launch in 2001 set it stylistically apart from other MMOs by introducing a futuristic theme to a fantasy-dominated field. Three years later, AO is still one of the most popular online games, proving that being first is often more important than being the best.Alien Invasion
takes players back to Rubi-Ka. No new classes or races become available here, but the existing number of combinations is still impressive with features and outfits inspired by everything from Blade Runner to Deep Space Nine. After assembling your avatar (and the always difficult task of selecting a name not already taken) you’re ushered into a welcoming hall full of non-player characters spouting off faction rhetoric. Later you can decide to join either Omni-Tek’s corporate machine, the quintessential rebel Clans, or go the Switzerland route with the noncommittal Neutrals. Political banner-waving aside, you’re shuttle is now ready to depart for Rubi-Ka.
Shortly after boarding, your transport is attacked by alien forces and sent crashing to the planet’s surface just off the coast of a brand new training ground. The ensuing tutorial is unfriendly to newcomers and insufficiently covers gameplay basics. The steep learning curve and intimidating depth of character development is going to leave most newbies scratching their heads. This reinforces the principle that—despite shipping with full versions of the original Anarchy Online and the Notum Wars booster pack—the content in AI was not intended for low-level characters. Don’t expect to get much out of this particular expansion unless your level is already in the triple-digits.
That being said, the addition of guild halls and player-built cities is always an impressive and ambitious undertaking. But unless you can hack directly into Bill Gates’ bank account, don’t expect to build the futuristic city of your dreams right away. Cities cost mucho dinero and can only be constructed by guilds. So if you’ve been going Han Solo this whole time, you’ll have to take the social leap in making some online friends to fully garner the benefits of city building.
One of these benefits being: alien attack! Dropping your city’s cloaking device draws increasing attention from the aliens, and gives you the opportunity of gaining “Alien Experience.” Customized in difficulty as to who’s currently online in your guild, the aliens will beam to the surface and attack with extreme prejudice. Expect conversational options to be limited. Staving off the initial assault then allows your guild members to take the fight back to the aliens—onboard the alien spaceship. Victory here is sweetly rewarded, but don’t expect the aliens to simply throw in the towel. Your team needs to be topnotch or you’ll have your head served up on a shiny alien cutting board.
Player-owned shops didn’t make it into the final shipment of AI and no solid date exists on their future inclusion. While disappointing, consider: no one knows the dangers of releasing a buggy product like the folks over at Funcom. The online riots of AO’s bug-laden 2001 release are all too fresh in the memories of the Funcom support team, not to mention in the players’. Forcing an incomplete or broken feature would have been ill-advised.
The user interface has received a notable facelift, but the overall graphical presentation is kinda like Annette Bening: might’ve been hot back in the day, but age is really beginning to show. What was once heralded as a next-generation title has seen that generation come and go. Regardless, AO veterans have plenty of material in-store here. For them, this title is crucial. For newcomers, expect it to take a while before you’re invited to eat at the table with the adults; taking the Shadowlands expansion route would be a better option for you.
Invasion from alien lifeforms is hardly innovative material but is still necessary fodder for the sci-fi genre. It’s a staple to our postmodern psyches; without hostile aliens the Sci-Fi Channel would suck more than it already does. But Funcom has accomplished all of this with an immersive level of style. Rather than adding another landmass to explore or a new job class to bat around, this pack puts players on a united defensive—a rarely explored concept for an MMO expansion. If you’re not alienated from a guild, then Alien Invasion is an inviting option.
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