Anarchy Online: Shadowlands

Anarchy Online: Shadowlands Anarchy Online: Shadowlands Anarchy Online: Shadowlands Anarchy Online: Shadowlands Anarchy Online: Shadowlands

Anarchy Online takes place in the far future where Notum is the most precious substance in the galaxy. Notum can only be found on a planet called Rubi-ka, where the Omni-Tek Corporation fights with the Rebels for control. However, scientists have discovered a gateway to an alternate world. One that is rich and full of life instead of the burned out world they now inhabit. This world has ominously been named the Shadowlands. The Shadowlands expansion doesn't just add a few new areas and items to the game - it gives players access to a whole new world. Current players get a chance to take a break from the conflict between the oppressive Omni-Tek and the Rebels and take part in a different conflict: the battle being waged between the Redeemed and Unredeemed. Both are still battling for control of Notum and the planet where it comes from, Rubi-Ka. For those who think there might not be much difference between the Redeemed/Unredeemed War and the conflict between Omni-Tek and the Rebels might be right. Nevertheless, the new expansion offers more than enough long-term missions so that players will get a chance to go all over the Shadowlands and explore these lands so starkly different from what they might be used to with the core Anarchy Online game.

Based from Dante's novel The Divine Comedy, the lands slowly change from lush jungle-like environments to burned out, charred realms. The gorgeous landscapes, filled with spectacular architecture from ancient ruins, are stark contrast to the older areas from the core game. While the environment graphics have been upgraded, the models have not changed, nor have they aged well. For the most part, the characters look very stick-figure like. The graphics are pretty easy to see past, especially when exploring the vast areas of the Shadowlands.

However, Anarchy Online has suffered from a few consistent problems that this expansion does necessarily fix. The first is issue of lag, which is nowhere near as bad as the title's launch, but still occurs quite frequently, leading to lag death. Additionally, though the Shadowlands includes a simple tutorial to teach you the basics, it doesn't cover anything near what the game is about. New players will still be left struggling to find their way around. Even after playing the game for a while, combing through websites for information, reading the online new player booklet, and sifting through the forums, players will still have a very long way to go to effectively playing Anarchy Online. Additionally, the implemented tutorial involves some very large and intrusive text screens that block the action, occasionally causing more problems than they solve.

While there are plenty of missions to go around, many of the tasks in the Shadowlands require a long time commitment. Also, while many of the new creatures in the Shadowlands look wonderful and colorful, a few too many of them appear to be copied from fantasy-theme games, renamed, and placed in a Sci-Fi setting - including dragons, demons, and sirens.

With two new character classes which include the Shade and the Keeper, both of which are very interesting but intended for more advanced players. Some of the cooler features include the ability to create your own creatures by carrying around samples of DNA and combining them with an infusion of notum. One of the down sides is that many raw materials for crafting have a very heavy cost, and it's almost impossible to find everything you need inside the vending machines. So, even seemingly simple tasks like trying to put together a simple nanoprogram (Anarchy Online's equivalent to a spell) will require the player to go out and search for hard-to-find resources.

For the dedicated MMORPG players, Anarchy Online: Shadowlands has a ton to offer. At its core, it is a very rewarding game. However, it is a very difficult game to get into. Gamers who are look for more a casual commitment, or one that is more newbie friendly, might be more interested in looking elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Shadowlands is definitely a worthwhile place to try out.

The Score:

+ Beautiful architecture
+ Huge world with varying landscapes
+ Player gets a luxury apartment
- Game is not beginner-friendly
- Some of the graphics look very dated
- Some server/lag issues
- Most items are extremely expensive

Bottom Line:

The game can be a very fulfilling experience, but some aspects hold it back. Among them are some of the dated graphics. The high difficulty of learning this title is still a big problem, and is sure to turn many new players away. However, this is one of the few science fiction themed games on the MMORPG genre and worth playing for experienced gamers who are looking for a break from fantasy games. Casual gamers should consider their options carefully.

Reviewed by Steven Wong