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Atlantica Online

Score: 100%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NDOORS
Developer: NDOORS
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - Many
Genre: MMORPG/ Strategy/ Turn-Based Strategy


Graphics & Sound:

It's amazing what you can get these days for free. I have played and reviewed browser-based MMORPG games such as Domain of Heroes, and I have played full-fledged downloadable (or disc-based) games, but never has something you can get (and play) for free looked so much like something you have to pay for. Atlantica Online is a full-fledged game that requires that you download and run a game client, complete with a patching system that checks for the latest updates and installs them when you go to log in. The world is presented as a sprawling 3D world that allows you to roam about, finding your own adventure. The graphics aren't of the same caliber as the latest and greatest hardware-melting AAA PC titles out there, but they are nicely detailed.

If you want to be impressed, however, you merely need to listen to the sounds of Atlantica Online. The voice acting is rare, but offers some flavor, the sound effects are pretty good and the music... the music is amazing. Most games suffer from having too little music, and having music that is too repetitive. The music in Atlantica Online is varied in different areas, and is a variety of epic adventurous ballads and ethnic ambiance. In-game fights are accented with blood-pumping, fast-tempo songs that help to affect a feeling of urgency and importance in the player.


Gameplay:

What to say about Atlantica Online? I was going to say that Atlantica Online is the perfect MMORPG for people who don't like MMORPGs. But, truly, there's a lot there for people who do like MMORPGs, so it's really not that. What I meant by that was that Atlantica Online offers a lot of things to do aside from the typical MMORPG things I've seen in other games. For one, they have a Quiz game type thing built into Atlantica Online that allows a player to host his own trivia game and award monetary prizes to other players. Another thing that is contrary to the MMORPGs I've played is that you don't control a single character, but a whole party. This affects the gameplay, making it more of a strategy game, or a "tactics" style game. You can still join up with other players to form a party, but now you have two or more groups, instead of two or more individuals. It's truly a different dynamic. Something fresh and interesting. There are also a lot of the common things you have come to expect from a MMORPG, such as crafting and leveling up and, of course, grinding for resources.

One aspect that has a unique twist on it in Atlantica Online is the concept of "Parties." I'm not talking about celebrations involving cake, here, I'm talking about the ability to form an adventuring group with a friend. In a lot of MMORPGs, players can form adventuring parties. Usually, however, this really only is a benefit if they stick together and work on the same quests. Atlantica Online allows friends to form together as a party as long as they are on the same server, regardless of location. Once formed into a party, you can teleport to the other player's location, if desired or you can do what the player community refers to as "LDP" or "Long-Distance Party." While you are fighting battles alone, experience and even items can be shared across the members of a party, regardless of how far apart the players are. This leads to more people playing in parties and, ultimately, being more social than they would have if long-distance partying wasn't an option. I find it's a good way to work together in small groups with certain members of your guild, although you don't have to be in the same guild to form a party.

These difference seem to work for Atlantica Online, making it a fun and interesting game that is unlike other MMORPGs, free or paid.


Difficulty:

One major difference between Atlantica Online and many other MMORPGs is that there is an acceptance of and even a generally supportive environment for new players. I have never played an MMORPG where I felt more welcomed by the other players. One thing that helps in this respect is the fact that several of the quests are tutorial in nature, to make sure you understand how to give gifts, or share info or similar. As a result, I find that from time to time, I am given a gift or get a monster's info from someone out of the blue. This is a neat way to get people started out helping each other.

For the most part, the UI is reasonably easy to get the hang of; it's icon-driven and once you know what they mean, most of them are easy to remember. If you find you do need help, however, there is a chat feature and most players are fairly helpful for simple things. There is also a Help Request feature whereby players act as in-game assistants for game issues, which is pretty neat. There is also in-game documentation in the form of reference material on the items, NPCs, materials, fields, towns... you name it and it's probably in the book.


Game Mechanics:

Atlantica Online is a strange mix. It's like some sort of hybrid MMO game, combining parts of RPG games and squad-based strategy games, with a quiz game thrown in for good measure.

There are a variety of things done in Atlantica Online that inspire community involvement and cooperative play on different levels, while supporting healthy competition, as well. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from how Atlantica Online is put together. This is a game that works.

As is the case with other free-to-play MMO games, there are things that you can buy. These things enhance game play in different ways, such as allowing you to carry more items or store extra mercenaries, so you can tailor your party to the task at hand, depending on what you're planning on going up against. These are typically in the form of licenses, which have a certain timed duration. You may, for example, get a license that gives you the ability to "store" mercenaries away and swap them out for, say 7 days. You would be responsible for making sure that you had taken your mercenaries out of storage prior to the expiration of the license. Another example might be a 30-day expanded inventory license. The thing to note here is that while games such as Domain of Heroes may sell feature upgrades which are permanent, some of the upgrades in Atlantica Online are temporary, creating the possibility of a recurring income. However, the few players I've talked to indicated that they had only played for free, so I have to wonder how well the micro-transaction upgrade license business model is working for NDOORS.

After some consideration, while it's not like other MMO games, I wouldn't say that Atlantica Online is the MMORPG for people who don't like MMORPGs. I would say that it's an MMORPG that everyone should try; you may like it regardless of whether you like MMORPGs. And - you simply can't beat the price.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:



Pentium 4 1.0(or better) GHz processor, 512+ GB RAM, GeForce 4 TI4200 64MB or better (graphics card supporting vertex pixel shader), 5GB (or more) free space on Hard Drive, Direct X 9.0 or better
 

Test System:



Sony VAIO VGC-R820G:
Intel Pentium 4E, 3.2 GHz (Intel Grantsdale i915), 1 GB RAM, AMI BIOS, Realtek HD Audio, Radeon X300 Series (128 MB), 200 GB 7200 RPM, Serial-ATA/150 Maxtor HD, DVD-ROM, Pioneer DVD-RW DVR-108, Sony SDM-HS73 Monitor, Floppy disk drive, Cable Modem, Razer Viper Mouse.

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