Monday, February 22, 2010

A lot of Allods

I managed to download and install Allods before the weekend, and much to my surprise I spent most of the weekend playing the game. It is a WoW clone, but how can you do a successful MMO now without doing that, as every game is being evaluated against the biggest success in the MMO history?

On the other hand, WoW is 'just' a refined and fine tuned copy of EQ and so on, so enough of that. Every success is based on two things in entertainment: forerunner or pioneer and the one refining the concept to a success. Just think about it (Cyndi Lauper -> Madonna for example...).

Needless to say, I enjoyed immensely of the game. The main concept is similar to WoW in that there are two opposing factions, with similar classes though different races. The race and class combinations are very much restricted, something WoW is shrugging off currently. But it works exceptionally well in the game: the combinations bring depth to the races and give a 'face' to both the class and the race.

But Allods doesn't copy only from WoW. In the races there are no copies from WoW as such, but the Elven race is direct rip off from EQ2's Feyfolk with their clumsy wings and floating 'walking'. The game has copied at least the Auction system from EQ2, and I sure hope that they have done the same with the crafting and the crafted gear's functionality. Haven't hit that far yet, but the work of Disassembler (crafting profession which disassembles gear to components for other trades... clever!) seems to follow the similar train of thought as the one in EQ2.

The devil is in the detail
The overall playing experience is a lot like the one in WoW. Or in any other current MMO. The combat system is very responsive and effective, the special effects of the spells and the animations work like a charm. Did I say already that the game runs flawlessly for me, even though I'm playing over at the US servers? Much better than WoW did back in the day I was playing beyond the pond, I might add!

But the fun part is that even though the combat system is the same (push 1-2-1-3 ad nauseatum) there are teeny weenie details which make this a bit more. For example, the mages have a special Magic Amplification skill, which grants them a special buff or debuff everytime the amplification of a school (fire, frost, lightning) is used or stacks 5 times. This can be a life saver in a tight situation, or may as well be your downfall. The other classes seem to have their own special systems to cover, so it's worth to try the classes through to find more about them.

The other thing is that all the gear and your character stats tell you what stats are important to you, and the stats screen gives you visual clues on the status of your stats. No more thinking over what would be best, just deciding over whether to take this over that!

The devil is truly in the detail, and this trend goes deep down into the game.

Irony or dark humour?
What I fell in love with the most in the game is the dark ironic approach the designers have taken on both sides. Mind you, I have played only to level 6 on the Legion and to level 8 on the Empire, so I haven't seen much of it yet. But the promise of something special is there.

On Legion you are ushered to an abandoned Allod (isle floating in ether) and as the races in Legion are all the 'good' races like Elves, Gibberlings and other 'shiny people', the ironic twist of the thing is that most of the starting quests are very much underlined 'Kill 10 rats' type quests. The result of which is that the starting Allod for the League is a slaughterhouse in which the lovely creatures of Light are killing every other living -and unliving- creature they encounter. The drastic contrast of a lush birch and elm forrest and the people running around killing everything is mind numbing. Sadly this is passed by by most of the players trying to level up as fast as possible (thus killing more and faster...).

On Empire, the start of a new character is total rip off from The Chronicles of the Spellbound, even to the point that the character is the sole survivor from the Astral Ship attacked by a Astral Monster... After which you will find the character torturing war prisoners for the good of the people, killing rats and slugs and finally emerge to a romantically pictured Soviet city with all the pompous statues and monuments of the Heroes of the People. The pictorial references are those of 1930-1950's Soviet propaganda posters and reality, with the quests living up to this premise: the character will place bugs into peoples' houses, interrogate and catch surrogates, find smugglers with questionable printed materials and so on. The whole thing lacks only the Father Sunshine (Comerade Stalin) from the scene to make it perfect. All this is emphasized with the cyrillic Russian posters and signs on the walls and by the fact that the characters and NPC's outside the actual storylines speak Russian!

The whole concept has been thought very well and it is concise and complete. Like Petter said in one Buzz about this game, you really want to go deeper into the plot to see if the corruption and fake facades really give in later on and if there is a more sinister truth to both sides out there. The atmosphere is excellent, save for one thing.

Player Community
Now the game is new, not even officially launched yet. That should be kept in mind. Yet there are already people who have the right to call other people asking for information "noobs" or "retards". There are already elitists who really make it sure you get how much better they are.

The worst part of the current zone (local) chat is the constantly revolving circle of WoW discussion. How the game is a WoW clone, how WoW is better in this or that, how WoW is so bad about almost everything and so on. It's like the Nazi-card in any other conversation: it just keeps coming up and doesn't go away.

However, the community is very much bustling and helpfull, and you can get people to group with you just by suggesting it to them: the quest objectives are sometimes hard to take on by yourself and the kill ten rats areas are very crowded. Grouping helps to overcome this as you get your kills from all the kills your group does (as in WoW and any other game) and in certain open world bosses it's a must to have a HUGE amount of people doing the kill, anyhow (like the League's Dark Soul quest... we had 24 people to make it... at lv6!!).

What really amazed me was the amount of questions people had about the quest objectives clearly stated in the quest description. Not only does the game's map show you the location of the quest objective, it also tells you what kind of objective it is (combat, pick up, discussion). Still people were asking for help on how to complete/find a quest objective! Have we been taught to get everything on a platter already? No need to do anything in an adventure game or RPG?

A lot of the questions were such that people could have come up with the answer just by fiddling around with the map, quest texts or the interface. Too much of things to overcome in this age of instant gratification for some, really, even though the game is as simple as it gets.

Overall impression
If you're bored or looking for a change after playing WoW, EQ2 or any other MMO, Allods has a lot to offer. It's simple, familiar and very smoothly running game with a lot of tongue on the cheek humour and references. It's deeper than the surface might suggest, I just hope this promise holds till the level cap later on.

Being F2P, a lot depends on the Cash Store: what and how highly priced items will be. For now, as a free game, I could see this tapping on the 70% of the WoW trial drop outs, and a lot of people fed up with other MMOs over there.

I think Allods has a lot to it. I suggest you try it out yourself.

PS. I'm playing on Nezeb server with toons like Copranull, Copratwo (on Empire) and Ding (Ding/Dang/Dong, a gibberling trio), Copraner and Gruthmog (on League). I suppose all my toons from now on will have that Copra tied in somehow, but ask to be sure.