Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Initial Impressions: Allods Online (beta 2)


Allods Online looks like World of Warcraft. It also feels and plays like WoW. This is a compliment, because Allods Online is a good, fun game to play

Allods Online is an upcoming free-to-play (F2P), but supported by micro-transactions game from gPotato and Astrum Nival. It entered closed beta 2 yesterday and I was able to put a couple hours into it.

As with WoW, Allods is divided into two factions: Empire and League. Both sides offer similar classes, albeit named differently based on race. At this point, I am unsure how much of a difference between factions the classes enjoy.

I chose to go with an Arisen Occultist (which is of the Psionicist archetype, Empire faction). The Arisen are an undead-like, mechanical race. They are Allods' version of WoW's undead, as almost everyone in game alludes to.

I guess I should cover that up front. Everyone in game won't shut up about WoW this and WoW that, but its understandable as it happens in all new MMOGs. Even in ones that aren't anything like WoW. This is a deal killer for some and has others quickly searching for the chat options to kill general chat. Personally, I just ignore it.

Back to my Occultist. This caster class works on a mental link mechanic whereby all my attacks against the linked target have some sort of benefit. I can then terminate that link, dealing a significant portion of damage. At first the mechanic is confusing as there are hidden benefits not immediately explained that reduce cast time and offer additional attacks (a DoT, stun, and an extra nuke). After a few levels, I am cruising with this guy.

User Interface (UI)

The UI for Allods is familiar to anyone that has played a diku-inspired MMOG in the last decade. It most closely resembles WoW's and again that is a compliment. Many games try, but fail to emulate some of WoW's better features such as the UI. There are hotbars, menus, a quest tracker, and a familiar looking character info pane.


The only missing item is a minimap, but the larger world map works well. I have not investigated whether a minimap is even available.

Combat

A lot of previews have stated that combat in Allods is slow, but in my experience the speed felt right. It was also smooth and enjoyable. Responsiveness is a bit off at times, but that could be related to the server debugging going on.

Technical

There is only one US server and it had a rough start. At first no one could connect and then after a couple hours it crashed and a login queue was put into place. This morning I did not encounter a queue and was able to play without issue.

I am able to run the game at maximum settings without a hitch (quadcore CPU, Nvidia GTX 260 graphics card, 4Gb RAM, Windows 7 Pro x64). My only graphical complaint is that the viewing distance is tiny, but this is the same complaint I have with WoW's limited viewing distance. In crowded areas, to save on performance, only so much is loaded, which often leads to moments where you think the way ahead is clear only to move five feet and find out there are 10 people standing there instead.

Little Things


There are little things that separate Allods from WoW and other MMOGs.

An immediately noticeable and welcome feature is how rest experience works. Instead of accruing rest exp while logged out, players gain fatigue while fighting/completing quests. This fatigue can be traded in at innkeepers for experience. I am unsure if excess fatigue negatively affects a player or not.

Death is handled via a purgatory mechanic. Upon death players are banished to a small zone with other dead players. They are given the choice to wait a short period of time for a free resurrection or pay with experience debt for an immediate revival. There are also consumable items available in game that can be used to escape purgatory unscathed.

There are some fairly unique classes and races in the game. The Gibberlings race features three small furry avatars that act as one. Summoner classes have non-standard pets, such as the Orc's pet Gnome. Also the associated class for the archetypes are named different for each faction, giving a hint of uniqueness.

With these minor differences, there are some significant ones such as Astral Ships that will be revealed in the later levels of Allods Online. Beta 2 is capped at level 20 and limited to certain zones.

Conclusion

I'm being fairly positive in this initial impressions post because Allods came out of left field and surprised me. As I started with, Allods is a good game. The WoW comparisons are endless, but that's a good thing. Other F2P games like Runes of Magic made me want to go back and play WoW. Allods, so far, has made me want to log back in and play Allods. This game may be the F2P equivalent to WoW I've been looking for.


My Allods Online photo album is available via Flickr.
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