Is ArcheAge pay to win? That's up to you to decide
To say ArcheAge isn't unique in the MMO market would be a lie, considering the game's current place as the only low-fantasy sandbox MMO out in the West. But that uniqueness is both a blessing and a curse.
ArcheAge is all about the economy. Some people play it as a typical MMO, but most don't. You miss most of the game when avoiding the sandbox elements. ArcheAge without the farming, crafting, and pack hauling is just depressing, especially considering the game isn't exactly focused around what most MMORPGs are. It's all about making that money.
APEX and the economy
The game being all about the economy is why it has such a reputation for being pay to win (P2W). Despite how much effort you have to put into making money in the game, you can go ahead and swipe your credit card to buy yourself an APEX and make a few hundred gold in a matter of minutes. It's a bit of a slap in the face considering the nature of the game, but it's not as bad as it sounds.
Just to make this really easy for even the newest player to understand, here are some convenient bullet points:
- APEX cashes out into 1250 Marketplace Credits.
- You buy an APEX specifically to either sell or give to someone else.
- If you want to buy Credits for yourself with real money, you buy them directly.
- If you want to buy Credits with in-game money, you buy an APEX from another player.
Whether you like it or not, APEX is an integral part of the ArcheAge economy. After all, how else would you buy the things on the Marketplace you almost definitely need? Buying them on the Auction House with jacked up prices, that's how!
Current prices of APEX on Morpheus.
Now, the good part about all of this is that there are so many ways to make money in the game. You can farm, fish, craft, run packs, do events.. the list goes on. If you're motivated and have the time, you can make enough money to buy APEX, and either buy the things you need, or even Patron.
The system makes it so there's a constant transfer of gold into Credits and vice versa, which means what you have in-game has some sort of real money value. Real money that's basically just tied to Trion Worlds and is useless otherwise.
But enough about APEX. It's only one of the heads this beast has, and the next one is...
Patron makes the game pay to play
I know you can play ArcheAge without getting a Patron subscription, but is it worth it? Not really. You're cut off from a good portion of the game when you're off Big Daddy Patron.
Outside of the sandbox features, ArcheAge is a fairly generic MMORPG. Neither the story nor the quests are engaging, and combat is nothing special. There's not much of a point to playing without the full Labor gain and property ownership you get with Patron unless you literally just want to endgame PvP, and even then you need to be able to plus your gear.
Any time a friend considers playing, I always tell them they better be ready to cough up $15 up front to get the full experience. You miss out on so much without it that it's hard to imagine sticking to the game without Patron, as someone who has always had it.
Patron is a requirement to really play ArcheAge, but you don't necessarily have to pay for it with real money. This is where APEX comes in, and where the economy goes full circle.
Patron costs $14.99 a month, but you can also buy a month's worth of Patron for 2,400 Credits. If you make enough money in-game to buy two APEX in one month (1,250 Credits times two), you can afford to pay for one month of Patron in Credits.
The above really simplifies things, because APEX is not cheap. Unless you're either really lucky, seeded by guildies, or super on point with your farming; you're going to have a tough time even getting one APEX in your first couple months.
ArcheAge might be a bit pay to win, but it's surmountable
Even with all of the above and the game's absolutely atrocious RNG gear plusing at endgame, I still have a hard time saying it's 100% pay to win.
ArcheAge's pay to win reputation is mostly due to the fact that it takes so long to work up to things using the game's natural progression, and the fact you can make so much of it go faster with real money. But you can do it all with hard work in-game, as long as you have Patron.
Patron is the real stickler for many, because there's a very clear divide between paying and free players, and the game experience is completely different between the two. But this isn't pay to win -- this is simply the game not actually being free to play.
There are a lot of things on the Marketplace that you absolutely need, which for some constitutes the game being pay to win. You can buy almost all of those items from other players, but at the same time, those players who bought those items with real money to sell are making bank in-game. It's hard to say whether this is a good or bad thing. Ideally the items would simply be earned by adventuring.
ArcheAge's "P2W" state is ultimately a matter of opinion. It's certainly not free to play unless you've already gotten Patron and are good at making money, but people who buy items off the Marketplace to sell on the Auction House are definitely rolling in way more gold than people who just subscribe.
Gold makes things easier, but ultimately there's no point to the economic aspect of the game if you just bought all the gold you need with real money. Going that far would remove the point of playing. Things are full circle in ArcheAge, and that's part of its appeal.