Anarchy Online part 1

I spent a few hours on Saturday night in Anarchy Online. I had previously downloaded the game client in the hope of finding a free trial and they have done just that. Here is a brief rundown of my experience so far. I won’t call it a review.

Account creation was straightforward and didn’t require jumping through too many hoops. The free trial does not require you to select a payment method so no credit card needed. On the first attempt at creating a character the client died with DirectX throwing a Data Execution Prevention error. After configuring DEP to ignore AO and a restart of the client things went smoothly and I created an Engineer (“We need an engineer!” <3 Wolf/ET). A cut scene later and my toon was in the arrivals hall on Rubi-Ka where there are a few NPCs that will talk to you and give you background on the gme world and basic instructions for getting out of the building. I then boarded a shuttle and this crash-landed near a beach where I then found myself. The game had begun. There is a single NPC and he offered a couple of “find this, kill that” type ‘missions’. He then offered a “take this to NPC X” mission with vague directions to where I might find NPC X. I wandered around for about 20 mins before I found the intended route, which began to the west of the mission giving NPC when the mission had stated north. Technically the target NPC is to the north but some simple extra instructions would’ve saved some frustration. Marking the NPC on the map wouldn’t be a disaster either.

This set the tone for the game after that. There are plenty of simple things that could make this game easier to play. Looking around is a particular frustration of mine. I’m used to WoW which manages to have a sensible free look and move method using the mouse that other games, including AO, desperately need. Perhaps I’m spoilt from having begun my MMO play with such a polished product.

This game is no place for noobs. There is little help with the games mechanics and other players were commenting that there is a steep learning curve. There is no introduction to Improvement Points, a critical area of the game (I’m guessing), just an error message when you try to equip an item that requires points in a certain area.

NPCs are also difficult to spot. Identifying another player or NPC requires you selecting them or shift(?) clicking them to bring up an info window. There is an option to turn on names but this turns on all names… NPCs, players and mobs. Once you can see their name the only indication that they are an NPC is that their name has spaces in it. Player names can only be a single word. Hardly intuitive. Once again I’ve been spoilt by WoW’s elegant handling of this.

The final ‘nail’ in AO’s coffin for me is the graphics. They aren’t very special. My first impression was that I was back in Half Life. Or Quake. Characters don’t seem to have much ‘character’ and seem chunky and pixelated.

The free trial continues until early January 2007 so I will probably persevere with AO to see if the game improves with progression but I can’t see myself actually ever wanting to pay to play this game. Especially with “The Burning Crusade” about to hit shelves.

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