Updated 8/21/2001 I decided that I would say a couple words on the feedback I have recieved for this review. First, If you re having trouble and customer support isn t helping, that won t affect my view of the game. Aside from the bugs I mentioned, I haven t had disconnects, lag, or any of the other problems that a few of you have mentioned. Actually, it seems that the game runs almost flawlessly now, hardly ever crashing. I want to thank the few of you who sent in constructive critisim; I would like to hear more feedback on other reviews from a couple of you. However, for those of you who say things like, I didn t play the game, but ..., I feel a little upset because I spent far more time than I probably should have in order to produce a good review. In all that time I just didn t experience any of the problems that some of you did. Previous Information The first round of the multi-player online RPG wars hasn t even finished and new titles are slowly creeping into stores. In addition to Turbine s Asheron s Call, there is Verant s Everquest, which reveals that more expansion is on the way. There is also Origin s Ultima Online. The classics will soon have to do something new since Anarchy Online is only the first of at least three MMORPGs that will be in gamer s hands very soon. Anarchy Online takes a different approach than the others, ditching the classic medieval look and moving toward a futuristic mega-city scenario. The game takes place more than 30,000 years in the future. A civil war is brewing between the rebels and the Omni-Tek corporation on the desert planet of Rubi-Ka. The rebels will no longer mine Notum, the source of all nanotechnology. At the beginning of your game, you have to choose which side of the conflict to follow. You can also choose to remain neutral. Registration forms are available when you finalize your decision. Bear in mind that my journey through this game has spanned both the lifetime of the beta and a large portion of the past couple of weeks. Still, it would be impossible for me or anyone else to fully realize what this will become when: The servers are combined and the game reaches the scope of veteran games What the higher levels have in store for each of the large varieties of character classes is revealed Graphics Using phenomenal fantasy landscapes and creative character design, FunCom has crafted one of the most beautiful games ever made. Whether you re walking through the sprawling mega city of Omni-1 or the technologically inferior rebel factions, you will always feel that the game is a living, breathing universe. The diverse landscapes range from a modern apartment complex to an underground, root-infested wormhole. They pay tribute to what FunCom has in store for us as we climb the level ladder. Structures are presented at an unsurpassed scale. The engine allows for an unusually realistic sense of size, which reveals a different meaning to being lost in a large city. The fauna isn t simple, static shrubbery. Instead, trees will sway, strands of large grass will move in the wind, and a real-time weather and time system will cast different lights over the endless land. Simple effects like the rising of the moon or the periodic slow-moving incoming storm are breathtaking. Screenshots were made for games like this. The lighting effects, character design, weapons and items make AO simply amazing. I always tell people that there aren t many action games that look better than Tribes 2. There is yet to be an MMORPG, or any RPG for that matter, that can touch the visuals of Anarchy Online. Sound It would be simple to do a lackluster job of creating the music to accompany the aforementioned universe. The wrong sample here, misplaced tension there, and the atmosphere would be gone. Fortunately, only good things can be said about the score. For example, when running through a level littered with non-threatening creatures, my music switched to what seemed like an Alice in Wonderland upbeat theme. Shortly after I ran into an area where I wasn t supposed to be, the happy music faded and high-tension, low-bass music pounded through my speakers. The sound, although it doesn t really break any new ground, will usually be right where you expect it to be. The auditory variety is so large that it seems futile for me to get into lengthy descriptions. Walking on swampy grasslands will produce the appropriate tone. Being attacked by a diseased roller rat will initialize with an ear-piercing shriek. Certain areas like the Red Light District (wink, wink) have party music, while ancient ruins maintain a Stonehenge-like aura. Controls If you re anything like me, you will play AO in a mixture of first and third-person views. Although you can use your mouse exclusively, most gamers will likely use a mix of WASD, or arrow keys and the mouse. There are hotkeys for selecting enemies, teammates and spells. You can assign hotkeys for specific things, and items placed in your toolbar can be launched by using the number keys. The number pad