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RPGamer Preview: Anarchy Online
 

A massively multiplayer RPG set 28,000 years in the future offers new twists to the familiar online RPG genre.
Screens


Hovercars, some of which hover


Varied foliage


My armor is the color of blood!


I wish I were... big.


Furniture, whee


I am Galstaff, sorcerer of light!


Anybody got a lighter?


That's a giant sun


Some trees


Ooh, Kryptonite


I have something pointy!


I think this wall is suspicious too


The arrow points the other way


Sand and Satellite Dish


Wanna fight, sand dune? Well, punk?!


Old man and more hovercars

View Photo Gallery

Platform: PC
Developer: Funcom
Publisher: Funcom
This game has not yet been rated.

Massively multiplayer online games quickly became a major trend in the computer RPG industry, taking over where MUDs left off years ago. Few have tried an MMORPG who have not become addicted to the idea of forming their own persona in a virtual escape from our own world. Until now, most of the MMORPGs widely available and supported have taken place in a medieval or fantasy setting, including such races as elves and dwarves. Anarchy Online, the newest and perhaps most anticipated MMORPG, sets out to change all that.

Anarchy Online takes place on a world known as Rubi-Ka, a planet on the outskirts of space. It isn't necessarily the most hospitable of planets, but it is the only planet that contains the resources needed to produce nanotechnology. This nanotechnology allows those who can effectively control it to perform feats that appear almost magical. The Omni-Tek Corporation has set out to monopolize this technology, and thus colonizes the planet to make their job that much easier. Some disagree with Omni-Tek's practices, however, and have formed rebel bands dedicated to stopping Omni-Tek's monopolization of resources. It is at this time that the game begins.

From the minute a player enters the world of Anarchy Online, he or she is completely immersed in Rubi-Ka. No 2-D character generation utilities are available to set up one's character; rather, all the character design is done in-game. Many options are given during character design so that different characters in Rubi-Ka can be easily distinguished. First, a character race must be chosen: these races are Homo Solitus (average in all abilities), Homo Opifex (agile and quick), Homo Nano (technologically proficient), or Homo Atrox (strong and muscular). Players can then configure everything from height to weight to hair color and style. Next up is the job selection, where one of twelve subclasses can be chosen, including Soldier, Martial Artist, Nanotechnician, Fixer, Meta-Physicist, Doctor, Adventurer, Agent, Engineer, Enforcer, Bureaucrat, and Trader. Choosing one of these jobs will still allow a character to learn abilities encompassed by the others -- it will just be more difficult for that character.

After that, the most important choice of all must be made: Which side in the struggle will the character join? Players can choose between working for Omni-Tek, rebelling with the Clan, or becoming completely independent and playing both sides. Once the character enters a town, the skill points must be distributed between over sixty-five different skills. Even from the very beginning of the game, a character can become truly unique.

Funcom, recognizing the problem of experience through combat that plagues MMORPGs with thousands of players, has formulated a unique quest system to provide an alternate means of gaining experience. A booth in town can be visited by players looking for adventure. This booth will randomly generate a quest based on the player's level and character type. These quests include delivering items across town, finding items, and even covert assassinations. To prevent other players from taking over the quest, a key to a building will be given to the character. This building will house the current quest the character is to complete. Some special quests will be given to multiple players at the same time, however -- the players must compete for the experience. The experience isn't as good as that received through combat, but the quest system should help to alleviate the boredom of standing over creature respawn points.

When a player enters combat, the player can adjust a slider representing how aggressive he or she wants his or her character to be. More aggressive characters will attack more often, but will take more damage since they will block less. Player-killing has been dealt with in a way that makes sense in the context of the game -- cities have been filled with "suppression gas" which will suppress the ability to harm other players. As players travel away from this gas, they will receive the ability to harm each other. However, a subway system filled with the gas will provide players with safe travel from town to town.

Of course, even with all of its unique gameplay systems, Anarchy Online could not hold players' interest without being completely immersive. Luckily, Anarchy Online does an extremely good job of taking a player into the world of Rubi-Ka. Graphically, the game holds its own against current single-player games, let alone those which store their data on an external server. A programmer has been employed specifically for creating wildlife to populate otherwise barren areas, making the world seem completely alive. Omni 1, the city owned by Omni-Tek, is as futuristic as it should be, featuring metallic surfaces and signs reminding the citizens to place corporation above individuality. Tir, the rebel headquarters, looks much more worn and lived-in. This contrast allows players to get into the mood to truly role-play their characters well. Every location belongs to a "zone," like those in current MMORPGs. The load time between zones in Anarchy Online is very small, averaging between five and eight seconds to load a new zone.

Since the players are given apartments to customize and live in during the course of the game, it is necessary to make the cities believable and livable. Each player is given a completely customizable apartment, which can be remodeled, if a player has the cash. Access can be given to friends as well, so meetings could be held or parties could possibly be thrown. Nightclubs exist in the lower levels of the city for players to meet up and dance. Meeting other people in Rubi-Ka can be done through up to seventy different gestures and animations, including waving, shaking hands, and saluting. It is possible to get into barfights in these clubs, for the "suppression gas" has difficulty penetrating deep into the city.

With so much to customize and such an immersive world, it appears that one could play Anarchy Online nearly forever. Funcom has made a decision to make that impossible. The story of Anarchy Online will end four years after it begins, allowing the game to have a persistent, coherent storyline. What happens after that? No plans have yet been revealed, though an Anarchy Online 2 is definitely a possibility.

Anarchy Online is due for release on May 30, 2001.

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