Massively's exclusive tour of Atlantica Online part 2

Guilds and Nations
As a staple of any other MMO, the guild system in AO works in much the same way, with a few added benefits. It's a method for players to assemble and do more than just quest together. There is guild crafting set up to produce a greater number of crafted items, sharing the XP throughout the entire guild. There are also guild dungeons, only accessible while in a guild.

Every town in the game can be owned by guilds, which can set up everything like policies for security, culture, industry, commerce, health and the planning and construction of buildings. When your guild owns a town, they can join what's known as a nation. This is basically like an alliance of guilds (up to eight) that can do things like participate in nation dungeons and go to war with other nations.

"This is when the game gets really crazy," warns our guide.

If one nation confronts another nation and forces them to pay tribute, but that nation refuses, those two nations will go to war. When a war is going on, the names of your enemies will appear in red, to warn you that you need to take action quickly. This means completely open PvP against any member of your opposing nation at any time and any place, except in towns. If you die during this war, your enemy can actually loot your corpse to an extent.

At the end of the week's war, both nations' capital cities will spawn NPCs and the "real" war will begin on that final day. Which ever team defeats the other nation's NPCs first will be declared the victor.

"This is when the game gets really crazy," warns our guide.

Turn-based combat in an MMO?
Yes, and it works, although it takes a bit of getting used to. When you encounter an enemy while wandering the world, you'll see what is known as the representative of their group. Just because you see one monster, doesn't mean you'll be fighting one monster, just as your one character running around on the screen actually represents your entire party. When you click on that representative, you'll be taken to an instanced battle screen, which is a 3/4 view battle ground with each member of your party and each member of theirs present and ready to fight. When you see another player engaged in combat with a group of enemies out in the persistent world, they will appear as stationary and you won't actually see the fighting. You can always join the group to help them fight, with maximum group sizes capable of a 27 on 27 battle.

Each party member will get their turn, and will be able to access their regular attacks and special magic attacks via action points. The turns are also timed, so you must act quickly, and there's no way to pause the timers.

In PvP, the battles operate in much the same way, but there are several different types of combat available when fighting another player. There are normal duels, a Free League held several times each day, weekly tournaments and an all-out war between nations. You can bet money and observe PvP battles as an outsider at any time during the 1v1 battles.


Crafting in AO is also an extensive feature where care is given to make sure it is deep enough and rewarding enough that players want to participate in it more than just gaining points by standing next to an anvil all day. You can actually gain experience through crafting, and level up your character as well. The mentoring system is particularly important here as you can actually ding your next crafting level through training from another player. A "leaderboard" of sorts is set up to show the highest-ranked artisans for each crafting profession that are currently connected, and from here you can whisper them to give you your next level. Those trainers will also gain rewards for the help, making it a wonderful mutually beneficial system for getting players to interact more.

As a free-to-play game, there's certainly a reason this one has caught the attention of so many MMO enthusiasts. The whole microtransaction business model has caught some flack from more traditional gamers lately, but Atlantica Online takes special care to provide only convenience items in their Item Mall. This is important as MMO companies are slowly moving away from the classic subscription-based model.

The gameplay is there, the level of depth is there and the eye candy is there. This game really has a lot to offer, and is worth checking out. We'd recommend giving it some time, as the features (such as the turn-based combat, especially) may take a bit of practice at first. If you've been playing the game since launch (or before), and you're enjoying it so far, let us know in the comments below. Heck, even if you hate the game, let us know what turned you off the most. We want to know!