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Test-driving Anarchy Online

ITavisen.no have been fortunate enough to participate in the beta testing of Anarchy Online. Check out the images, and get a solid preview of one of the most anticipated computer games of all times.

Just about all of FunCom’s 100 employees are working hard on getting the massive online roleplaygame Anarchy Online ready for release. As part of the developing process a group of gamers is allowed to participate as voluntarily play testers, in what is called beta testing.

In the case of Anarchy Online, which is a gigantic project, there is about six thousand gamers who happily waste countless hours playing an unfinished product – including ITavisen.no’s humble beta tester (yours truly).

It only gets better

The game is in other words not finished, so for the time being all aspects surrounding the beta version must be taken lightly. Many functions are not implemented, it often runs slowly, I get thrown of the server time and again, the graphics don’t flow perfectly, and there is nowhere as many players logged on as there will be when the game eventually is released.but then the true point of beta testing is to get feedback on these issues, so all minor and major flaws can get fixed.

Though there is no doubt that Anarchy Online is a great game of world class. Despite all growing pains, the beta version of AO is already the best and most impressive net based roleplaygame we have seen and tried. Competitors EverQuest, Ultima Online, and Asheron’s Call beware!

Background

The action in AO takes place on the planet Rubi-Ka, in a distant future. If you want to read a little about the story and setting of the game, read Anarchy Online: An exclusive preview (where you get to meet some of the employees in FunCom who are part of the development). (X-Qtor’s note; The Anarchy Online: An exclusive preview is in Norwegian).

Now let’s see how Anarchy Online plays. Note again that the following descriptions only apply to the beta version of the game, and it is quite likely that certain things will be different when the game is released.

Birth

When you first log on, you are a completely anonymous person without a face, gender or other characteristics. To begin with you must chose which of the four breeds you wish to play. The choices are the humanlike Solitus, the crafty and sneaky Opifex, the high-tech Nano, or the brutal Atrox.

All breeds consist of males and females, except the Atrox who are unisex.

A random generated Solitus, with normal body build, 10% higher than average.

What breed you chose affects which professions are most suited for you, and what abilities your character will receive. To that effect it is most natural for a soldier to be of the Atrox breed, while a Solitus is best suited as a merchant or thief.

After having chosen breed, it is time to select a face, and there is a innumerable selection of exciting combinations to chose from. Then you chose body build (skinny, normal or fat), and decide if you want to be taller or lower than what is common for your chosen breed.

These cosmetic choices are only present to aid in role-play, and have no effect on game play. It is part of the charm that you get to make a character that is different from all the others you will meet in the game, which makes it easier to build your own identity.

Our hero! When zooming in close, the details on the different characters are still very good..

Then it is time to chose profession: Adventurer, Agent, Bureaucrat, Doctor, Enforcer, Engineer, Fixer, Soldier, Martial Artist, Trader, Nano Technician, or Meta-Physicist. You are free to decide what profession you want to pursue, but the preconditions for success within your field will depend upon your breed.

It is unlikely that an Atrox will manage to become one of the leading Meta-Physicist of Rubi-Ka (but.it is not impossible).

As soon as you’ve given your character a name, the final – and important – decision remains, what side you want to take in the everlasting powerstrugle on Rubi-Ka. Do you want to belong to the organised Omni-Tek corporation who basks in resources and high-tech out of the mega city Omni-1, or do you want to join the rebel clans who fight for freedom and adventure?

If you find it hard to chose, you can start the game as a neutral. Then you will be able to chose sides later in the game, should you find in favour of one or the other.

When you have made your decision, the game begins. If you belong to Omni-Tek you will get a private apartment in Omni-1. Clan members get a room in the rebel city of Tir, and neutrals start out in the settling town of Newtown.

You can position your camera view freely, and zoom as far as you like. Here is a settler town, Newtown, far away from Omni-1.

You can position your camera view freely, and zoom as far as you like. Here is a settler town, Newtown, far away from Omni-1.(More pictures of the character generating process can be viewed here)

A sight for sore eyes

It is hard not to get impressed by the visuals in Anarchy Online. The whole world is rendered in beautiful 3D-graphics, and the character models are very varied and detailed. You can chose to see the world from a first person perspective, which is nice when you are indoors, or you can view everything from a free camera angle ().

The view angle can be twisted and turned to your liking, so you can focus on whatever is going on around you. And the view can be zoomed in and out almost infinite, giving you complete view of your surroundings.

