Anarchy Online Review
8.0our score

There are always those games that stick with you for a long time, no matter how many times you leave you always end up going back.
It has happened to me many a time, starting with Ultima Online – good times, plenty of fun and I just keep wanting to play it. Then came this game, Anarchy Online…

I started hearing about this game about 7 years ago; a futuristic first person 3D MMO. I had heard about the likes of Everquest and Asherons Call and they did not appeal to me,
but after a friend started playing Anarchy Online and told me stories of running through the desert outside one of the main city’s “Tir” and coming a across a oasis with a 50ft Bronto Dinosaur, I was keen to try it.

Anarchy Online Breeds

AO Breed Selection

It sounded like great fun! And what’s more now there is a free version – that’s right, FREE. When the game first got released it was a pay to play game with a single land to explore called Rubi-Ka but over time expansions came out, starting with Notam Wars which was a PvP expansion based on tower wars. Then came Shadowlands, opening a whole new land to explore and play including new zones for new players and new end game content. At this point the game developers came up with one of the first free to play concepts, allowing players to play the original content for free but restricting them from playing any Shadowlands content. Then followed two more expansions, Alien Invasion and Lost Eden.

The game is not so different from most MMO’s – you start by choosing your class, race and sex. Then proceed to choose your starting profession and enter the game.

The races, or in this game’s case, “breeds” are:

Solitus – The usual all round Human like breed,
Atrox – The single sex Neut breed, best described as a grunt,
Nanomage – The usual mage style breed, high intelligence but lower health,
Opifex – A fast and agile breed, average health and ideal for quick melee classes.

All breeds apart from the Atrox have a Male/Female selection. Once you have chosen your breed you enter the customization section.  This is very similar to most other games with its options, you can change the height, weight and head to how you wish. Some of the options depending on the breed are good; for example, I chose a male Nanomage and while flicking through the head options I found a head that looked like Geordie LeForge with the visor.

After your breed selection and customisation you follow the flow of the other popular MMO’s out there and you move onto your classes, or in this game’s case, professions. There are many professions to choose from in Anarchy Online and each one has, like most games, their own advantages and disadvantages. You can become a Trader and make your millions, you can be a Enforcer and use brute force to eliminate your foes and progress through the game, or the Agent who specialises in sniper rifles and stealth.

AO profession

AO Profession Selection

In the free version of the game some professions are not available, but don’t worry as only the two added professions from Shadowlands are not available so you still get a very large selection of professions which are as follows:

  • Metaphysicist – Summons Metaphysical pets to fight along side them.
  • Adventurer – Weapons specialist who can transform into animals with abilities.
  • Engineer – Can summon robots to fight along side them.
  • Fixer – Great with SMG weapons and excellent at speed boosting and travel.
  • Agent – Stealth and Sniper specialist.
  • Trader – Shotgun expert and an expert at tinkering and creating tradable items.
  • Doctor – Exactly as described, best healer and good at biological attacks.
  • Nanotechnician – Your standard mage style character.

The extra professions available in the subscription version of the game are a Keeper and Shade both are very fun professions and well worth playing if you ever decide to subscribe. Now before I ramble on for too long, I’d better explain some of the basics of the game. When you start the game you get the usual basic quests that get you used to the game and how to play it, and you quickly get a few levels and are introduced to the skill system.  The skill system is really easy to use but can get complicated if you want to get the best settings. When you level you get a set number of skill points to spend and can distribute them however you want. You have the usual attributes, some of which are better to raise than others depending on your class. Then you have an easy to follow breakdown for the rest of the skills into categories like Melee, Ranged, Speed, Protection, Nano & Aiding and Navigation. Each class has an armour set to work towards which at the moment comes in two tiers, Tier1 and Tier2 armour sets.

There is also the great aspect of player run cities complete with headquarters, travel points and a clan shop that any player can visit and purchase your items. Your city also acts as a point for some of the standard alien invasion raid missions that can be done by you and your clan.

The other major part of the game is the enhancement system. Most games have things like Enchantments or Buffing and Twinking but what really makes Anarchy Online unique is the massive enhancement potential for your character.

Anarchy Online Alien Invasion

AO Alien Invasion on Old Athens

There have been cases where a level 14 player has been able to enhance themselves to be able to equip a item design for a lvl60 player. The game has it’s usual buffing that other games have, Metaphysicists can buff you to increase your core casting skills, a doctor can buff your core abilities and a Trader can buff a bit of everything. The good thing is these all stack! And then the unique Anarchy Online enhancement system comes into play in the form of implants. Implants give buffs to all kinds of areas of your skills from First Aid to vehicle skills and the best part is once you have implanted your implants they are permanent enhancements and can make a huge difference to your gameplay.

