So I log into the US Test Server for Anarchy Online after using one of ALMOST TWENTY activiation codes that the folks at Funcom were kind enough to send, and I find myself standing in a room full of naked people who look like they are made out of taffy. After some careful selections, I was able to create a character that looks like the chaplain to an infantry division of borg scouts. I am now a level three Nano Tech, but I still think I look like every country parson from every Clint Eastwood Italian western from the late 1970’s.

So far, most of the reports and discussions about AO revolve around “wow, is Rome like the most amazing graphics ever, or what?” and “Rome is probably very lovely, but I am unable to leave my zone to go see it.” So I talked myself into installing the 600+ megabyte download and having a look for myself to answer the burning question: ‘what exactly is it?’

Amazingly enough, it installed like a breeze and I played about 8 hours solid without a single crash, lock-up, bug, or other such “bustedness” being reported by so many others. What I encountered was even more frustrating.

Remember your first days in Ultima Online when you would die to a little rat that you probably should have been able to step on? I ran out into the “training zone” and was killed not by a rat, not by a mole, and not by a mouse: but by a GERBIL WITH NO ARMS.

oh, I had a gun, too. I guess I should be happy I didn’t shoot MY OWN FOOL SELF. Don’t worry – by the time you reach level three like me, you’ll be able to go round-for-round with these little armless rodents.

First impressions? Well the interface is probably identical to the interface on every computer in HELL. The camera controls are taken directly from ancient Chinese texts on torture. Granted, they are not quite as bad as World War 2 Offline, but they are bad enough. The graphics? Remember the movie Bladerunner? Well this isn’t anything like Bladerunner. It is like a cheap Bladerunner knockoff where instead of looking “techno-punk”, it just looks, well, kinda wierd. Take another gander at what I look like in the game. I have yet to hear a conspiracy theory in which the future is threatened by rogue, cyber-enhanced MATADORS.

Or bionic circuit riding parsons. But very shortly, perhaps you will.