your character, you are implanting the necessary genes into the shell you initially are. Basically, you start out as a walking dummy, and choose what skills and looks you want encoded into your genes. There are three species to choose from and various professions as well. Adventurer, scientist, and enforcer are just some of the professions you can choose, each with a distinct influence on a character’s skills and abilities.
After character creation, skills are acquired by battling. By completing tasks and winning battles, skill points are obtained. By leveling up, the character can go up a certain amount in any one skill. For instance, you may have 4000 skill points to allocate. Your character is lacking in his/her swimming ability, so you wish to raise it. You are only allowed to raise the swimming ability by 4 points, which costs about 400 skill points. Even though you have plenty of skill points left, you cannot exceed a certain amount per level. This adds balance, and there are many abilities to choose from and specialize; from map navigation to automatic weapons use.
The huge world of Rubi-Ka is littered with cities and towns, with a distinct sci-fi flavor. You’ll find no castles or horses, but rather neon signs and hovercrafts. There is variance in the landscape, however. Vast plains and forests lie in-between the great cities of Omni-Tek, which resemble something out of Blade Runner, to the smaller towns for clan rebellion members which are simpler huts and buildings.
However, the game plays very much like Dark Age of Camelot or EverQuest. You’re free to navigate your character around the world to simply explore, or you can stick close to your personal apartment and battle robots and monsters for money and experience. There are terminals littered throughout the many areas that give specific missions; find this person, find that treasure; doing so awards your character money and experience.
The plot plays into the game via the two warring sides, Omni-Tek and the rebellion. Battling is done via clicking on the enemy and…waiting for your character to attack, based on your stats. Like I said, it plays much like most every other 3-D online RPG; there’s really nothing to distinguish it here. That said, it’s not a bad thing; it’s just as addictive as any other online RPG, and more so because of the polish the game has now.
The game’s graphics are excellent, rivaling Dark Age of Camelot’s if not surpassing them. The textures are a notch above what you’d expect in an online RPG: clear words on signs, complex patterns on building surfaces, the little things like that which add up.
Character models are detailed, but still limited; facial features are kept to a minimum. The camera is excellent, allowing for full control in third person mode, and you can always switch to first-person mode. Animation is less jerky and more impressive than even EverQuest’s latest offering. Spell casting is impressive yet swift, and the varieties of character animations are humorous (such as the YMCA or flipping the bird).
Smooth is the only way to describe the interface; easy click-down menus are accessible via illustrated buttons on the screen. There are so many ways to customize what you see that you’ll easily fine-tune it to your personal desires.
Note: I was able to take more advantage of the graphics in Anarchy Online thanks to my GeForce 3. However, I turned some settings and resolutions down to get a basic idea of what it generally looks like.
The sound and music are also impressive. Sound effects were anything but repetitive and overused. There is an abundance of sound effects that are clear, crisp, and appropriate for their visual counterparts.
The soundtrack is outstanding. Instead of implementing a techno-rock influenced soundtrack, for the most part, Anarchy Online uses an orchestrated soundtrack, with heavy emphasis on the strings. Themes vary from quiet violins to battle themes, which are upbeat yet still have a classical refinement about them. There are a few modernized pieces scattered about, but the majority are serene, enjoyable, classically influenced pieces. The music is easily on par with the wondrous score of Dark Age of Camelot.
Now that Funcom has basically fixed a majority of the game’s problems, Anarchy Online proves that it is indeed the premiere online RPG. It also comes at a premiere price: it’s the most expensive monthly MMORPG on the market. Instead of the usual $9.95, it is $12.95 per month. It’s not much more, but noticeably so. Fortunately, if you sign up for 6 months, the price works out to $9.95 a month, making this a better deal overall. I must say that it is my honest opinion that the game is worth it. It has the addictive qualities of any online RPG, but with a very cool sci-fi motif and a polished feel. It’s finally a complete package; it took them nearly eight months to fix, but it’s done. Check it out and become an addict.