During a recent visit to Codemasters' UK headquarters, we were afforded our first look at ArchLord--the first massively multiplayer online role-playing game from Korea-based NHN Corporation. Set in the fantasy world of Chantra (pronounced Kantra), ArchLord clearly has plenty in common with other MMO games such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars, but it also boasts one or two unique features that promise to distinguish it from the competition.
The first thing you'll need to do when you start playing ArchLord, of course, is create a character for yourself. There are eight playable classes in the game, and each of them is exclusive to one of the three races that call Chantra home. Orc players can choose to be hunters, berserkers, or shaman; moon elf players can be spiritualists or elementalists; and human players can be mages, knights, or archers. Your character-customization options will be relatively limited at the start of your adventure, but they'll increase in number as you progress toward the game's level 100 cap. The stamina, mana, force, agility, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma attributes for your character will be determined by your class choice.
Your formative hours and days in ArchLord will be spent exploring in and around your chosen race's capital city, where you'll find that you can control your character either with a point-and-click interface or using the W, A, S, and D keys. We had an opportunity to look around all three of the cities during our presentation and were impressed not only by their sheer size, but also by how very different they all looked and felt. The human city, for example, is a sprawling labyrinth of white marble with formal architecture. The moon elves, on the other hand, like to build upward instead of outward, so their capital city consists mainly of very tall and ornate buildings. Other environments that we were afforded brief glimpses of during our time with ArchLord included a picturesque beach with palm trees, a burnt forest, the dark and dangerous-looking city of the orcs, and a desert region where we noticed a large, moon elf flying ship overhead. ArchLord's world doesn't appear to boast the same level of visual detail as Azeroth (World of Warcraft) or Tyria (Guild Wars), but the environments are every bit as varied and those that we saw certainly weren't hard on the eyes. What we heard of the game's soundtrack--which comes courtesy of the London Symphony Orchestra--was also quite pleasing, though we were somewhat bemused by what appeared to be an extended version of a popular hymn that was playing in the moon elf capital city.
ArchLord will launch with around 2,500 different quests for you to undertake as you progress through the game, and you'll be able to locate the non-player characters who offer them to you very easily using a small map in the top right corner of the screen. That, and the World of Warcraft-style yellow exclamation points that float above their heads. Many of the quests in ArchLord will undoubtedly involve killing certain numbers of enemies or delivering items to other parts of the world, but we're told that story-driven quest chains and even player-versus-player quests will be quite common. As is the case with all MMO games, quests will be best attempted alongside other players, and if you want to attempt the titular ArchLord quest chain, you'll need an entire guild backing you up every step of the way.
The ArchLord quest chain is one of the most intriguing features of the game, because the first player to complete it on his or her chosen server will be crowned the ArchLord and will gain access to special items and abilities in the process, such as a flying dragon mount, NPC bodyguards, and the ability to control certain monsters and even the weather. The lengthy quest chain will involve, among other things, having your guild besiege and retrieve items from three heavily fortified castles, and defeating a large boss enemy inside the ArchLord's own castle. Once you're crowned as ArchLord, you'll be immortalized in a special area of the game's official Web site and also on the walls of the aforementioned ArchLord castle in the game. Your reign as ArchLord will only be guaranteed for 21 days, since the title will have to be defended from ArchLord wannabes and their guilds every three weeks.
As is generally the case in MMO games, the strength of your guild will be determined not only by its size and by the skill of its members, but also by how well equipped its members are. Every character in ArchLord will be able to equip several different pieces of armor, a couple of rings and trinkets, and, of course, weapons. Most of the characters that we got to see up close during our short time with the English-language alpha version of the game running on a live Korean server were wearing matching armor sets--some of which grant special bonuses to their wearers. The armor pieces and weapons in ArchLord are nicely detailed, and the same is true for the mounts that will become available to you when you reach certain levels in the game.
The mounts available to each race will come in four different colors, but humans will only be able to ride horses; orcs will only be able to ride large, furry rhino-like creatures; and moon elves will be saddled with an animal that looks like the offspring of a large cat and a chinchilla. The appearance and the attributes of your chosen mount will improve as the animal levels up alongside you. The extra armor pieces that get added to your steed won't just be for show in ArchLord, because the game supports mounted combat with long lance-like weapons.
One of the aspects of ArchLord that wasn't really covered during our presentation was the game's economy. When asked how players will acquire money, the Codemasters Online Gaming representative who was demoing the game explained that there are plans for something along the lines of an auction-house system in ArchLord, but that it hasn't been implemented at this time. Player-crafted items will seemingly play a smaller role in ArchLord than in many other MMO games, because every player in the game will have access to the same "professions," which include skinning/meat cutting, corpse rummaging, alchemy, and cooking. These professions will basically be used to gather raw materials from slain enemies, which, when combined with ingredients purchased from NPCs, can be used to make foods and potions that "buff" (improve) character attributes for a limited time when consumed. Transformation potions that let you assume the form of another creature for a short time were also mentioned during our presentation, though no specifics were discussed.
Further information on ArchLord is being kept under wraps for the moment, but we hope to bring you more on the game at next month's Electronic Entertainment Expo.