No, the title of this article isn’t a typo; I’ve played Anarchy Online for almost 3 years. I have a level 213 Solitus Doctor (like a human healer) and believe I know the entire game inside and out. I would be the highest level (220) if the endgame wasn’t such a grind. The game has been around for close to 4 years now, and includes two full expansions, Alien Invasion and Shadowlands, and one booster pack, The Notum Wars. Anarchy Online had a very rough start. Some may recall that it was dubbed as one of the most horribly buggy games ever created, and was released far too early. From these shortcomings the game has evolved into a far more stable MMORPG. Recently Anarchy Online has become available to play for free, but this does not include any expansions, and you see some in-game advertising (that really isn’t too obnoxious).
Before I get into the actual gameplay, I want to point out some aspects of the game that make Anarchy Online one of the better MMORPGs out today. Firstly, the community that plays Anarchy Online is by far the best I have ever seen surrounding an online game. They really care about the game and are some of the nicest people around. With the recent influx of new people from offering the game for free, there are more jerks around, but still not nearly as much as I’ve seen in other games. The other thing I wanted to note is that the customer service for Anarchy Online is awesome. If you have a problem ingame, you can use the standard /petition command and a real person will come to help you very quickly (usually around an hour, depending on how many people are online). This is because the developers of Anarchy Online have a group of volunteers who help answer questions about the game and can solve most problems with bugs, lost items, zoning problems, etc. This customer service is unmatched when compared with other games, especially Sony, where you could spend something like 8 hours waiting for an employee of Sony who doesn’t like their job and might help you if you’re lucky.
Ok, now on to the real gameplay. When you first start playing the sheer amount of stuff in Anarchy Online is slightly overwhelming. You can choose between 4 different breeds, select from a variety of heads for your character, change your weight and height, and finally choose between 12 classes (or 14 if you buy the Shadowlands expansion), each with their own special aspects. The learning curve in Anarchy Online is fairly steep because there are so aspects of the game that you can get to know. For instance, there are 43 wear slots, 76 skills you can raise, and somewhere around 100,000 items. Depending on your preference, this can be either a good or a bad thing. On one hand, there are so many different things you can do and paths to choose to customize your character, but this is at the expense of being very confused for a decent amount of time on how the game works.
Anarchy Online is set 27,000 years in the future on a planet that is in the process of being inhabited. This makes the game pretty interesting because it’s one of the few futuristic MMORPGs out there, and is not one of your basic swords and magic RPGs. The story itself is pretty weak, and the developers don’t make too much effort to add to it. There are some very small in-game events that occur now and then, but are designed more for those who enjoy the role-playing aspect of Anarchy Online. If you’re into role-playing, expect to work to make the role-playing work for you.
The heart of any MMORPG is the fighting. Anarchy Online is pretty standard; you simply target the enemy and hit ‘q’ to start attacking, which does basic weapon damage automatically. You can add onto this damage by using weapon specials, or casting “nanos” (same as spells) to do damage on top of the normal damage. This was impressive a few years ago, but now the fighting is slightly duller than other MMORPGs, but still doesn’t get too tedious as time goes on. If you buy the expansions, you can also use “perks” that do a lot of damage or do some other nifty things depending on your class.
One of my favorite aspects of this game is the ability to constantly upgrade your character. There are countless ways to twink your character into being the most uber person at your level. Twinking means to use items that aren’t necessarily meant for your level earlier than intended. There are rules for overequipping items that are too high level, but you can still get higher quality items on without penalty. At the higher level game, this can get very cumbersome because you’ll end up pulling out a calculator and spending time just figuring out what items you can use at your level in order to become really “uber”.
Leveling comes very quickly for most of the game, you can sit down and get at least one level from a group, even at the highest levels until you get to around level 205 (you can only get to level 200 without any expansions). I should note that leveling from 205-220 is absolutely terrible, and by far one of the worst grinds I’ve ever experienced in a game, but this isn’t a big deal because the majority of people take nearly a year to get there.
There is a massive amount of content in Anarchy Online. Although it’s not endless, it’s still pretty impressive how many different things you can do in the game, mostly entailing gaining new armor or weapons. The PVP is not great, but it can be fun. The Notum Wars expansion introduced mass PVP into the game, where the two factions can battle it out with somewhere around up to 100 people fighting it out, making for an interesting (but extremely laggy) fight. The world is massive, and the Shadowlands expansion adds even more playfields with a wide variety of attributes. Although you may think this makes it difficult to travel, there are ways to teleport and fly anywhere you need to go very quickly.
The Shadowlands expansion is more linear, and feels more like a fantasy MMORPG when you play in the Shadowlands playfields, as opposed to the massive futuristic cities of the original game. Personally I really like the futurism of Anarchy Online. It feels better to wield a massive assault rifle and watch it shoot huge beams at the enemy as opposed to having a wimpy little bow. The Alien Invasion expansion returns to this futurism, introducing player cities and the ability to board alien ships and fight them on their own turf. One of the coolest things to see is when the massive alien mothership flies overhead, looking almost like Independence Day as it slowly slowly lumbers overhead, completely covering the entire sky.
The endgame of Anarchy Online is pretty good. There are numerous super-enemies that require a large group (20+ people) to take down, and a couple that take upwards of 50 people to kill. While this may seem like a chore, as only a couple armor pieces or a single weapon might drop for 30 people, it is still pretty fun just to kill them. Of course this fun doesn’t last forever, and many people leave the game because they’ve “done everything”, but again, this doesn’t happen unless you play for a very long time.
Overall, Anarchy Online is a lot of fun. The only times I’ve really hated playing was if I played too much and just got burnt out on it, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem for most people. It takes a long time to learn the ropes and become really “uber”, which is pretty annoying for a while, but it does give you something to do in the game.
The graphics in Anarchy Online are fairly good; certainly not anything ground breaking, especially for being nearly 4 years old. The engine isn’t very good, in that you need to have an extremely good system in order to see the game in it’s full glory, or else the lower quality settings look pretty bad and the textures get fairly pixilated. There is good news though, they announced a few months ago that they are in the process of completely revamping the textures and other graphics in-game, so hopefully that will come out soon, but I certainly wouldn’t expect anything close to Everquest 2. There are some nifty on screen effects, for instance if you’re near some massive cannons on the landscape, or lightning strikes near you, the entire screen will shake a little.
The sound is pretty good. It can get kind of annoying after a time because a lot of different sounds are reused (a lot of guns and swords sound the same), but it remains futuristic sounding. The ambient sounds is pretty cool, especially in cities and buildings, and makes it seem like there is a bunch of stuff going on at once.
The music is actually very good, they have two full CD’s worth of in-game music, ranging from exciting battle music, to epic tracks when Aliens are around, and even some jazzy songs for when you’re hanging around a city or in one of the several social bars.
It’s hard to write on the stability of the game because different computer systems seem to experience different problems. Personally I’ve never had any huge issues that prevent me from playing or cause the game to crash, but I’ve heard a lot of complaints about crashing in lower end systems, especially since the last patch. The game is very stable now because they’ve had so much time to fix bugs, but there are still some small problems that would inevitably come up in any MMORPG. The score I give here is based on the rough percentage of people who have serious issues with the game combined with the smaller bugs that everyone experiences.
Obviously I’ve enjoyed playing this game as I’ve spent such a large amount of time playing it. The game is very immersive. It’s fun to just explore the huge world and chat with people. The game is definitely great if you play it for free without the expansions. It’s pretty amazing that they can even offer the game completely free, so if you’re at all interested in this game I would recommend trying it out.