Anarchy Online: Alien Invasion Preview

The next expansion pack for Funcom's online RPG will include all-new player housing, player-built towns, and hostile aliens.

While online role-playing games let you create a character so that you can then explore an online world with thousands of other players--usually in a high-fantasy realm--Funcom's Anarchy Online was the first of these to take place in a futuristic, sci-fi setting. The game is set in a far-flung future on the remote mining colony of Rubi-Ka, where the repressive Omni-Tek megacorporation seeks to plunder the colony of its precious notum resource, and only the rebel clans can provide opposition. Most recently, the story of Anarchy Online was extended with the Shadowlands expansion pack, which opened up a netherworld in which players could discover the precursors of Omni-Tek and the clans. However, once the Shadowlands were opened for exploration, something apparently went very wrong because the balance of the universe was disrupted, thus causing sudden, unpremeditated deaths on Rubi-Ka. Worse still, a new species of hostile alien creatures, armed with superior technology, began to invade the planet's surface.

Alien Invasion will introduce player housing, player towns, and a hostile new life-form.

As its title suggests, the expansion will focus on conflicts with aliens, though these attacks will be made more meaningful by the introduction of all-new player housing and player towns. Anarchy Online launched back in 2001 and presented player housing in the form of personal apartments in Rubi-Ka; the game then added deluxe apartments in Shadowlands. The new expansion pack will let you acquire an all-new property--a player house. These houses will be expensive to build and may require the input of an expert craftsman character, but the expansion will offer a great variety of them to both individual players and to player guilds (long-term groups of players). These houses can be equipped with meeting halls, landing pads for vehicles, study rooms (which improve the efficiency of players who are attempting to craft items), gun and radar towers for defense against aliens, and even luxury additions, like swimming pools. Player houses may also be equipped with shops that will automatically sell off your items by using a new, searchable item bazaar, which will most likely be accessible at multiple terminals throughout Rubi-Ka.

Housing can be built around a central notum terminal, and once enough houses are erected, a player town will be created. Player towns can be explored by anyone, regardless of character affiliation or even whether or not you have the expansion pack, though you'll need it to enter buildings and to use shops. The largest and strongest player towns will be supplemented by a guild headquarters building, which can include an entrance to "the grid" (the game's high-speed player transportation), meeting rooms, trophy rooms, tactical planning rooms, and even a plastic surgery area where players can change their appearances. However, all housing will come under fire when aliens do attack.

The expansion's aliens target the central notum terminals that towns are built around and will attack fiercely until they have inflicted 90 percent structural damage to them. Fortunately, town housing can (at least) be equipped with cloaking devices that can reduce the probability of an alien attack. However, when players are ready, they can drop their cloaking devices and prepare for an attack. When an attack begins, the gigantic alien mothership will block out the sky and will drop alien attackers in waves. The number and difficulty of these aliens will be based on the current size and relative strength of the players currently in town. Of course, home owners will likely call for help through the grid, but once reinforcements (in the form of other players) begin to arrive, the aliens will also call for backup. The exact size and frequency of these alien attacks are still being fine-tuned, but Funcom expects these events to be challenging and worthwhile for players.

If you can defeat these aliens, you can gain their knowledge and scavenge their technology.

Fighting aliens will present several benefits for your character, if you can survive. The aliens in the expansion pack possess highly advanced technology, and if you can defeat them, you'll be able to salvage bits and pieces of this technology, for use in trade skills, to craft highly advanced weapons and armor. In addition, killing aliens will let your character gain experience points--as is normal--which can help him or her eventually gain character levels and learn new "perks" (special skills that were introduced in the Shadowlands expansion). Furthermore, killing aliens will let your character gain "alien experience points." This new kind of experience will be applied to "alien perks," which represent an entirely new set of abilities that are available only in the expansion. Alien Invasion is scheduled for release later this year.

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