Anarchy Online: Alien Invasion Impressions - E3 2004

We take an updated look at Funcom's next Anarchy Online expansion at E3 2004.

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Funcom was on hand at E3 2004 with Alien Invasion, the next expansion pack for its sci-fi-themed massively multiplayer game Anarchy Online. One of the expansion's most important features will be player-built cities; we saw a demonstration of one of them in action. Even though the buildings weren't textured yet, the player-built city was huge. It looked quite like a normal city, featuring numerous shops, a terminal for "the Grid" (one of Anarchy Online's quick-transport systems), and plenty of new-player housing. As we saw, the new-player houses (which players can commission on top of their starting player apartment and a Jobe apartment if they preordered the Shadowlands expansion pack) can be decked out with all sorts of new accoutrements, such as a deluxe swimming pool lined with deck chairs. According to director Marius Enge, players will also be able to add in such luxuries as a bar (run by a computer-controlled bartender), a dance floor, a computer-controlled disc jockey, and even your own private fight club for casual player-versus-player battles.

However, these amenities will come at a great cost--the ever-present danger of an alien attack. Though city owners can purchase cloaking stations to help obscure their holdings, there always exists a danger that a gigantic (and very impressive-looking) alien mothership will block out the entire sky, dropping companies of militant alien creatures to invade. Interestingly, the alien parties sent down to invade will actually vary in size, composition, and toughness, based on whichever player characters happen to be in town at the time, and how coordinated these players are in their defenses. Essentially, alien attacks will tailor themselves to your characters, in much the same way that Anarchy Online's groundbreaking personal missions tailored themselves to your specifications. If you have a large group of high-level friends, you may be attacked by a first wave of powerful aliens. If you do well for yourselves, the second wave will be even tougher, though the aliens may try different tactics. If the previous wave was full of melee fighters, the next might be full of aliens that use nanoformulas (the game's futuristic equivalent of magic spells).

Once you've defeated the waves of aliens, you and your fellow city residents can attack the mothership, which will be guarded by an exceptionally powerful alien creature. As soon as you board the ship, you'll be given notice that you have only a limited time to clear out the ship before it returns to space (which will mean certain death for your character). Like the game's instanced dungeons, the mothership layout will change with each encounter. If you and your teammates can defeat the aliens, you'll be able to gain "alien experience" and recover alien components--the former of which can be used to buy up the expansion's 600 new perks and 200 new special attacks; the latter can be used to craft all-new armor and weapons.

Finally, if you preorder Alien Invasion, you will also receive pet leets. Leets are tiny, hamsterlike creatures that have served as both low-level enemies and comic relief in Anarchy Online since the game's 2001 launch. Players that preorder will be able to take on one of 10 different versions of the leet as a pet, including "Calcu-leet" (a "nerd" leet that wears heavy black-rimmed glasses and a necktie) and "Cheer-leet" (a buxom leet wearing too much makeup and an unflatteringly tight sweater). These new pets will serve as humorous additions, but won't severely impact Anarchy Online's gameplay. The expansion is scheduled for release on September 1 of this year.

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