It's not fair to send die-hard Mac geeks to inspect what may be the best online RPG of the year. Sooner or later, it will result in the phrase "I may just have to buy a PC to play this game."
FunCom has been developing Anarchy Online for nearly five years, and it shows. The programmer that RPGamer spoke with admits that the development team played a great deal of Shadowrun and Rifts, and they've managed to capture the feel of those games in what promises to be the most detailed online RPG world yet. With over 47,000 items and a "mission system" that can be expanded by players and GMs alike, there's plenty to keep even the most addicted gamer busy for the game's 4-year planned run.
Gameplay is fairly standard for an online RPG, though there is a twist that can (sadly) be considered unusual: combat is not necessary to advance in level. Players in Anarchy Online can gain experience in a number of ways, including guard duty, healing, and item retrieval. For the gamer who is less interested in the hack-and-slash aspect of online gaming, this is the title to try. Player vs. player combat is controlled in several ways. Towns are completely safe areas. Outside of towns, there are certain areas where only players of opposing sides can attack each other; past that, there is a melee section, where anyone may attack anyone -- providing that they are within the target level difference. There are also "safe passage" areas, where non-combat players can move from town to town safely. These factors will all contribute to producing a highly-balanced offering.
The version that RPGamer saw at E3 was running on a high-speed line and a development server, which makes it difficult to gauge how well the "online" portion of the game will run. However, FunCom has done a great deal of work in balancing game security with client-side speed. Though each action is verified with the server, the client will anticipate the server's response, speeding up processing and eliminating some of the potential problems with lag.
The graphics are smooth and detailed, and look wonderful. Great and loving attention has been put into creating the world of Rubi-Ka; outside, animals and random weather patterns keep the eyes entertained when running from area to area. Players can choose from a number of different faces and body types for their characters upon creation, and once in the world, can purchase different types of clothing to customize those characters. FunCom is working hard to build a total-immersion world.
On the whole, Anarchy Online looks to be one of the most interesting titles of the upcoming year. Though RPGamer didn't get a chance for extended play-testing, what we did get to play left us eager for more. Though there are no plans for a Macintosh port in the forseeable future, this is one that you'll probably want to at least take a look at.
Anarchy Online's official website can be found at anarchyonline.com.