Massively's exclusive tour of Atlantica Online

There is no doubt that 2009 will be remembered as the advent of quality free-to-play MMOs. No longer will there be a stigma that F2P equals unplayable quality, as games like Runes of Magic and Atlantica Online will grab the attention of the normal triple-A gamer. Will it last? Will it change the face of MMO gameplay and business models forever? While there's certainly an inevitable evolution involved in every form of media and entertainment, we believe Atlantica Online will make a lasting impression in the genre.

Officially launched on October 30th, 2008, Atlantica Online has already garnered the title "Best F2P MMO" from many gaming sites. It is supported through microtransactions that don't affect the game play itself, and sports a turn-based combat system that focuses on strategy, rather than how fast you can click your mouse. Massively got a chance to sit down with Ian Keller of Atlantica Online for an exclusive interview regarding the game's best, and little-known game features. Follow along after the cut below for a look at our time with Atlantica Online.
The setting of Atlantica Online
Atlantica Online takes place on Earth, in a historical fantasy setting that blurs the lines between time, fiction and nonfiction. You're a descendant of the people of Atlantis, and it is your duty to find your ancestral home, after it vanished off the face of the planet many years ago. Your character will encounter true historical figures like William Shakespeare and Pat Garrett, in addition to fictional characters like Little Orphan Annie or Robin Hood. You can read more about the details of Atlantica Online's lore at their website, but for now, we're going to focus on the game itself.

First off, the game is gorgeous. As a Korean fantasy MMO, this should just be a given, but AO really causes you to just stop and gawk at the scenery. The fact that it has a historical and geographical familiarity helps this tremendously. Hey, is that the Leaning Tower of Pisa over there? And look, it's Dracula's Castle! I wonder if he's inside...

Controls and UI
Atlantica offers both familiar and unique control options for your character. You have the usual quick slots you'd find on most MMO interfaces, yet these take up a small bit of real estate on the lower right corner of your screen. A menu bar at the top of the screen contains everything you'll need to access in the game, tucked away from being too intrusive on your world view.

One important piece of the interface is the Game Info book, which acts as an encyclopedia for everything you'll encounter in the game. Think Warhammer Online's Tome of Knowledge, and you'll have an idea of what this book is like. Every NPC, Mercenary, item, quest, monster, town and more are documented in this book as you unlock them. It's extremely in-depth and highly interactive with animations, sounds, drop-down menus and links to make it much more than a static resource of game information. Players can even trade monster info with other players, earning special rewards. This mentoring system is a recurring theme you'll see in this game, as socialization is encouraged beyond simply joining up for a quick quest group.

Another important part of the controls in this game is the auto move feature. This allows your character to run to a quest NPC or area of the map automatically. This could be helpful when you're just starting out and don't know the landscape yet, or you're just feeling lazy. Either way, it seems a happy alternative to running everywhere yourself, and a compromise to auto-porting, although teleportation is available.

If you're familiar with the Heroes in Guild Wars, you have an idea of what these Mercenaries are all about. You can have a maximum of eight Mercenaries gained through quests or found wandering the wilderness, in search of work. Each Mercenary has their own items and skills to add their own special advantages to a fight.

Because of the power and usefulness of the Mercenaries, Atlantica Online has easily soloable combat. Yet, don't let that fool you into thinking its a solo game. The implementation of guilds, mentors and nations define the massively multiplayer part of the equation.

This article was originally published on Massively.