Playing an online game with hundreds, or even thousands, of gaming enthusiasts is an experience that you shouldn't miss. It takes on a life of its own; an alternate reality complete with laws, various factions and organizations and a hierarchy system which is facilitated by the leveling-up process that is the basic foundation of RPGs. Anarchy Online: Alien Invasion is an expansion pack to Anarchy Online. Although beginners can play it, it's not recommended since you'll be at a serious disadvantage in virtually every situation.

Newbies will have a tough go at any such established, persistent, online, multi-player game since most will be populated with high-level characters that have been there from the beginning. It's true that a lot of veteran players do get bored with these games after a while because there is always some kind of plateau where powers, skills and abilities cannot be increased. Although it serves to keep hardcore fanatics from continually wasting their real existence leveling-up to ridiculous levels that would make them untouchable to any normal player.

Expansion packs help to bring new adventures, characters, abilities, weapons and armor to the mix while preserving one's investment in his or her characters. Alien Invasion offers some new, and welcome, features to the game but there's no doubt that the original engine is going to be in need of an overhaul in the next year or two.

Along with new characters, quests, armor and weapons, Alien Invasion also offers none other than….Alien Invasions.

There is a new threat to the colony of Rubi-Ka. The more experienced players have created their own cities by purchasing various materials and arranging them to form massive communes that house shops, stores and dwellings. These cities are very expensive to build and exclusively off limits to beginner players which don't have the experience and thus the potential to generate the money required to participate. Although it's possible to get to that experience level, since the original game is included in the expansion pack, it's going to be a long, hard struggle. This is not recommended for the impatient.

Cities are often cloaked with an invisibility shield until they are nearly completed and their defense capabilities have been installed. Aliens will invade these cities offering a new threat to the stability of the online community as well as a new challenge - read: something to do. The aliens attack in swarming droves. They are big, ugly and powerful but not so much so that an experienced band of high-level characters can't kick their ass. As the attacks increase in intensity, the alien mothership will appear containing the alien boss. You have to board the ship and take on the boss before it returns to outer space, otherwise your entire team will die. Alien experience points will be awarded for successful combat which will allow you to acquire alien weapons and armor which will give you new powers to play around with in your online world.

The engine is getting old. You can really see it when comparing the original blocky characters to the more refined aliens. I did encounter some slowdown during the alien attacks but I was using a Pentium III, which is the absolute bare minimum. (Yes, I also live in a cave). The cities are blocky looking but they're interesting because they are player-built and while not graphically detailed they are structured with lots of imagination, the result of teamwork and I'm sure, lots of arguments.

New clothes, both for combat and casual wear, have been included to further customize your character. Most of the sound effects are from the original game although there are some new alien noises.

Alien Invasion injects enough of a dose of excitement to boost fans' adrenaline levels for a while. You're bound to get a few more months out of the game.

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System: PC
Dev: Funcom
Pub: Funcom
Release: Sept 2004
Players: Multi-Online
Review by Cole