Lost Continent: About that ArcheAge automobile

Lost Continent - About that ArcheAge automobile
I owe ArcheAge an apology. A couple of weeks ago, when XLGAMES released a trailer featuring steampunk-powered hot rods and an impromptu beachfront drag race, my kneejerk reaction was a boisterous what-the-funk!

After I watched the clip a second time, I realized not only that the cars fit neatly into the world that Jake Song and company have created but that they tickled my fancy in the same way that numerous other elements in the game have done over the years.
ArcheAge - Race car
ArcheAge - A fantasy MMO?
On the surface, ArcheAge appears to be your standard high-fantasy MMO. There are elves, swords, magic spells, and fierce creatures aplenty. XLGAMES has also emphasized the title's magnificent sailing ships and undersea environments in many of its videos and associated marketing campaigns. Unless you've been following the Korean betas and launch quite closely, though, you may be unaware of the game's steam-powered tractors, airships, carriages, hang-gliders, and other genre-blending techno-mashups that contribute to the unique feeling of ArcheAge's massive game world.

Additionally, let's not forget that this is a Korean MMO, with all of the subjective good and bad that that entails. On the one hand, it's a visual feast, with gorgeous animations, scrumptious environments, and a varied visual design palette that channels everything from Tolkien to Russian architecture to steampunk.

On the other hand, it takes itself a little less seriously than some Westerners might like. Korean games generally feature a bit more whimsy than their western counterparts, which in my opinion is a reflection of vastly different gaming cultures. Your average Korean MMO player probably games with friends at a local PC bang, whereas your average Western player probably plays alone at home. There's nothing wrong with either style, of course, but Korean gaming culture is inherently more social and thus more open to lighthearted stuff that's "fun" first and conformist second.
ArcheAge - Steampunk tractor
ArcheAge - How much is too much?
How whimsical is too whimsical, though? Again, we're talking subjectivity here, but for me, ArcheAge is striking a near-perfect balance in this regard. Aion, for example, allows players to create tiny avatars that look absolutely preposterous against the game's war-torn backdrops. And because of the perceived advantage of a tiny character in PvP, there are thousands of fully armored (or mostly naked) angelic hobbits flitting about in high heels, destroying my personal attempts at taking the game seriously and getting immersed in its extensive lore.

Aion also jumps my personal shark by allowing players to purchase giant weaponized utensils, chainsaws, and lightsabers from its cash shop. How NCsoft sneaked this last bit past the army of lawyers at Lucasfilm Disney is beyond me, but, eh, it's in the game. In any case, never say never, but thus far ArcheAge doesn't have anything even remotely resembling that level of goofy.

TERA, another AAA Korean import that's had some success in the west, has done so in spite (or perhaps in part because) of a loose application of fantasy convention. My TERA Sorcerer wears Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, for example, and I've seen other players slaying BAMs while modeling everything from bikinis and cocktail dresses to Santa outfits.

ArcheAge - Character art
ArcheAge - Give it a chance
It's not just Korean titles, either. World of Warcraft does a commendable job of marrying whimsy with high fantasy, steampunk, and dozens of different subgenre conventions while serving up an amalgamation that manages to satisfy a huge cross-section of gamers. Now, I certainly don't think ArcheAge is competing with WoW or is even likely to attract many of the gamers who are attracted to WoW, but in terms of the topic at hand, I do see some parallels.

Assuming ArcheAge does add more silly stuff like this over time (it already features a casino with waitresses in sexy bunny costumes, for what it's worth), it won't be an automatic deal-breaker for me. The game world is pretty huge, and unlike your Aions and your TERAs, it has plenty of gameplay available outside of dungeons, raids, and other typical MMO tropes. What I'm saying here is that you can get lost in ArcheAge, literally and figuratively, so it will be very possible to immerse yourself in the game's fantasy world in spite of the inevitable legion of players who choose not to do the same.

If the ArcheAge automobile video turned you off to the game, maybe do what I did and take a step back, if only to see what else the title has to offer. Truthfully, the race cars on display in that trailer don't really need to be excused given the rest of the genre-blending found throughout the game world. I understand that they're not everyone's cup of tea, but they do fit neatly into the overarching ArcheAge lore that has been on display for several years now.

More importantly, and as you'll see in this column going forward, the game itself has so much to offer that it would be a shame to miss out on it because of a few flavorful, and optional, mechanics.

Jef Reahard is an ArcheAge early adopter as well as the creator of Massively's Lost Continent column. In it, he chronicles one man's journey through XLGAMES' fantasy sandpark while examining PvE, PvP, roleplay, and beyond. Suggestions welcome at jef@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.