Previous post in this series: "Howdy, y'all!" from the lost city of Atlantica
In my first entry on Atlantica Online, I got so carried away writing about the turn-based, party-based combat system, that before I said much else, I decided the post was quite long enough already and hit "publish."
Now, I have complained in the past about being bored of "race/class/level quest-to-endgame-and-then-PvP sword & sorcery themepark MMOs". Does Atlantica fit into that category? Well, it is class/level based - however, the class system is mitigated by the fact that it is party-based. My character is an Archer. But there are Archer mercenaries available. If I was playing, say, a Swordsman, and had an Archer merc as part of my formation, I don't think it would feel significantly different to my current situation of playing an Archer and having a Swordsman merc.
If I want to experiment with some different classes, I don't need to roll an alt of a different class, I can get a merc of a different class into my party. My main frustration with the class/level paradigm is that once you're established in a game, trying another class means leaving behind your levels and starting from scratch, so it's nice to not have to do this - sure, my new merc will be level one, but at least the rest of my party is still strong and can continue adventuring while I raise him up.
(note: storage space for unpartied mercs does need to be purchased, either at the item mall or for in-game currency, otherwise you won't be able to keep your old merc in reserve while you play a new one)
Quest to endgame and then PvP? Well, I'm level 36 now, and while I have indeed been supplied with quests the whole time, never needing to grind, the bulk of this questing has been in a single massive chain leading me around. There haven't been that many side quests, really, so gameplay has been a bit lacking in that "which of these quests shall I do next?" feeling.
The quests are mostly pretty standard "kill ten rats" and fedex style things, as with many MMOs they really just provide a structure to the gameplay rather than truly standing out for their own merits. If I wasn't taken by the turn and party based play, I'd certainly be bored by the quests. Although the quest dialogue does have a "subtitles from a Chinese martial arts movie" feel to it, which has some charm. And it's also interesting that a lot of the tutorial elements of the game are integrated into the main quest chain - e.g., you get questgivers giving you a quests to do such things as use a scroll in battle, equip an item, buy and sell items from vendors, even open your world map and look at it! It's a nice way of making sure a new player doesn't miss any of the basics, whilst giving more experienced gamers a little gold and xp for nothing.
But one thing which Atlantica has certainly gotten right which so many MMOs do not is that PvP is by no means an activity solely for the endgame. There are various competitions which run regularly in game, the main one being the "Free League". I believe you have to be level 20 to participate in this competition, which realistically means that by the time you've learned the ropes of gameplay, you can start PvP'ing. Entering involves merely clicking a button, and sees you matched against an opponent, using a division ranking system so you should get a relatively fair fight. My record is currently standing at nine wins and eight losses so I'd say the matchmaking works pretty well!
PvP certainly challenges your formation-building and tactical skills far more than PvE - in PvE, mobs tend to whack away at random members of your party, and have few special abilities, but in PvP you can expect to be confronted by a broad mix of classes and thus many different abilities, with your opponent (if they're any good!) doing their best to hammer you with stuns and silences and heavy focus-fire on your most important party members. I was planning to write more about it in a separate post, but I'll finish off by saying that I think that Warhammer Online is the only MMORPG I have played which offered this much PvP entertainment so soon after you started playing - and lord knows that game had enough problems to counterbalance that quality.
Crafting? Atlantica has a lot of crafting skills - literally dozens of them. Every type of weapon and every armour slot it its own crafting skill. And you can learn all of them on one character. Needless to say, to do so would require such effort and expense that you won't be doing it any time soon!
The system is fixed recipes, e.g. sword crafting skill level 1 will allow you make a Spirit Sword for 5 Copper Flakes and 4 Maple. There are no gathering skills, by the way, raw materials are all monster drops, also all the ones I have seen so far can be purchased from NPC vendors for a fixed price.
However, unlike most games, it's not a "click a button, watch the progress bar, and bam! you now have a sword" process - after clicking the button, you need to accumulate a certain amount of "workload", which you get by fighting monsters. At my low level, crafting one item seems to require maybe one or two fights, so it's pretty quick. And you can get books of "crafting secrets", which are consumables that give you workload. I've gotten a bunch of these as rewards for competing in the PvP league, so if I want to craft something quickly, I can use them to do so.
There are a few other wrinkles, like being able to dismantle an item that you are capable of crafting to learn extra crafting xp, but you can only do this once per day. On the whole though, crafting seems pretty grindy, even to keep a single skill up to pace with your level (say, to make crafted weapons for your main character) looks like it would take quite a lot of money, materials and effort. I'm not sure that I'm particularly gripped by this aspect of the game.