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A Virtual Lesbian Life: Atlantica Online

A Virtual Lesbian Life: Atlantica Online

With the current economic times as they are, many of us poor gamers are facing the fact that gaming is an expensive hobby. Happily, there are some options out there for the gamer who needs their fix but is lacking in cash. One of my current favorites is the new virtual world of Atlantica Online.

With the current economic times as they are, many of us poor gamers are facing the fact that gaming is an expensive hobby. Happily, there are some options out there for the gamer who needs their fix but is lacking in cash. One of my current favorites is the new virtual world of Atlantica Online. This free massively multiplayer online game, currently in open Beta, is beautiful, fun and totally addictive.

When it comes down to a choice between putting gas in the car or food on the table and buying the latest hot game, the choice is pretty clear. Gaming should always be secondary to the basic needs of survival. And if it isn’t, then perhaps you should check out my last column

Thankfully, there are a large number of free games of all variety available via the internet. Everything from basics like online Scrabble to huge virtual worlds like Second Life can be enjoyed for little to no cost. Although many free games have the option to pony up cash for ‘upgrades’ and nifty items for your characters, a savvy player can enjoy many of these games thoroughly without having to open up their wallet.

My new best gaming friend during these tough economic times is the refreshingly fabulous massively multiplayer world of Atlantica Online. I’ll be honest, most free online worlds I’ve checked out have been entirely disappointing. Sad, painfully ugly graphics, lack of interesting content and boring grinding categorize most free to play games of this kind. Atlantica Online is a huge step above the majority of similar type games out there I’ve tried out.

Image courtesy of Atlantica Online

I came across an advertisement for Atlantica on my favorite online gaming info site, Rated quite well by players, with a number of very positive reviews, I decided to check it out despite my hesitation in playing another ‘free’ game. Right from the start, I was far more than pleasantly surprised.

The world of Atlantica Online described by the game’s developers: To save the world you must find the lost land of Atlantis. Your journey will take you all over the Earth, including ancient wonders of the world like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Pyramids of Egypt. Traveling from sites such as Angkor Wat to Bran Castle to uncover clues will make for an adventure filled with mystery and excitement.

I found the storyline interesting and the plot is integral to your entire experience in the game as you journey around the world undertaking quests to unlock the next set of clues you need in your ultimate mission to save the world. Unlike many other online game worlds (even the higher-class, mucho expensive ones), each quest stacks pleasingly, rolling into the next one in an ongoing story. I find this much more preferable than doing the same boring, repetitious missions over and over in an endless grinding that seems to have little overall point besides leveling up. Even in my favorite ‘paid’ MMO, EVE Online, this gets boring really fast. Atlantica’s content in this area is quite stellar for any MMO and for a free one -- really impressive. As are its graphics.

Some players might be a bit disappointed when they log in for the first time to Atlantica and are presented with extremely limited character customization options. Although you can choose a decently wide range of ‘specialties’ (like Archer, Spearman, Swordsman, Gunner, etc.), your avatar choices are restricted to a tiny selection of face types, hair types and colors and that’s mostly it. There are no selections for body types and outfits are initially restricted to only a couple of choices.

This is one area that personally I find a bit annoying with Atlantica, because nearly all the avatars in the game kind of look like cookie-cutter copies of each other. Later on, when you upgrade armor and such, you do at least get a bit more choice in outfits, though most people of a similar level look the same because armor choices per level are very restricted. But, it’s really a minor annoyance overall -- the avatars are at least graphically appealing and quite attractive in appearance.

One of the more unique, and fun, aspects of Atlantica is the ability to build your own ‘party’ of for-hire mercenaries to accompany you around the game and fight in battle with you. As the developers say: You do not travel, or fight, alone in your quest for Atlantis: You control your main character and up to 8 mercenaries in battle, using each of these characters' unique skills to develop tactical combat strategies.

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You can choose from a handful of mercenary types and build a formation of them to fight by your side. Choosing the right mercenaries to deal damage, be able to endure damage and to heal damage is a vital strategy in the game. Reading up in the Atlantica forums prior to selecting your first set of mercs is highly recommended. As you progress through the game, you will be given the opportunity to acquire more mercenaries of different types and skills. Finding just the right combination of skill sets can make or break you when it comes to battle. I should know, my poor main character, Iniki, was a dolt on her first round -- note to self, next time, two archers is really not the best set up.

Another rather unique aspect of Atlantica not found in most other similar type of game is its turn-based battle function. Instead of the standard point and click automated fighting found in other games, Atlantica boosts truly skill-based combat. Not only do you have to choose and balance the mercs that play with you, but you have to control and decide on each move in battle that your main character and your mercs make. From standard attacks to special abilities to magic spells, your choices determine the outcome of every move and every battle.

While you can acquire ‘auto-combat’ licenses to allow your characters some automation, they can’t be used in every situation and the auto-combat simply does not match up with a good player’s ability to strategize and control their characters’ actions directly. If this form of combat seems tedious - - it isn’t. Actually, I find it to be one of the most attractive features of the game. A lower level player actually stands a chance against higher level mobs and other players by learning and implementing good strategy. This isn’t true in many other totally automated combat scenarios presented in many other games.

In addition to quests, players have a decently wide variety of other activities to pursue in game. You can choose to duke it out with other players in personal challenges and in the ‘Free League’ arena, where you are randomly assigned to battle it out with another player. Free League play is incredibly fun and helps you to learn good battle strategy. Just know that starting out, you are likely to lose a lot, but it is totally worth it to jump in anyway. If you do win, special prizes and gold are a nice bonus. Players can also learn to craft various items (in fact, some quests require that you do), which you can then trade with other players or sell on the open market for gold. Players can even, at special times, get down and dirty with the game developers themselves on the battlefield for even tastier prizes!

Atlantica is very friendly to the solo-type player who prefers to be on their own, especially at the lower levels. At the higher levels it is advantageous to ‘party up’ with other players (at a maximum of 3 per party), but skilled players can even avoid that for the most part if they choose. However, Atlantica is a game that is very encouraging of group play as well. Beyond the individual play level, a heavy feature of the game is the Guild system. Players who join in guilds are granted great additional features like extra inventory slots, access to special quests and most guilds include players who are willing to teach crafting and skills that otherwise would require far more work to acquire. Joining a Guild is highly recommended, even if you prefer to spend most of your time alone.

There are dozens of other features of the game to explore that I simply don’t have the time to detail here. Suffice it to say that so far, it is a very hard game to get bored with -- which is about the highest compliment I could pay to any game. The fact that it happens to be free to play only makes it that much more attractive. Eventually, of course, players will be able to shell out real cash to buy special in-game items and such. After all, all game developers need to make a profit somewhere. But even with that, I believe Atlantica will continue to be a hotly enjoyable game for a long time to come even for those not willing to hand over any cash to play.

Atlantica is currently in open Beta, which means the game is still being tested. So players do have to deal right now with a bit of unexpected outage and changes in skills and other features with new patches. However, the developers have promised that no characters will be wiped from this point when the game enters into full play status. So there is really no reason not to check it out and give it a try. And if you decide you don’t like it, Atlantica developers even have a deal for you. If you reach and stop at level 50 and quit the game, Atlantica will pay you $20 in real cash to buy your character. Satisfaction guaranteed, can’t beat that!

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Laura Vess