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Anarchy Online: Alien Invasion

AI is the 3rd expansion set of AO. Alien Invasion will once again change the way AO is played. But first of all, lets start with a brief explanation about how this MMORPG works.

AO is a science fiction game, set in the far future. There are 3 groups of players; some joined the Clans to fight for freedom against those that joined OmniTech. The Neutrals did not choose a side (yet…). Rubi-Ka, the original planet, contains Notum, the source of wealth. As usual everybody wants that, resulting in conflicts and fights all over the place. Notum Wars, the first expansion set (it is not a full expansion set, more an add-on really) brought us a more PvP oriented play style. Towers gathered the Notum for the guilds, but they had to be defended since attackers from the opposite faction also wanted to get the advantages that towers give. With the introduction of Shadowlands, players got an entire new playfield. Set above the planet itself, the creatures of the Shadowlands showed to be a little tougher then the fauna on Rubi-Ka. On the other hand they gave a lot more experience and loot also. No pain, no gain…

So, playing AO consists of hunting down mobs. Or be hunted down by mobs. You either hunt outside or do a (team) mission to find suitable enemies. Enter the mission, kill everything inside, loot the victims. Sell not-so-good items to the vending machines; sell rare items to other players. Repeat. If you want some nicer items: fight boss monsters, find rare items that will mostly not be usable for the character/profession you are playing with because Murphy lives on Rubi-Ka (imho). Or do raids. You get even better items then, the only thing is that you have to be rather high to join raids and they take a long time to complete. At certain points you will have to work on getting better armor/weapons/implants to become even more lethal. During weekends: go to a party. Weddings, contests, whatever you like to do with your time, it is available.
Shadowlands added to that list: do quests to get to the next area, fight in dungeons to find nice things, find a team and fight hecklers.

The first thing that this Alien Invasion offers is an additional storyline. What sci-fi game is complete without aliens? Indeed, AI brings aliens to Rubi-Ka. They even try to… invade it… That was easy to guess, not? When you start with a new character, you have the possibility to land in a neutral area. Things don’t work out like planned and your spaceship gets shot down. You survive, get out of the wreck, and you’ll find a whole new area with NPC’s that will help you. There are a lot of buttons and keystrokes in Anarchy Online, mastering everything takes more then a few hours, so everything to makes things easier is welcome.

After a few quests you’ll be able to travel a little further in this beginners garden. Soon you will see the first alien spiders attacking poor soldiers. You’ll be asked to help them, after the first kill you’ll see that you get a new thing: Alien experience points!

In the original AO, the maximum level players could reach was 200, Shadowlands added 20 more levels to that. Instead of just making it possible to get to 250, the limit stays at 220. But killing aliens gives a maximum of 30 additional Alien perk points, these can be used to fine-tune your character. This makes it possible for every player to get something out of AI, even for new arrivals, as it is possible to get a few perks already in the beginners garden. Be warned though, you loose points when you get killed by aliens. You can even loose an alien level, although you won’t loose the perks that you’ve trained already.

Aliens are not just everywhere. Once you get out of the beginners area, you will only be able to find the green critters in cities on Rubi-Ka. And not in the old existing cities, aliens attack the new player-build cities. These cities are the second novelty you get from AI. Don’t expect to build your own castle; cities can only be constructed by guilds. So you need at least 6 players to work together. It takes quit an amount of money (credits in this game) to build the headquarter, but if that is not a problem, the result is magnificent. All kinds of buildings can be added, plus stuff to make it look nice. Bars, labs, conference halls, fountains, swimming pools, road signs, name it and it is available.

There you have it, your wonderful city. All nice and shining, waiting for Aliens to destroy it? Luckily that is not the case, although you can (and will) get in troubles. There is one more building you have to buy, namely a cloaking device. This building can be turned on and off by the leaders of the guild. If the cloak is on, aliens will have problems to detect it and you get an attack once a week. Put it off and you’ll get attacked within the hour. ‘Content on demand’, as Funcom calls this.

There are other things that influence an attack. If there are five or more members online the risk to get attacked augments. You are safe when nobody is online so you will never loose your city when everybody in the guild is sleeping. Another thing that is taken into account is the level of the members that is online. Although many fear that high level aliens will kill lower level players, during the attack of a level 240 Alien Scout my level 120 character was not being attacked once. Five other members of the guild, all between 180 and 210, got in troubles though; actually they got slaughtered rather quickly. (the gimps :-) )

The idea behind the attacks is that the aliens come in waves and keep track of the success of the previous attack. So if the aliens don’t stand a chance, the next wave will be tougher. After a few waves a boss will descend from the alien ship. If the boss is killed, a maximum of 18 players can enter the ship and seek revenge. Everybody can fight the aliens in the city but the final challenge in the alien spaceship is only for the members of the guild whose city was attacked.

As usual this kind of complicated stuff is not implemented without problems. Some players feel that their cities are under attack too often; others don’t like to wait even an hour to see the first alien. It is hard for Funcom to find the settings that will keep everyone happy. The aliens should also have the correct level even when players run out of the area or ask for reinforcements. The advantage of an online game is that the developers are working constantly to adjust things, shortly after the launch on the 1st of September, there where several updates and even at now, two weeks later, the updates keep on coming. If you don’t like bugs, or in this case we better call it fine-tuning, you better wait a little longer before you purchase Alien Invasion.

One of the things to come in the following updates, is the possibility to have player shops. It was always possible to sell stuff to others, but you had to be online together with the customer. That will change, it will be possible to put your stuff in a shop and sell it even when you are off-line. It will be easy to search the things that you are after, but since it is not in game yet, I can’t explain how this will work. A minor bug detected a few days before launch made Funcom skip this part of the expansion, but they promised to get it in the game as soon as possible.

The final big addition is something for the social oriented players. It was possible to choose from a wide range of clothes. AI brings quest to find even more special clothing. I’ve seen only a few yet, all very nice, going from cowboy outfits to party dresses, soon more screenshots will show what is possible. But one thing is sure, the parties will soon be even more colorful then they were already…

As usual, there are a lot of new items and some minor things are fixed or made more user friendly. There is a new tradeskill window, which offers the possibility to check what you will make and how much skills you need. Your inventory and your bank can be enlarged and you can open more then 2 backpacks. This does not seem to be such a big improvement, but if you know that your bank can contain something like 50 backpacks (I never counted the available slots, but you can have a huge amount of items in there), and every backpack has 24 items in it, it is a nice thing to be able to open a lot of those to sort out your possessions. There are more then 100.000 items in this game… Also nice for those without friends: once the player shops are available, you can pass items to other characters that you have. So you won’t have to ask other people to help you with a transfer and there is no more risk involved. Not that I ever heard of someone having problems with items being stolen but this way it is 100 % safe.

As you noticed, this expansion offers a great amount of extras. Almost everything in it directs to the ‘multiplayer’ part of this MMORPG. If you are not in a guild, you will miss a lot since you will never be able to enter the alien spaceship. So if you are not a member of a guild, this is the time to search one. The fact that you need to be in a guild is not a problem, but I think smaller guilds will have problems to keep their members happy. Only the future will tell if this is the case. Hopefully not. Existing players probably purchased Alien Invasion already. To new players I can only advise to get the complete game with all the expansions. It can be downloaded, so why don’t you just try it out for a week? But beware: it is addictive…

Our Score:
related game: Anarchy Online: Alien Invasion
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