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In the last few years that I have been writing for this fine outlet, I have heaped scorn on the current state of MMORPGs and their lack of innovation, their careful restriction of player control, and their almost dogmatic devolution to a decade old play model. In almost every case, there is a fierce battle from both sides of the aisle — those that share my opinion and lament the broken promises for change, the watering down of sandbox elements, and the stringent dedication to tropes like the Holy Trinity and the Raid. On the other hand, players who feel that the Theme Park style of play is really what defines an MMO claim that the problem isn’t with the system, but that it’s ultimately a lack of quality control on behalf of the developer, resulting in the slew of bugs that tend to infest launch titles, and half-baked features that don’t pan out or fit into the design matrix that the game is based on.

ArcheAge, to me, always felt like the logical bridge between the two paradigms – a “SandPark”, as the developers at XL Games refer to it. Taking both the structure of a Theme Park and the flexibility of a Sandbox, ArcheAge has made a lot of grandiose promises around things like farming, non-instanced player housing, naval combat and even treasure hunting. I graciously accepted one of the rare Alpha keys on offer from NA publisher Trion and set out to see if it was too good to be true.

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