Atlantica Online is a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game). As you all probably know, there are hundreds of those out right now. Atlantica Online is 'a bit' different from others, though. It was launched by NDoors in 2008 and is currently published by Nexon. The game by itself is free-to-play and that means there are no areas/objects/quests etc. that are limited only to people who pay to play. So, how is AO different from, for example, World of Warcraft?
The main difference from other games is the game type. Instead of a hack-and-slash or spam clicking skills, players are encourage to actually think in battles and use their tactics and knowledge. Yes, Atlantica Online is a turn-based strategy. Alongside up to 8 mercenaries, the main character joins battles, and uses up to 5 characters per turn to kill monsters. As with players, the monsters also have several characters in one 'party'. The amount of mercenaries the main character can recruit depends on his/her level - at level 50 a player can have a maximum-numbered party - 8 mercenaries + main. But don' think that the gameplay stops evolving after that! To be honest, it is just the beginning. At certain levels, new, stronger mercenaries become available to recruit. To be more specific, mercenaries are classified into 4 grades: D, C, B and A. The lower the grade, the less it costs to upgrade (at levels 20, 50, 80, 100 and 120, mercenaries can be upgraded) or recruit the mercenary. D grade mercenaries are the most basic ones - the player can recruit any of them from an NPC for a very small fee. The upgrade materials are the lowest class, and therefore don't cost much. C grade is already more expensive. At later upgrades, it becomes more costly to upgrade them, but in the beginning it's similar to D grade. The summons (objects used to acquire C, B and A mercenaries) also cost more. B grade is already expensive and requires effort in order to obtain. Upgrading them is often delayed due to the costs. Judging by the pattern, you might imagine what A mercenaries are like. While being the strongest and having the most tactical skills, they also ocst enormous amounts. Many people can't afford getting them, let alone upgrading.
The game is set in a semi-fantasy world, which is designed after real Earth. Continens, bigger towns, climate, animals. Even NPCs have existed in mythology/legends/real history and are placed on their corresponding locations on the world map. The graphics look very good, and when maxed out, there's so much glowing! Highly upgraded equipment glows, entrance portals glow and many other things glow. Each area has it's own suitable music, which is quite good. There's no age/time given as to when is the story happening, and that probably doesn't even matter.
Now about the main characters. The character customization is minimal. Back when I started, there were at least 2 colours of clothes to choose from, but now it has been narrowed down to one 'choise'. 3 different hair colours, a few different haircuts and 2 genders (I mean there are only human races). The main customization decides your main's future. I am talking about the class. There are 9 classes. Melee: Sword, Axe, Spear, Power-saw; Ranged: Bow, Gun, Guitar, Cannon; Magic: Staff . Melle characters can attack only non-flying monsters in the front row, ranged characters can attack any spot in the 3x3 box, and magic caracters can attack any monsters in the first row. All the classes are said to be balanced and equal in possibilities. In reality, though, some of them keep getting different improvements, while others stay the same for months or even years. The most desired class is the power-saw, since it is available only to players who have leveled one of their mains on the account (up to 3 mains on 1 account) to level 100. The level cap is currently at 140, and requires BILLIONS of experience to reach. Despite that, there are numerous people at maxed level, constantly waiting for the level cap increase. Main characters can also wear decorations, costumes or ride different mounts, which all can be obtained from Item Mall (IM). Now here the free-to-play becomes harder.
One of the types of PvP combat is Free League. There players fight each-other in server-organized rounds, lasting for 10 minutes each, in sessions of 6 (not too sure, and it may change at any time, since it already has) rounds in a row. Basically it is a place where people show off their expensive glowing equipment and various mounts, costumes and decorationsm which all provide stat boosts. Also skill is involved. The best PvPers don't win just with their equipment - they employ their original strategies to crush their opponent's formation, be it by stunning all mercenaries, making them unable to move (freezing/imprisoning), lowering their damage to almost zero, lowering their accuracy enough to never be hit, or even spiking/snipeing (attacking with all powers) the opponent's main. There's also another type of PvP competition, which I personally like much more, and it's called Colloseum League. Why do I and many others like it? Mostly because it nullifies the equipment boosts, sets all skills to a standard level and overall makes everyone equal. These last less time, and the damage done is therefore also higher. In my opinion, the real skill shows through here - no advantages, just your strategy.
As I mentioned before, at later levels the game becomes very Item Mall'ish. Players are almost forced to buy PvE boost licenses (Blessing Licenses, BL) to be able to earn money or even survive against monsters who keep getting stronger and stronger. The long distances that have to be traveled also make many people buy Teleportation Licenses, or more often a package consisting of Health-Check License (without it, you are unable to see remaining monster health), Teleportation License, Auto-Battle License (allows AI to take control of your party), Patrol License (let's you check what monsters are in a certain party before attacking them) and Auto-Search License (a robot that searches enemy corpses for valuable items/materials). And there main aspect of Item Mall - Atlas Ore. It is like gold in real world. All prices depend on the price and need of Atlas ore. It can be used for many things - prolonging your effects, dungeons, adding bonuses, upgrading equipment, mercenaries or skills etc etc. If there's a high need for Atlas ore, prices for it rise, and so do all other prices - everything depends on their IM price. Even in-game money black market price.
The main thing I hate about Atlantica Online - gambling system. Almost everything in the game is a gamble. Dungeon rewards are boxes that give random reqard. Item Mall boxes give random gibberish instead of mounts/decorations/costumes, which people hope to get, there are even gambling activities in the game! For example exchanging equipment boxes for a chance to receive a better (higher-level) equipment box/boxes. Or even the equipment upgrading - it can either fail and be destroyed or succeed and become higher +'ed. Nothing in the game is certain. Some people have used 100$+ on mount boxes, and received nothing worthy in the end. An average high-leveled player spends 50-100$ a month on the game. Without spending it's quite hard to manage in PvP, BUT it's possible!
In conclusion, I really recommend you to at least try Atlantica Online out, since it's one of a kind. I don't know any others like it, and it's really unique. The only reason I'm giving it 8.5/10 is because of the gambling system, so feel free to join Argos server and send me a message :D