The game its self is also different from others as it is not quest or mission driven, and these are in fact optional for the most part of the game and do not slow down your levelling process. The most efficient way of levelling up is to get a good group together, go to a high end area and start cutting doing those monsters. One of the best is a “Heckler”, a high end monster found in a variety of areas in Shadowlands and with a good ground can be easily tackled for some of the highest experience gains in the game. The level system is very high – in fact I believe it is the highest level cap in any current MMO game, currently standing at 220 levels. Levels do go pretty fast when you get a good group, and you do get restrictions in this area between the paid and free versions. Due to not being able to enter the Shadowlands in the free version and being restricted to Rubi-Ka, experience gain is considered normal; the paid version however does allow you to enter Shadowlands and the Shadowlands has a bonus on experience from kills so naturally levelling is faster in the paid version through the Shadowlands. This is not however a complete drawback, as some of the best places to level and gain good items are located in Rubi-Ka so there are some occasions for some good experience gains.

The game developers have also been working on a new game engine for quite some time. Not many updates have been given recently but when the new engine is implemented, Anarchy Online I am sure will see a sizable bump to its player base as the current engine is getting a bit dated by today’s standards.

Flaws

Unfortunately there are some flaws, some are small things but I feel there are also some rather large flaws, one of which is the advancement quests. In the Shadowlands there are gardens which act as save points for the whole levelling area and to get permanent access to these gardens you have to do a chain of quests. You also need to do a chain of quests to get to the next section of Shadowlands. Both of these are, in my opinion, very hard to work out without a friend who has done it to show you or to look up a guide on Google.

The other major flaw I can see is the lack of activity and content for the free players or “Froobs” as they’re known by the Anarchy Online community. Because of the benefits of Shadowlands and the other expansions it leaves Rubi-Ka very empty and hard for Froobs to find groups or do a lot of solo levelling.  But there are, as mentioned before, a couple of instances in Rubi-Ka that the paid players would want to go to get some nice items so the Froobs get some chances to team up and level.

Anarchy Online Scenery

Misty sunset at Lush Hills

Conclusion

Anarchy Online despite its flaws mentioned above is still a very fun and addictive game. I started playing it when there were no expansions and Rubi-Ka was the only place to explore but even then with the ambient lighting and the music and effects, it was a wonderful place to just explore and admire the scenery. Then Shadowlands came out, and although I preferred the scenery and beauty of Rubi-Ka the monsters and fun to be found in Shadowlands was really good. I again spent hours running around exploring caves, killing Cripplers and finding groups to play with. It has a easy learning curve and is great fun to play. Luckily I found a great Clan to play with and have been re-visiting the game over and over for the last 7 years.

My advice, give it a go even if you only play the free version. It is good fun with plenty of possibilities.

the author

Author at ManaPool. Working in the IT industry but with a strong passion for gaming, Gary resides near Brighton, England. He has tactical superiority of RTS games but likes to dabble in turn-based to provide entertainment for the founder of Manapool Peter. Known for hopping from MMO to MMO Gary has a wide array of experience playing MMO's but is hard to impress after playing the likes of Ultima Online and Anarchy Online. Also known for bad typing and rambling.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Hehe “Froobs”, I like that. Really though, will there be room for Anarchy Online among the vast number of MMORGPS that people can choose from in the coming years?

    I guess the steady following it has had will remain, but how much potential for additional growth is there really?

  • LFFPicard

    Froobs is a very common term with AO, you can even get Froob T-Shirts in game and Leet shirts.. The community is good and there is a strong commited player base.

    I think AO will still be around for a while especially if the engine comes to light. I keep going back, i have 2 subscription accounts i re-activate form time to time and i have a froob account i go on to say hi to old friends. I like the fact it is PvE based and not quest/mission driven, and i will certainly keep returning to it for years to come.

  • Nelson Brown

    The best part of the game, of course, is the other players. If you are playing clan, you can, for free, get just about any buff you ask for. Just be polite! The lack of in-game guidance and lack of plot (for froobs at least) is the only real downside.

  • JC

    just opening back up my engineer! i think i was around level 100, had some pretty good robots but needed buffs to get them.. let me know if we can play sometime so i can get back into it. ive forgotten everything!

  • Gary Thwaites

    Well long time since I looked at this, and I just got back into AO as well.. Plenty of people still around and this weekend even found new players even on the paid content so still life left. I might even do a follow up review once I get back into the swing of the game a bit.

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      You Necro, Gary :D You just replied to a comment I made 3 years ago ;)

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      You Necro, Gary :D You just replied to a comment I made 3 years ago ;)

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      On another note, you should be able to ‘claim’ your old comments in Disqus so they go over to your new account – look around in your Disqus settings/profile for that or do a quick Google :)

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      On another note, you should be able to ‘claim’ your old comments in Disqus so they go over to your new account – look around in your Disqus settings/profile for that or do a quick Google :)

  • Gary Thwaites

    I forgot everything as well, booted up my accounts again this weekend. I got a level 74 Engineer as well, but currently levelling my Fixer who I had at level 25 and is now level 57

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      You’ve always randomly hopped from one online game to the other. :-) Definitely looking forward to seeing your contributions again.

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      You’ve always randomly hopped from one online game to the other. :-) Definitely looking forward to seeing your contributions again.