Format: PC

5 024866 331585
Age Restrictions: 12+
29 September 2006

Set in the mystical world of Chantra, every month - working with your fellow guild - one player will take control of the entire game world and gain the opportunity to wreak havoc upon their cowering enemies using a number of supreme, ArchLord powers. For their can be only one ArchLord. The world of Chantra is designed around the five elements, fire, spirit, earth, water and air. As you move through the world, from the dark expanses of the Orc home world through to the bright, light marble of the human world, you can play as one of three races including Humans, Moon Elves's and Orcs. Take part in massive real time battles between guilds accommodating hundreds of players. Or, for those that wish to engage in more solo based play, you will be able to partake in an extensive range of quests to explore the world and level your skills...

As I am in the midst of playing Lord of the Rings: The Third Age I thought, excellent, Elves, Orcs and Men. This will be like LOTR, only bigger. Well, at first glance it certainly is bigger and prettier, but a good picture does not a good game make.

One of the first thing you notice is the lack of options when designing your character. Although there are three races to play, there are a number of restrictions built into the beta version. For a start you cannot be a male elf. Apart from the skewing in the demographic - presumably females will gravitate to female characters and males to male characters, making most of the elves girls and most of the humans male, we'll try not to discuss the personal hang-ups of people who choose to be the Orcs - the lack of making significant changes to the look of your character, to produce a recognisable individual, has you running around the game area loosing track of who you are.

So, you're ready to choose and what do you get? Well, for the Humans you can play as a Knight (male), an Archer (male) or a Mage (female) each of which comes with a limited number of hair and face changes. For the Orcs you get a Berserker (male), Hunter (female) and a Sorcerer (male) and the Elvin Ranger and Elementalist are both female. All the characters are well drawn and in the game play all, except a few of my Orcs, moved with a fluid grace I wasn't expecting from an on-line game. My poor Orc, however, appeared to have his legs taped together, so would spend his time gliding round the game area in a most unnerving way.

Well I cranked up the game and found myself in a mysterious Elvin land, clad in short skirt, corset, a nice set of suspenders and tights and it wasn't even my usual Saturday night in. Armed with what looked, suspiciously, like a bit of dubious driftwood I ventured forth to brain some poor local. In my book, the smaller the better works well. Moving around is pretty easy, just right click where you want to be and you will find yourself jauntily running to that spot, showing only a reasonable amount of white panty. If you look closely enough you can see that the panties have an amount of detail which speaks volumes about the character designer and his need to find a real girlfriend. Still, I was off to brain something, a task I found also very easy.

Outside the starting village, which acts as a safe area, you'll find a variety of local wild life that you can beat to death with your bit of wood. Successfully beating up the weak and defenceless gains you experience points, possibly the sort that leads to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The pigs I killed didn't look like they were having a good day. So it's back to the Elvin village which looks, for all the world, like teenage fetish heaven, to find out what I can do with my points. It turns out, very little. Seems you have to go on quests or learn to cook, something which sounds a lot less fun than braining little bright eyes.

This is the nature of on-line games. They require a lot of your time to get anywhere and from what I can tell they are addictive. I work with two men who are virtually wraiths, having played World of Warcraft, they stay up till the wee small hours and talk about their game as if it were a real world. So, given that there are a number of similar games on the market, why choose this one? Well, for a start, if you can get enough mates together in a guild to really push things around Archlord allows you to become supreme ruler of this world. Now there's a thing to aim for. As supreme ruler - if only for a month - you get all kinds of great things, which allow you to be benevolent or extremely sadistic.

As is the want of a lot of PR companies games are provided with little in the way of a manual. Now I don't mind this as a well designed game should allow for a little human intuition at the start. There is nothing worse than having to spend an hour reading some turgid manual before you can go off and kill something. Happily Archlord's basic movements are pretty self-evident, meaning you will be up and running in no time, though, I suspect that to get the best out of the game you will have to read the manual.

Normally, when reviewing a new game I'll play it for about forty hours first; this one I gave up after about thirty, not because it was bad, but because I found myself still up at three in the morning. This game is addictive. The world is huge and is just as much fun playing on your own as meeting new on-line friends and banding together. If you want a massive game where you can quest for hidden treasure then this is for you. If you want to form Guilds, and battle for supremacy of the land, then this game is also for you.

Considering that the review was done on the Beta and not the finished game, I can only assume that the final thing will be horribly enjoyable, extremely addictive and will most probably destroy whatever social life you have. Considering that this is normally not my sort of game I could see myself disappearing into this new world. For those of you who enjoy on-line games I think you've just been given a whole new world to explore.

Charles Packer

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