Anarchy Online: Shadowlands

By Scott Parrino 04 Jun 2003 0

Two Smears Ago

Let me first begin by saying: Anarchy Online works. 

I'm tired of reading about Anarchy's buggy launch with almost every preview, review, or news bit stating that it was one of the worst MMO launches ever. So I've decided to start this preview in a similar way but with a somewhat more positive nature. Sure, it's true. Anarchy Online's launch back in 2001 was a mess, but Anarchy Online is, a couple of years later, a great Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game and suffers not from any of the instability or bugs that literally mauled its early life. A lot of people have dived back into the game thanks in part to free trials that are still offered and free months of play for previous players available on occasion (which I got in on!), but I believe more people would enjoy the game if they got over Anarchy's bad launch and gave it a chance. Hopefully, the upcoming expansion to Anarchy Online, titled Shadowlands, will bring many people back, as well as further entertain those who are already addicted.

Yes, We're Expanding, Not Boosting...

Shadowlands is the first true expansion for Anarchy Online. Notum Wars, mainly a Player Vs. Player (PvP) enhancement, was a booster pack and not an expansion. Of course, when Notum Wars was released, it still felt like an expansion-it cost twenty bucks, came in a box with a CD, and added new stuff. Most expansion packs retail at about thirty bucks, so maybe that was the difference. Now, however, with Shadowlands on the horizon, I know the difference, or at least, believe I do. All of the goodies tossed into Shadowlands make it much, much more than just a booster pack, and for all that's included, it looks like it might be something very fun indeed.

Nano's and Dragons

Shadowlands has forsaken the typical MMORPG expansion route of adding new content just to keep its subscribers. Shadowlands does offer new content, of course, but in a more constrained, some would say linear, manner. Shadowlands is an alternate dimension of sorts tied to Rubi-Ka-the original setting for Anarchy Online - in a mysterious way.

Long ago, the Redeemed and the Unredeemed lived in this dark dimension known as the Shadowlands. The Redeemed were kind, nature loving folk; the Unredeemed were somewhat less nature loving. The Unredeemed scattered the Redeemed across the universe, even to Earth, where the Redeemed created Omni-Tech, which is the controlling government that drives much of Rubi-Ka, and who the Clans fight against. While the Redeemed were away, the Unredeemed built an AI called Ergo. Ergo was to help with the collection of Notum, the funky fuel of Rubi-Ka, analogous to Dune's spice (think of Rubi-Ka as Arrakis). But something drove the Unredeemed from the Shadowlands. Now, some 25,000 years later, both the Redeemed and the Unredeemed have returned to the Shadowlands, allied themselves with the factions of Rubi-Ka, and opened the doors into this mythical dimension.

Sound odd for a sci-fi MMORPG expansion? Yes, it does. Shadowlands is a fantasy realm based loosely on Dante's Inferno. There are seven different playfields, as they are called, and each is reached only through previous actions, much like passing from plane to plane in Inferno. Players start in the city of Jobe and from there delve further into the Shadowlands. The playfields must be unlocked in succession after meeting certain requirements for each one, and the end goal is to unlock the final secrets of this strange dimension, whatever they may be. An eccentric concept for a sci-fi game, indeed, but the premise offers a lot of promise insofar as new and original gameplay is concerned.

An interesting difference between mainland Rubi-Ka and the eerie Shadowlands is that much of what players owned back on Rubi-Ka function in strange new ways, or maybe not at all, in the Shadowlands. Hopefully, "interesting" doesn't equate to " "disappointing." I don't believe Funcom has in its collective developer-mind the idea of totally wasting the players' previous travels with useless gear in place of hard earned possessions, so I'm assuming that whatever happens to some of the gear, or whatever uses are ultimately transmogrified, a good deal of utility remains in whatever players end up with in the Shadowlands.

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