Shades and Banshees
Perhaps there is some longing back to old times in MMOs; as I sampled a bit more of Anarchy Online I find myself getting hooked again. Lately I have started to explore Shadowlands a bit. This was the first full-fledged big expansion to Anarchy Online and as such it split the AO community in two – the ones who loved it and the ones who hated it. Part of the reason for not liking it I believe was that it felt too much like a fantasy game for many and played a bit different from the classic Anarchy Online. Those who like it seem to like the storyline and story focus, plus that there is good xp and some extra bonuses to play through Shadowlands also. I found the official good trailer for the expansion and regardless of what I may end up thinking about Shadowlands, I think the trailer was pretty good.
I only sampled a little bit of the newbie zone when I first bought the game. Now I have ventured there again, bith with a new character starting there (a Shade) and another (my Meta-physicist) going there pretty much right after the newbie Island (ICC Shuttleport). So far though I must say I like it; the timing is better now for me to appreciate the content I think now than it was when I originally bought it – I did not appreciate the fantasy style back then. Now I think it is quite nice actually.
Shadowlands is kind of an alternate dimension, but with ties into the reality of Rubi-Ka. There are three different factions – Redeemed, Unredeemed and Guardians of Shadows. In the first two there are also some subgroups. Contrary to the original game the faction is not fixed – it depends on the player which mobs are killed and which missions are done. However, the Redeemed and Unredeemed have ties to the Clan and Omni factions so as I understand it in that case such players are already nudged in a certain direction from start if they have chosen Omni or Clan.
I found it quite easy to play the first 11-12 levels with my Shade and I liked most of the missions; although there is a quite clear pointer as to what faction is considered good and which is considered evil. My Meta-Physicist struggled a bit more, but was still ok for the most part.
There used to be a sl00b option for those who wanted to try out Shadowlands also; for $5/5 Euro per month one could play the classic Anarchy Online (+ Notum Wars) as well as Shadowlands. Sounds like it would have been a great option, but apparently it did not work out that well and Funcom removed the option to sign up for such an account (but they still support the existing ones).
So nowadays the only way to ge to Shadowlands it to sign up for the whole deal and become a subscriber. Looking at the size of the map in Shadowlands it seems quite large and for me it feels like a good deal to be able to try it out. It seems the storyline and the missions in Shadowlands are more tied together with each other than it is in regular Rubi-Ka – in there it seems to be more that you may stumble upon story elements as you explore the land, but not so many missions to explicitly guide or tell you.
Besides exploring Shadowlands I have also resurrected some of my old characters; they are in their 30s to 50s, so still quite low level by Anarchy Online standards (max level at 220 with Shadowlands). But back then leveling also took a lot longer than it seems to take now with more options and some quite good rewards. The new daily missions that were introduced seem to give XP rewards scaled to your level – with the characters I have tried these with I have gained at least one level per daily mission.
These mission have been quite nice so far; I have had a straight kill/protect one, a pure recon/infiltration one and also kind of an espionage one. It seems from the setting that these are intended to be better alternatives to the mission terminals that has been there since the game first started. The missions I have played are certainly more fun. There seem to be only 20-25 different missions so far, so I guess they may become a bit repetitive, especially since there are probably only a few in each level range. But still is a nice alternative to the other options.
The agencies that provide the daily missions also can suggest other NPCs with missions in somewhat appropriate level range. This is a good thing; I have noticed that one can pick up missions from various NPCs in the world, but there is no indication what levels the missions are suitable for. I have learned this the hard way :)
One other thing that certainly helps a lot is that it is now relatively easy to pick up a ride to make to go through the countryside much faster than before. Back in the old days the cool and rich kids could buy themselves a Yalmaha, which you could fly around with. That was out of reach for us quite casual players back then and there was a lot of running and time spent going to different places.
Nowadays there are veteran points with which one can buy a Yalmaha – if you have 7 vet points it is yours. But there is also Phasefront – a big shopping facility in Newland Lake which sells hoverbikes, hoverboards and fashion outfits. At Phasefront one has to pay with Phasefront Points. This is something one can buy with cash, indirectly. First one can buy Funcom Points for cash (100 FC points = 1 dollar or 1 Euro) and then convert that into phasefront points (100 PP = 120 FCP). The good thing about Phasefront Points (and Veteran Points) is that all character, new and old get separate pools of these points – if you get 1000 PP, then every character will have 1000 PP to spend, including ones that you create later.
I picked up a Yalmaha with veteran poins for one character, but for some other characters I went with the Phasefront Hoverbikes. There are three models; the Wraith, the Banshee and the Spectre. Each one of these are available with 5-6 different colours. I think the prices were quite ok for these – a single one does not cost much and if you want to try sample different colours and models one can get bundles for a reduced price. And it definitely helps getting around.
All the flying vehicles mentioned need at least 81 in airbound vehicle skill – this means in practice that unless the skill is buffed up one will not be able to fly one of these until late teen levels. It is well worth it once you get to that point though. Since the hoverbikes operate with nanos rather than being equipped like the Yalmaha, they are also a bit more convenient to handle than the old Yalm.