Omni-Tek has placed its propaganda boards outside the gates of Omni-1, with messages like «We Bring Order». Inside the city gates, one is constantly reminded to «Be Good», «Behave», etc…

Another impressive part of Rubi-Ka is its weather, which varies between nice and calm to extreme sandstorms, hails of rain, and thunderstorms. Sunsets and -rises can be quite dramatic, and all these elements help create the illusion of a real fantasy world deep within cyberspace.

Battle

FunCom promises there will be plenty of story and dynamic events on Rubi-Ka. The beta version displays little of this, and focus is on exploring, interacting with other players, and fight different aliens and robots – things that probably will occupy most of a players time when the game is finished too.

When you enter combat with an opponent, be it a three-legged simpleton alien or a top trained elite soldier from Omni-Tek a number of factors step in to decide how the battle will continue.

The battle system is such that blows are exchanged in real time, but is simultaneously turn based. This means it is enough to start a battle to cause both combatants to attack each other until one goes down. It is not the one who does the most frantic mouse clicking who wins, but you can issue extra commands during the skirmish that will be carried out when it is your turn again.

Your character’s skills and abilities decide how often you get to attack, how successful and how much damage your attacks inflict, and how hard it is for the enemy to hit you.

FunCom has had lots of fun making hundreds of different clothes, armour and weapons with which to equip your character.

In AO there are piles of weapons to chose between, anything from axes to advanced particle-rifles, solar cell based machineguns, and flamethrowers. To use a weapon efficient, you will need to fulfil the weapons skill requirements.

To protect yourself from injury it is important to adorn protective armour and clothes. These are found in caves and buildings, or can be bought when you have collected some money.

Nanotechnology

Anarchy Online may not be about dragons, demons, and magic, but even in this high-tech futuristic world many of these elements are kept alive, just in a different form.

In place of fantasy monsters, there are of course countless aliens and monsters who fill the same role. Guns, rifles and ray guns work similar to bow and arrows, and a lot of Rubi-Ka is still unexplored.

An online roleplaygame would naturally not be the same without wizards and mages, and in AO they take the form of Nano Technicians and Meta-Physicists. These groups have such an advanced understanding of nanotech that the effects they are able to produce looks like, well – pure magic to those who don’t have such a strong grasp on nanotechnology. This enables AO to have players who can heal, send fireballs, and «buff» their team-mates abilities and skills.with nanotech.

Using nanotech at night.

Money and experience

To evolve a character, AO uses a level system, which in many ways is similar to what you find in other roleplaygames. You have to fight and do things to gather experience points. When a certain amount of points have been gathered, the character is levelled up. Then you also get the chance to put level points into skills, to improve the skills you want to get better in.

Even though walking into a forest to hunt down reptiles and space-hamsters can give you experience, it is not the way to get rich. That’s why there is a unique system in place to assign missions. The missions are available in varying degrees of difficulty, and large sums of cash can be made from a mission.

Missions are generated on the spot, and it is possible to cooperate with other players to complete missions. A typical mission can be to destroy a computer, deliver an item, or assassinate someone.

AO has a detailed system for development of skills and abilities, based on experience and »levels» (as in other roleplaying games).

Soon, soon…

There is little doubt that Anarchy Online will be a »make or break» title for FunCom, who has put considerable resources and investments into this game. Already big online communities of AO-fans have formed, despite the fact that most haven’t seen the game yet.

Fortunately it looks like FunCom is going to deliver a good and solid product, and from what we have seen there is little to suggest that gamers around the world will be disappointed.

Even though the details around payment are not finalised yet, we can expect to have to pay a monthly fee to play Anarchy Online – this is after all a game where you play consistently to build up your character and to truly explore the world.

This is why FunCom is little concerned about their game-CD being pirated, and they expect people will copy the game from each other, or download it from the net – the main income will come from the thousands of nerds who are more than happy to pay their monthly fees for years to come.

Time of release is still uncertain. FunCom proclaims that «the game is done when it’s done, and not any sooner». Since AO is in its final beta-phase, it may be a logical assumption that the big E3 Expo in Los Angeles in May is a suitable event for this.

More information about background, history, breeds, and other sides of the game can be found on FunCom’s official web page: www.anarchyonline.com, or you can visit the many unofficial fan pages on the net.

Stikkord: spilltester