I know, I know, that’s a terrible pun. I do that sometimes. English just lends itself well to such… malleability.
I played in the Allods Online closed beta a little while back. (They are having another one, too, so if you’re interested, go sign up!) As always, I didn’t get a lot of time in the game, but what I did see at least has me looking forward to playing it a bit when it gets a full release.
The Massively preview that I referenced last time I wrote about Allods Online has perhaps more than I really have to offer, so I would suggest that as a starting point. I do have some screenshots that I wanted to chime in about (out of 173… I take a lot of shots).
Before I get to that, though, a few thoughts (noting that this time, I can’t remember where I read these things, and what inaccuracies exist about the lore are entirely my fault):
One, what exactly is an “Allod”, anyway? It turns out that an Allod is a chunk of habitable terrain floating around in this sort of… space… Etherium-like… thing. (The Etherium is Treasure Planet’s “outer space”… which is a strange sort of space with breathable atmosphere and unidirectional gravity… unless there’s a spatial distortion or baby black hole. Treasure Planet isn’t a terrible movie, but the physics are just so… WRONG.) Apparently, people used to be constrained to their local Allod, whilst the mage priesthood maintained the means to travel between them… until someone went and discovered that you could just go sail around in space, looking for other Allods.
So, we have some sort of power hungry magehood (the mage version of a priesthood, of course) conspiring for population control, rebels trying to set everyone free, power struggles between the Empire and the League (I’m not sure who is closer to the mages, or if they are a third faction that nobody likes), and Gibberlings. These guys are sort of like a cross between Gnomes, Ewoks and Gremlins that are born in triplets and fight as a trio. Yes, they are player characters as well as NPCs. It’s a lot of fun to play as Gibberlings for me, but then, I wasn’t traumatized by Teddy Ruxpin or Tickle Me Elmo. Player response to these guys will be varied, methinketh.
Oh, and ships. Did I mention ships? Apparently, ship combat is meant to be the “endgame”, or at least a significant part of the non-noob experience. At some point, you can get your own ship and sail around between Allods, complete with combat and crew cooperation. As in, you may need other players to man your ship.
I can’t shake the Puzzle Pirates feel of that. In PP, you can solo a lot of things, and have a lot of fun playing alone, even on your own little sloop (and I hope Allods Online lets you solo ships), but the really crazy (fun) and rewarding stuff is done on ships with other players. If the ship combat (including manning separate stations) in Allods Online can be even partially as fun as PP (but in 3D, wooooo), it’ll be worth digging into. PP has PvP and PvE on these group ships, and both can be a lot of fun. I lean more to the cooperative PvE (the PP equivalent to raiding, I suppose), but PvP can be a thrill at times, too. PP is player skill based, though, which is, as always, significant when it comes to game design. We’ll see how much player skill means in Allods Online. I’ve never considered outleveling someone else to really be a “skill” when it comes to PvP.
Of course, the land-based DIKU standard MMO fare will appeal to some, and the ship combat will appeal to others. I haven’t read anything on raids, but perhaps that’s still in the pipeline. The DIKU combat doesn’t have an “autoattack + hotkeys”, rather, it’s all hotkeys. You need to trigger your basic attack. This can be good or bad, depending on how you play. I had fun with it, but I’ll admit, I miss the old brainless autopilot combat sometimes (and I want more involved combat sometimes, too). Either way, it’s something a bit different than the gorilla standard, while still being accessible. Time will tell if that’s a good idea. (I lean more to DDO if I want more involved combat, but hey, to each their own.)
OK, so… pictures. I’m hiding them behind the More link for cleanliness’ sake, and for anyone who happens to be tuning in via dialup. There are plenty of pictures after the break, for better or worse.
Bottom line, I’ll be playing this in the next beta, and I look forward to playing once it’s live. It may not be my permanent MMO home, but it bears investigation. I do heartily recommend it to anyone interested in MMOs, if only to see what the Russians are up to in game development. (Apparently, there are some solid game studios in Russia. I welcome this, since “Western” and Japanese games could use some competition.)
Pictures after the link:
This is the splash screen:
It’s pretty standard fantasy fare with a hint of sci-fi; special effects, battle cries between factions across the rift, and chest windows on the females. It’s a good foot forward, and gives a fair sense of the art direction and design ethic, even if it’s nothing all that new. It’s still well done. That’s a Gibberling there to the left of the login box… one of the scarier ones, actually. What catches my eye is the guy on the right in plate armor with the halo. That Empire Paladin just screams “Russian” to me, and I like it. I’m decidedly not a fan of communism, but I really do like it when people around the world embrace the art, design and storytelling in their own heritage rather than just trying to ape American or Japanese creations. Yes, there will be things that are “foreign” to me, but I like that, since it gives me a chance to learn and broaden my palate.
Speaking of classes, there are class “archetypes”, like a Paladin, and each race that gets it gets their own flavor of that archetype, with a few unique twists. (Arisen Summoners are good at healing their creations, while a different Summoner might be better at combat buffing them.) Talent trees aren’t nearly as expansive as WoW or even Torchlight (at least presently; there are hints that talent trees may be expanding), but they still offer a way to customize your character.
