It's tough to cover a game like Anarchy Online
. No matter how much I play it, I can only get a mere glimpse of the wide universe that Funcom is bringing to life, a tiny taste of the vast universe. The world of Rubi-Ka is intriguing enough to keep me coming back, and I want to explore the world through the next planned four years of storyline, but I can definitely understand the frustration of a number of players right now. Even with a broadband connection, the game is consistently laggy and frustrating to control; I can only imagine how bad it is over a 56K modem. Along with a number of other issues and a less-than-adequate instruction book, Anarchy Online
is tough to get into and has a lot of room for improvement. As it stands, though, there's a hell of a lot of fun to be had with the game.
When you first get into the world of Anarchy Online, you're taken into an interactive character builder. You can pick the 'race' of your character; they range from the slender Optifex to the brutish Atrox, and everything in-between. The sci-fi setting permeates even this section, with a laboratory feel, but in the end you're picking the sorts of races that you do in any fantasy title. Then you get to pick your look, customizing your face and height and whatnot to make yourself stand out a little more in the world of Rubi-Ka. Next comes the character classes. There are a ton of these, ranging from the all-out combat Enforcers to the item-creating Traders and the program-wielding Nano-Technicians. Once chosen, though, your character class is permanent, and most of the programs (AO's version of spells) are only usable by a single profession, so choose wisely.
Then you get to choose your side. This is vastly important in the game; the clans and Omni-Tek are very much opposites in terms of viewpoint, and you will be slaughtered if you're foolish enough to venture into opposing territory. You can also choose the Neutral side, which seems to be merely a temporary respite from picking a side. More will be known when the plotline fully starts up in the game.
Once you get into the game itself, it plays quite similarly to many MMORPGs, at least at first blush. You've got the easy training areas, followed by a much wider world to explore. Unlike EverQuest, though, quests (called missions here) are completely random. You walk up to a Mission Generator, set a few toggles, and let it spawn a few different ones off. They generally require jaunting to some location on the map and entering a building or cave, where the game basically sticks you in your very own zone to explore. The dungeons or apartments or whatever are randomly generated, populated with enemies and treasure. Completion of the mission nets you some bonus experience and cred and a free item to play with. It's a nice system.
Unfortunately, it's also a repetitive system. The different types of quests soon sort of blend into the same sort of thing, and you'll have repaired more radar displays than you would have thought existed on a single planet before you're done. I understand the technical limitations with making a huge variety of missions, but I still wish there were more differences between them.
The world itself is huge, with a number of plotlines just waiting to be picked up and run with. The warring towns of Four Holes, the vast backdrops of the deserts and forests, and the Longest Road which as of yet doesn't quite go anywhere all lend to the vast realm of the game. Each 'zone' is dotted with interesting locations, ranging from mission points to stores to places to save your character (er, Insurance Terminals). Even though a few of the ideas seem a little like a 'cheat' around the sci-fi setting, such as the nano-programs which basically work like magic, the world itself is extremely cohesive and lends itself to roleplaying more than most games of the genre. There's something about the gothic cyberpunk setting that reminds me of Dune and other classics of the far future, and I like it.
Unfortunately, the game has a number of technical problems. Lag is absolutely horrendous in highly-populated areas; I saw my framerate drop into the one-a-second range on many occasions, simply because there were lots of people running around. Unlocking treasure chests sometimes shows you nothing inside of them, but if you select them again you'll find items. The game's camera acts really awfully if you're lagging, zooming inside and ahead and anywhere but somewhere useful as your screen movement crawls to a halt. I had some missions not complete properly, and I still have a mission key to a house three days after that mission expired. There are also the ever-changing balance problems, which are endemic to any MMORPG.
Despite all of this, there's a lot to like about the game.