Anarchy Online: Alien Invasion is the second full expansion pack to what is now referred to as Anarchy Online: Classic. Just like Anarchy Online: Shadowlands, Alien Invasion adds invaluable components to the game that no AO player should be without. Unlike Shadowlands, which focused on varied landscapes, exploration, and epic battles, Alien Invasion focuses primarily on the community aspect of the sci-fi MMO, which was previously almost non-existent.
The first, and most outstanding, feature that Alien Invasion conveys is the introduction of guild-controlled and operated player cities. Just like the territory control in the AO booster pack Notum Wars, which is now free to all AO subscribers, being a citizen of a player city grants the player special bonuses and features that regular players don’t have access to. To make a city, players must work together to build the basic components, and then they may acquire the technology from invading aliens (explained later) or simply continue to craft in order to make further additions to their cities. Player cities are composed of numerous buildings including housing, guildhalls, and markets, all with full player access, and each with due function and purpose.
In a player city, members of the controlling guild may take advantage of the marvelous guildhall, which has features such as a grand meeting room, officer’s conference room, a crafting laboratory, and a foyer complete with plastic surgery station to change your character’s appearance. Since this expansion is focused on community interaction, locations like the lounge are used simply to hang out and role-play, and, after a few drinks, you can move over to the indoor swimming pool for a big party. Funcom were sure to include an entirely new line of social clothing for just such an occasion.
Now, for those of you who are more about guns-and-ammo rather than drinks-and-dancing, player cities do serve a combative purpose, which serves as part of the story of this expansion. As you discover, when you start a new character under the Alien Invasion expansion, unknown alien forces are attacking Rubi-Ka intermittently. It just so happens that the alien forces love to storm into player cities and lay waste to its citizens. A dependable server AI determines when player cities fall under invasion and takes into full account the number of players in the city as well as their game level.
When aliens attack, impressive visual effects burst into action as an attacking force is deployed to the outskirts of your city and makes its way to the City Control Unit, which is the most vital piece of equipment for the city to exist. Players must work together with static defenses and deployed guards in order to defend the CCU from the first waves of alien attack. The alien AI takes player level into account, and if a level 50 player is accidentally caught in an invasion of level 200 enemies, a special set of level 50 aliens will spawn for that player – as the level 200s kindly ignore him. The protection is broken if the lower player decides to heal or aid their level 200 friends in combat, but overall, it is an effective system that allows players of any level to participate in the invasion defense.
Once the hordes are defeated, the defending teams have the opportunity to board the invading ships and defeat the alien bosses, thus receiving incredible alien technology in the form of gear, and even new buildings for your city. The alien ships calibrate to team level, so if a group with 200s and 50s are together, the 200s will have their own ship to clear, and the 50s get their own, too. If you are unlucky, and you cannot repel an invasion, the aliens attack your CCU until it is down to10% health, and then they will withdraw. You cannot be invaded again until you repair the controller, or else the invasion will end rather quickly.
Other than incredible alien gear, the reward for defeating aliens is Alien Experience, which garners Alien Levels. Each Alien Level gives the player access to an entirely new set of perks that don’t count towards standard level perks. So, in essence, a player who takes part in Invasion Defense frequently will have many more modifiers and special abilities than a player who does not possess the Alien Invasion expansion.
As far as the technical end of the expansion goes, it possesses few bugs. The graphics of the game are not widely improved from Anarchy Online: Classic, but the new features are done incredibly well compared to the futuristic industrial looks of Omni-Tek cities. The interiors of buildings are designed with grandeur and detail. The alien opponents are modeled and textured better than any other creatures in the game, and the alien ships feature remarkable texturing and lighting effects, which will surprise even the most seasoned AO: Classic player. Other special effects, such as the air battles taking place in the skies above your city are further signs that Funcom have pulled out all the stops to take full advantage of the graphic engine’s abilities.
Though no sounds were changed from AO: Classic or Shadowlands, Alien Invasion does have its own set of sound effects. The humming of alien ship interiors and the loud droning of the alien mother ships’ engines will gnaw at your mind during close combat with your unknown foes – while the sounds of your new alien weaponry will strike envy into the hearts of your friends.
In summation: The additions that come with the Anarchy Online: Alien Invasion expansion pack are too good to pass up for any AO player, and since it is packaged with the original Anarchy Online, it’s a perfect opportunity to get into the game. It adds an invaluable community aspect to the game, which was badly desired by the AO faithful and includes a special new kind of epic battle that gives veteran players an entirely new challenge in the land of Rubi-Ka.