is used to control the camera, something instantly familiar to anyone who knows Everquest or Asheron s Call. You can zoom in and out, and rotate or reset the camera for better views. Special attacks -- if not dropped into your toolbar -- have corresponding keyboard shortcuts. Close to them are keys that will open up your inventory, character, nanos, maps and the rest of the menus if you don t feel like clicking their icons. Most items in your inventory require a right-click. Holding down the mouse button will pop up a menu system that can be used for things like uploading mission coordinates and memorizing nano formulas. By left-clicking anything in the universe, you can select it, whether it is an item or an enemy. You can pull up information or start attacking with the click of a button. There are a couple of instances where typing must be used, usually for chat. You can select who you want to talk to, be it vicinity, your team or everyone. Advanced users will quickly embrace the /script functions for emotes, or in some cases, to perform advanced attacks. If you are new to the game, I would strongly suggest getting used to the interface. The futuristic items and characters might be a little overwhelming at first, but rest assured. You will pick it up in no time. Gameplay Your gameplay will vary drastically according to what breed and profession you choose. The four breeds -- Solitus (well-rounded), Opifex (high-agility), Nano (techs) and Atrox (powerhouse) -- will offer different variations on your base skill level. From there, your profession will have the most impact. Choosing from Agent (stealth), Adventurer (land knowledge), Bureaucrat (manipulative), Doctor (healer), Enforcer (hand-to-hand), Engineer (robots), Fixer (creator), Martial Artist (spiritual), Meta Physicist (science), Nano Technician (programs), soldier (weapons) and Trader (capitalist) will direct what your character will be. There are hundreds of variations on each. Each profession holds its own strengths and weaknesses and you will be surprised at how powerful each can become. Wherever you choose to begin, you will be placed in a training zone that you can level a little before venturing out into the world. While it will be hard to choose what you character will be, only a few players will survive as solo fighters. Grouping up and going on missions will be your best bet since experience and credits will be much more profitable. After you choose your mission, which you will find in one of the mission stations that are littered throughout Rubi-Ka, you can duplicate the mission key (used to enter the mission area), give it to your team, and venture out together. Each mission will give you a set gain in experience, credits and a special item in addition to the booty that you will collect while fighting along the way. You will need sufficient tact to successfully complete the missions, whether you plan to go solo or not. No matter which breed or profession you choose, you should buff yourself with pre-fight magic and don the best armor, weaponry and magic you can acquire. Use a mix of regular and special attacks to survive. Don t forget to help out hurting teammates or you may lose your group. If you help them and they help you, the team experience will increase in addition to the individual experience you ll gain. There are a couple of other things that will be new for fans of the MMORPGs. Although I haven t had the chance to do this yet, you can pilot ground, sea and air vehicles to help you navigate the immense world. You can also take control of apartments, holding your items and placing decorative pieces to liven up your living quarters. Finally (and most importantly), the tension between the rival factions will cause certain people to distrust you. You must be careful of wandering into non-friendly territory because there will be no one there to help you. Alas, there are a couple of things that will irritate tons of people, and I would be doing you a disservice if I didn t address them. If you don t enjoy the Shadowrun-esque, futuristic environment, you might not be happy here. You won t have the same skills and items that you re used to, and learning a new system is confusing to anyone. While FunCom planned to host one huge world, the servers have already been broken into two. Don t expect tens of thousands of players, although there are several, on one server. Bugs range from spawning hundreds of feet in the air to going through a door that leads to the edge of the world (remember that?). Collision detection problems are littered throughout, as are crashes. Most of them have been improved significantly since the launch. In the end, if you re looking for an MMORPG and haven t played one yet, I strongly suggest Anarchy Online. It has, by far, the most potential and is surely the game of the now. Give it a month or two. After a few more patches come down the pike, it s sure to be the sleeper hit of 2001. -==KapTeNKrYloN==-
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