E3 is kind of like a bag of trail mix. A bit too nutty at times, but on the whole it contains an interesting blend of flavors. Occasionally you'll reach into that bag and pull out that unexpected sweet bit that makes you stop and think to yourself, damn, I wish the bag was full of this stuff! As it turns out, the sweet yogurt chip in this year's otherwise nutty E3 mixed bag would have to be ArcheAge.
First Impressions are King
ArcheAge represents one of the loftiest attempts at true sandbox gameplay I've seen in quite some time. While it does guide you along your journey for roughly the first half of the leveling experience Â so to around level 25 out of 50 Â most of the questing up to that point is geared towards teaching players about all the various ways they can interact with the world. And from what I've seen, it's a mighty extensive list.
One of the many oddities I saw for my demo involved riding a cow (yes, a flipping cow!) as a mount. I watched in amazement as it left a big steaming brown pile on the ground that players can then attempt to harvest for fertilizer. What's awesome is that doing so made our demo character pass out from the overwhelming stench for a few seconds.
You can build, board, and pilot giant ships that can then be attacked by pirates. You can even become a pirate yourself by killing players from your own faction, or otherwise doing things that will see you put on trial for your misdeeds. A jury of your in-game peers will then decide your fate. If you're considered bad enough, you can be effectively exiled and will no longer belong to either of the two main in-game factions.
Have Some Class
The class system is also pretty cool. Mind you, that can often mean something as simple as the fact that the game has necromancers as a playable class option. ArcheAge does have necromancy, but it's just one of 10 classes you'll ultimately have available to you.
You'll start out with a single class. At level 5 a second opens up, and a third finally unlocks at level 10. So of the 10 available classes, you'll be able to have 3 active at any given time which creates a lot of interesting hybrid potential. So if you've always had the wacky dream of playing a funky necro paladin Â and who hasn't, really - you'll be able to fulfill that fantasy in ArcheAge.
Character creation deserves a bump as well. A thing I particularly liked is the level of detail that extends beyond the usual slider suspects. For example, you don't only have a choice of facial scars; you can move, resize, or even rotate that scar to achieve some very specific looks. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that someone figures out how to replicate the awesomness that is Vanilla Ice's striped eyebrows. That would be totally rad.
The trade system is also awesomely complex. To transport goods you'll create bundles that can be carried around like a giant backpack. You'll use these bundles to do things like build ships or houses, but you may want to transport some of them elsewhere in the world. The things are heavy, so on foot the best you can manage is to slowly walk, or you can go a bit faster if you hop on a donkey. That speeds things up a bit, but you're probably better off tossing the bundles on a ship.
Your ship can carry a bunch of the things, so you decide to load it up with say a dozen or so. Shortly after leaving the dock, a pirate ship emerges from a nearby portal and begins to attack. Thankfully you've had the foresight to bring some friends along for the journey. As two of them begin firing cannons at the approaching vessel, you scramble up the mast to the crow's nest. From here you use a scope to assess the enemy, and ring a bell to alert your other friends to be prepared for a tough fight.
You worked long and hard to gather the resources you're carrying, so decide you're going on the offensive rather than risk being boarded by the pirates. Leaping from the crow's nest, you summon your trusty glider, and then use an ability granting you temporary stealth. Without alerting the pirates to your attack, you manage to swoop down on their unsuspecting heads and reign doom down upon them.
That's just one basic scenario, but it does help illustrate some of the depth that ArcheAge has to offer.
While there's still no ETA on when we can expect a North American beta to begin, the folks at Trion assured me that they'll have some info to share in that department Soon Â. Speaking of soonÂ be on the lookout for our exclusive interview that goes much more in-depth about what ArcheAge has to offer. In the meantime, don't forget to bust a move and check out the rest of our E3 2013 event coverage.