It sounded like a good idea. Just read our preview. An MMORPG in which you could literally become the ruler of the game world by achieving victory? It's brilliant.
Unfortunately, while the early adopting hardcore players who earnestly defend the game will disagree, ArchLord crashes hard during the leap from idea to execution, and fails to engage on any level. The core game demands operating in a group, always, since the large and largely inexplicable hordes of enemies that litter the landscape make almost any solo play experience impossible.
Even with a good group, grinding away for levels and items is the core of the gameplay system, and the non-optional player-vs-player elements add a healthy dash of frustration and impotent rage. It's not a good time, and it costs fifteen bucks a month.
Okay. You could conceivably say that complaining about level grinding is like complaining about the very nature of MMO games - they're all basically level grinders. However, in this case, the ratio of work to fun is way off, even for those social souls who don't mind being forced to party up or die.
The combination of difficult quests, experience loss at death, and unavoidable player-vs-player violence means that despite systems like villain points and an in-character way to declare Player-Killers "wanted," the necessary battles are more frustrating than they would be otherwise.
You can set your clock by opportunistic players coming to attack while you try to chew through yet another limp quest. As a result, single players are doomed: questing groups have already begun simply attacking any solo adventurers they see approach, under the theory that anyone running solo is just out to player-kill.
Beyond the constant necessity to churn kills of either monsters or players for some experience points and release from boredom, design and technical issues clutter ArchLord. There are eight different classes, but they all fall into one of only three basic roles - warrior, archer, and mage.
Only after you've reached high double-digit levels do the eight classes' abilities become distinct - by which time, it's too late to change your mind when you realize your character hasn't evolved as you'd hoped. Did you want your mage to focus upon area effect spells? Oh, well that's what this is. You should have chosen a different class if you wanted direct attack spells.
Instead, you're actually plowing through 100 levels of walking just outside cities and powering through oddly still clumps of totally random monster groupings such as black clad human thieves; hordes of rock-like tree monsters; and gargoyles. Plus, with no healing class and no potion cool down (recharge) time, the combat comes down to one thing: who has more potions. That is the biggest factor, at least until we start seeing level 90s taking on players with levels in the 15s and 20s
It takes dozens of people cooperating to make someone The ArchLord - but who gets to be the one? And expect to trigger lots of mobs as the server, unable to agree with your PC about where you're actually standing, flings you and your group members randomly across the map.
The art design is solid, though technologically, the graphics don't impress at all. At press-time, the chat is nightmarish, and the user interface a pale shadow of other MMOs' well thought systems. We wanted to rule the world too, but if you need an MMO flavor of the month, consider something other than ArchLord to satisfy your craving.