I’m not a fan of RTS games. There, I said it. Shoot me now. *grins* Now that I’ve said it, however, I’ve got to admit that I’ve had a good time playing Atlantica Online and I am pleasantly surprised.
Atlantica Online is one of the first MMO games aspiring to be a true hybrid between the real-time strategy genre and role playing. It’s a lofty goal that in many ways is accomplished. There are, however some niggling frustrations that will hopefully be cleared up during the next ten days’ beta testing.
Logging into Atlantica Online has been an experience I could do without ever again. Reaching the log in screen is quick and efficient and packed with great looking images. Every time I hoped it would be better and I excitedly plucked out my name and password. But hopes were dashed every time and I found I could watch a 100 yard dash in the local snail Olympics, come back and the game would still be sitting there ‘trying to connect to the server’. Admittedly, this will be a must do bug fix for developers and it’s probably a small thing but not a good thing to have happen to players trying to get in and see what Atlantica Online is all about. (Editor’s Note: The Atlantica Online team has fixed this issue at time of posting.)
Once in, however, things improve quickly. Players can choose from several generic-sounding archetypes: Sword, Spear, Axe, Gun, Bow, Cannon and Staff. Character classes are non-gender specific and there are several different customizations available for the toon’s look and, of course, names are totally up to the character. Equipping items changes a character’s look which leads to hundreds, if not thousands, of different appearances.
Once a character is created, you’re thrown into a dream world, sort of a tutorial, where players are met by several NPCs who hand out basic information and quests to get you up to speed on how things work in Atlantica. Quests range from hiring mercenaries to learning some of the interface options.
But the most important aspect of any MMO is combat and one of the first things characters are assigned is to enter a battle sequence to learn the basics of combat. After receiving the quest, one looks around and sees enemies quite literally littering the local landscape. Simply left clicking on an enemy opens an alternate ‘battle’ screen. Players can also right click on the enemy and receive information about the number of foes and the battle’s relative difficulty for a character of your level.
After left-clicking on the chosen target, your character and any hired mercenaries are in battle formation. Combat is turn-based and timed. Mercenaries have to have a certain level of “battle readiness” in order to fight but Atlantica makes knowing who’s ready easy by circling them in green. Clicking on a ready fighter initiates their attack against the enemy. Camera angles change if the attack is a ‘combo attack’ that will deal out high levels of damage.
Combat is limited to ~30 seconds and then it’s time for defense as the enemies attack. They can dish out big hits but players have defensive options as well. Once their turn is over, combat swings back to your side.
If you’re feeling particularly lazy, you can initiate ‘auto attack’ and allow the mercenary AI to take over. However, this isn’t something that can be done constantly. Players have to engage in enough manual attacks to gain auto attack points. It’s a delicate balance.
Once all foes are down, players can loot the corpses. Items and gold are plentiful and fun to see. Books to ‘train’ characters and mercenaries can be found and right clicking them will raise skills in the chosen attack (for instance, Freezing Axe for axe users and Wild Shot for gunners). Item Boxes will also yield weapons and armor. Players can equip their mercenaries with armor, weapons, jewelry, and more to keep them tough and battle ready. In fact, mercenaries can equip as much as the player.
The landscapes in Atlantica are pretty but not overpowering and the world covers ‘real world’ locations in Asia and Europe. Movement around the world is easy and uses the standard WASD keys. Camera angles are changed with the mouse. One of the more interesting and unusual features of Atlantica is the ‘auto move’ option which, well, automatically moves characters to the needed quest area. Again, this is another nod at casual players who might need a bit of help if they don’t know the world inside out.
It is odd however, to see characters just standing out in the open with crossed swords over their heads. This indicates that they are in a battle sequence but, except for the icon, they are simply standing there. Multiplayer can group up to three characters together for battle and experience scales up accordingly. I have not yet had the opportunity to play in a party yet.
I have only gotten my character to level 7 mainly due to the log in problems described earlier. I simply have given up in frustration several times the last day or two. Still, Atlantica is fun and engaging though it will remain to be seen how long it will hold my attention. I do like the loot system and from all reports, there is much to do as one rises in levels. For instance, at level 20, characters can rename their mercenaries that is a fun option to ponder. Atlantica also offers players and guilds the ability to control towns and create their own government systems. It similarly appears that the economy will play a big role in Atlanticaso it’s safe to say that there is much more to Atlantica than I have yet experienced.
Knowing that Atlantica Online is in closed beta until the end of July, I find that it is an engaging and interesting game so far. There are numerous bugs but that’s to be expected and I’m sure that many of them will be ironed out before the game’s official launch. Fans of RTS will like Atlantica, maybe even love it. Traditional RPGers will also like Atlantica for the high level of customization and the robust quest system.
But you don’t have to take my word for it:
NDoors and Atlantica Online have generously donated 1,000 beta keys for members of the WarCry community. In case you didn’t notice the banner on the front page, you can grab yours here: http://www.warcry.com/contests/register/atlanticabeta . If you’re not a community member, be sure to sign up for a site membership and the WarCry newsletter to get your beta key.
C’mon! What are you waiting for?