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Review by: Josh Horowitz
Published: October 21, 2003
There’s an undeniable appeal to fantastic tales filled with mysterious and wonderful characters in strange settings. Certainly, some of our civilization’s oldest stories can trace their roots back to myth and fantasy. These legends have traditionally found a niche in medieval settings, where wizards and warriors battle monsters and conquer dungeons on epic quests. With science fiction gaining a hold in recent years, though, there has been a rise in the popularity of so-called cyberpunk.
This is a fantasy genre characterized by a dark technological future, typically controlled by mega-corporations, where characters face many of the same challenges they would in traditional fantasy settings, all with a sci-fi flavor. Once the Internet saw the rise of massively-multiplayer role playing games, it was only a matter of time before a cyberpunk title emerged. Funcom’s Anarchy Online filled the void in June of 2001, catering to players enthralled by the addictiveness of EverQuest while desiring a setting made popular in the Shadowrun tabletop RPG series. While the original PC release had its ups and downs, Anarchy Online gained a huge and dedicated following, prompting Funcom to create its first official expansion pack, Anarchy Online: Shadowlands.
Anarchy Online itself has a rich and detailed backstory outlined on its official website. In the year 28,702, humanity has long since left the Earth and spread across the galaxy. The Omni-Tek Corporation, a huge entity with nearly limitless assets, begins to colonize the remote planet of Rubi-Ka after discovering the element Notum. Notum, which only exists on Rubi-Ka, is found to be a key ingredient in the advanced manufacture of nanotechnology, and becomes the galaxy’s most desired asset. Over the centuries, Omni-Tek grows rich off their Notum mining operations, but challenges from rival corporations and internal dissent by Rubi-Ka’s mining population (known as the Clans) causes war from without and within. By the year 29,476, Rubi-Ka has become a rigidly factionalized planet, with the Clans and Omni-Tek vying for power and resources while the Neutrals watch on the sidelines of the conflict.
Amidst this anarchic environment, a team of former Omni-Tek scientists builds a floating city above the surface of Rubi-Ka called Jobe, where they can conduct their research free from the distractions of the rest of the planet. One of their discoveries is a portal to the mysterious Shadowlands, a wild, unknown realm filled with strange beasts, varied landscapes and new adventures. The Shadowlands are vast, encompassing seven distinct environments ranging from idyllic forests and frozen steppes to volcano-strewn wastes. As citizens of Rubi-Ka, players can choose to affiliate themselves with the Jobeans and visit the Shadowlands, doing their part to chart and tame the area’s newest wilderness.
As Anarchy Online‘s first official expansion pack, Shadowlands has much to offer based on user feedback and the developers’ creativity. In addition to the new city of Jobe and the seven Shadowlands, the release offers players two new character professions (the Keeper and Shade), a “perk” system for further specialization, new factions, and hundreds of unique monsters and items. Shadowlands is also backward compatible with the existing Anarchy Online universe on Rubi-Ka. The box comes complete with the original Anarchy Online and the Notum Wars booster pack, thus allowing player interaction with the already-established game environment.
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