The interesting bit of Allods Online character progression is that you get to pick your attribute boost each level. You get one point to bump up any of fourteen different attributes. The attributes have highlights to show which ones are important to your class (note the rollover tooltip), and which ones are already being boosted by gear. It will be interesting to see what the minmaxers do with this, and just how much it can gimp a character if a player messes around. (Bonus: note that you’re told explicitly how much experience you need for the next level, right there in the combat log. It’s a little thing, but a nice convenience since you can see how quickly you’re progressing at a glance, rather than trying to track the numbers via rollovers or visually on the industry standard XP bar.) I suspect that the item shop will have some sort of “attribute respec” item some day.
That’s one page of the item shop. It’s still being translated (the trouble with text in graphics, rather than as overlaid text strings that can simply be changed in code), but at the moment, you can see that they will be selling bigger inventory bags. Here’s hoping that you don’t have the headache that sometimes comes up in these games carrying a bunch of useless junk. (Oh, for a Torchlight “vendor ferry” pet in one of these MMO things… I’d buy that from the item shop in a heartbeat. Convenience rules.)
Allods Online Orcs are hulking brutes, and the Orcish police officers have a distinct Soviet flavor to their gear. Notably, that officer also is using the “XBox 360 Avatar Lighting Scheme”, what with strong rim lights and a middling main light. I’m not really a fan of that look, but at least it’s not flat lighting. Other Orcs look more like Fantasy Island harbor rats (note the Steampunk “Millennium Falcon” design ethic there on the bridge):
and some even have the soul of poets, seen through their sensitive eyes and ponderous expression:
Here’s a pair of gratuitous bridge shots:
And a cannon on fire from ship to ship combat:
The game looks good, at least to my eyes. It’s not trying to be hyperreal like Age of Conan (a dangerous thing, chasing the technological bleeding edge…) or cartoony like Free Realms, rather it occupies a nice middle ground, not unlike WoW. And yes, you could be forgiven if you are thinking “this is just another WoW clone”. Then again, what isn’t in the modern MMO market? (*coughPuzzlePiratescough*) Similarly, you could be forgiven for looking at these screenshots and wondering just where in Azeroth they are:
That last one is a portrait of my “Arisen” Summoner (warlock), who I so cleverly named Warlocks (get it, dreadlocks, warlock? One more bad pun for the list, anyway…). He’s hanging out in the second Empire area, a steampunky bunker or sorts. The Arisen are some sort of TechnoUndeadGothEmo race. They have interesting mechanical bits that rotate and illustrate their partially mechanical nature (sorry, it’s not animated… imagine the mechanical bits moving around…):
You could also be forgiven for thinking you had warped to Final Fantasy Online, considering the design of this spaceborne monster:
The humans come in a couple of different “races”, but most of them look something like this:
Elves are some sort of weird crossbreed with fairies… and may have a strong connection with the nasty power hungry mages:
Here, my little trio is hanging out next to an apparently rare solo Gibberling:
Gibberling idle animations can be fun, too. My “lead” Gibberling, Silvernose, sometimes gets bumped from behind by his little brother, Brownbrow, and turns to threaten him with a shaking fist. Their sister Brunhilde just ignores them both:
This is why real woman warriors don’t wear armor with chest windows:
Yes, those are arrows firmly lodged in her armorless bosom. (She didn’t start that way; the arrows came from an NPC archer, and stuck there; a nice combat touch.) Ladies, don’t be stupid like this. It’s just asking to get shot or stabbed in a sensitive area. Game designers and artists, curb your puerile armor fetishes, please?
So, mild snarking aside, I liked Allods Online. I’ll play it when it comes out, and if there’s something good in their item shop, I may give them some cash. (It’s meant to be a free to play game, monetized via an item shop… time will tell if they botch it or do it well.) The art direction is solid and smart. WoW worked as well as it did by sitting in that “relatively low spec, still pretty” art technology zone. Allods Online also has a nice sci-fi steampunk flavor to it, and I appreciate that. There is also a subtle sense of humor in the game, not wholly ridiculous, but not wholly serious, either, and that is always good to see as well.
This also may be the first 3D MMO where I’m more interested in the “endgame” than the leveling content. I’m probably just dreaming here, but I love the idea of exploring the Allods in my own ship, puttering around like a pirate, doing my own thing. I love that in Puzzle Pirates, and if I can have that freedom here, in a 3D sci-fi steampunk world, I’d probably spend many happy hours playing. (Of course, if I have to grind through months of DIKU to get there, and I can’t solo my own ship, I’ll once again be uninterested. This may be a poster child for a game design that should have let players jump right into the endgame from day one.)
So, as I sign out, here are a few more shots of the ships that I’d like to play on. In the meantime, it’s back to Puzzle Pirates and my own little sloop. I’m keeping my eye on Allods Online, hoping that it really manages to be a great game. So far, it looks decent. Not perfect, but fun to play, with a lot of potential.