Massively's ArcheAge launch diary: Day four - Trade runs, sea beasts, and pirates

I got ganked in ArcheAge last night, and believe it or not, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had in an MMORPG in quite some time.

I'm usually apathetic about MMO PvP. I mean, I will PvP with friends, but I don't think I've ever sat down to play an MMORPG and thought, "Hmm, maybe I'll go kill some players tonight!" PvP factors heavily into ArcheAge's design, though, so I knew going in that I'd be doing it more than in most of my other MMOs.

I just didn't know it would end up being as fun as it was on last night's trade run.

In a nutshell, ArcheAge trading involves crafting regional specialty items, transporting them to other regions, and selling them to NPCs. I'm saying region here instead of zone because the game is an open world, so while there are divisions on the map, you transition between them smoothly whether you're crossing a road, a mountain range, or an ocean.

Your first couple of runs can happen around level 10, and they'll come courtesy of a trading NPC located somewhere near the crafting/farming tutorial person who's usually found just beyond your starter village. I was playing my Firran last night, and in my case the NPC in question is Trading Guide Sahel in the Anvilton area of the Tigerspine Mountains.

The first couple of trade missions are quite easy, though time-consuming. After crafting a specialty in the appropriate local city, you're saddled with a large backpack that weighs down your character, rendering him unable to run or use a glider. You can ride a mount, but your beast of burden is truly burdened, and you... move... very... slowly. You can also set the trade pack down anywhere in the world, but be aware that other players can pick it up as easily as you can!

It's also worth noting that you can fight while encumbered, but you certainly can't run away or reposition yourself quickly.

If you time it right, you can hop the ArcheAge equivalent of a city bus that occasionally runs from region to region, and if you're lucky you'll fall in with a fun group of traders who tell jokes or educate you about the game. I did miss the bus on a couple of occasions, but fortunately I was doing trade runs with a couple of guildmates who tagged along as I walked from Anvilton to the Falcorth Plains and back.

This sort of gameplay may well put off soloers, action-seekers, and even crafters/traders who don't have much time to play. But I thoroughly enjoyed it due to the company I was keeping, and it's another example of how ArcheAge is infinitely more fun (and profitable) if you play it with friends. After a couple of similar missions, I got a donkey foal as a quest reward. I fed and watered him and fitted him with some speed buff armor leggings purchased from a nearby stablehand NPC, which enabled me to travel more quickly along various trade routes and complete more missions.

The donkey combined with judicious use of the bus mechanic really opens up the world of ArcheAge to the trader. I went from shuffling around Falcorth and Tigerspine to trekking across the continent, eventually making it all the way to the coast and the city of Austera on the Halcyona Gulf. At this point, my trading mission required a delivery to another continent, i.e., an enemy continent, and my group of trader pals decided to seek the services of a ship captain to see us across the Castaway Strait with our precious cargo of elephant cookies (don't ask).

Here's where you'll see a bit of the sand in AA's sandpark, as we really did haggle with a player boat driver or two before finding one we hoped was trustworthy and skillful enough to ferry us through enemy waters.

If you've never been on a boat in ArcheAge before, know this: It's a treat. I've mentioned how lifelike the game's water comes across, and it's even more ridiculous as you sail out to sea and realize just how vast the game's open world really is. We passed uncharted islands, birds circling fishing spots, brewing storms, and a couple of cranky ocean critters, one of which died on the back of our boat after he decided that a cargo full of cats and elephant cookies was too good to pass up.

The fur really started flying as we neared our destination. Our captain sighted sails to port, and before long an enemy ship was bearing down on us, spearing our hull with some sort of grappling device and spewing player pirates who attempted to board us using gliders. Some deft maneuvering by el capitan forced them to engage us in the water as we swam for our objective and our ride set about protecting himself.

We were outgunned, since our party featured a couple of 20-somethings, a 16, and me at level 12! The level 30ish pirates eventually got us, but not before we completed our quest objective. And our captain even circled back to pick us up at the spawn point on a nearby beach and ferried us all the way back to our homeland where we successfully turned in our quest.

To be blunt, experiences like this are why I play MMORPGs, though it's worth noting that I haven't had many of these experiences over the past 10 years because few modern MMORPGs allow them. ArcheAge does, and it's simultaneously optional yet deep enough to serve as primary gameplay fodder for everyone from non-combat trader types to pirating PvPers to entrepreneurial ship captains with an eye for fun and profit.

This particular experience was unscripted and completely player-driven aside from the original quest goal. Our captain indulged in some light roleplay both coming and going, and for once there was a purpose to MMO PvP, which made the engagement itself more exciting and the success more rewarding despite the fact that most of us died in the process.

And that's all I've got for you on this, ArcheAge's official launch day. Assuming I don't get PK'd by the queues coming our way tonight, I'll see you tomorrow for another launch diary installment.

For our complete AA launch week diary series, see the links below.

  • Massively's AA launch week diary, Day one

  • Massively's AA launch week diary, Day two

  • Massively's AA launch week diary, Day three

  • Massively's AA launch week diary, Day four

  • Massively's AA launch week diary, Day five

  • Massively's AA launch week diary, Day six

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