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Alganon First Impressions: Human Soldier to Level 8

Posted in Editorial, review with tags , , , , on November 19, 2009 by howtoloseyourlifetoanmmorpg

The Alganon beta is very laggy at times. This is no doubt exacerbated by my bad wireless connection. Even though I was getting booted, and had to slow down my progression due to lag, It was a good experience. After 8 levels, I was able to get many quests under my belt, study a few skills, if that’s what they are calling it because there are other skills that you get through leveling, and delved into crafting a bit all while seeing a good sized chunk of the extremely large starting zone.

My first 4 levels were filled with acquainting myself with the game and world. Creating a character seems average to any other MMORPG. Not super in-depth, but not shallow either. You can pick hair, face, all that jazz. Unique is the family names you choose from. Each race has 5 families to choose from. These are an attempt to help group players to other like-minded players. Each family is related largely to one field of combat or study. There’s an adventuring family, a crafting family, and so on.

I took a human soldier which starts me in Asheran Forest. It’s a gigantic zone, and has the most pleasantly diverse terrain I’ve ever seen. The layout for all the terrain seems natural, full, varied, and never gives a feeling of repetition(Hey I saw that exact shape and size boulder 2 kilometers back).  There are some nice animations with swarms of bugs, tree tops gently swaying in the breeze, and other little incidental novelties that actually felt like it brought the world more to life.  This zone is also immense. I could only hazard a guess that it may be like taking the zone Stormwind, from WoW, and quadrupling it in size. It’s a colorful world. It has a cartoon-ish look, but high texture and water details make it look sharper, more focused, and a bit less cartoon-y than WoW.

Quests are standard, nothing new here. fetch, kill, find are the norm. Tutorial based quests will get you accustomed to the controls, and your surroundings. There’s a built in quest tracker, to find where you need to go. Some may think this takes away immersion or is too easy. For a first time player I found it very helpful, as the zone is huge and easy to get lost in.

I clicked my study icon to get started with what I could. It’s a time based skills system that lets you select from about 3 studies after character creation, and as you study, more will open up. I found it fine. I started with bladesmanship, then went to crafting related studies. I was only level 5 when I did the novice craftsmen which completed within one play session. It opened up specific craft related studies such as natural oils, alloy, etc… I chose alloy, and suddenly it’s taking 24 hours to get that study. I felt that it was a huge jump from the first level of studies I took. I am not at all familiar with EVE and its time-based skills, so I will have to have some more…uh, time with this part of Alganon.

My first 5 levels kept me pretty close to the starting area, and then the quests lowly moved me further down a road to the town of Greenvale. At level 6 I found out I could have already been crafting at level 1. So I jumped in, asked developer chat a few questions and got started. There’s honestly not much I can say beyond “If you’ve played WoW, you know everything you need to know about Alganon crafting”. It doesn’t just look the same, you’ll feel like you’re playing WoW at times, if not for the graphical differences, with all the similar movements you’ll be going through.

Crafting is the same system used in WoW. It looks like they ripped it out of WoW, put it in Alganon, and just renamed items, recipes, and ingredients. That’s not saying it’s bad, I think it speaks more volume to say “It’s familiar” and I’ll get to that more in a bit. I found a blacksmith, purchased mining, and blacksmithing. I then went out mining which was a pleasurable experience. This is a one-click gathering system. You get a tracker. In my case I could locate ore, but there was a small extra perceived sense of hunting on my part. Even when you near a node, it can take some looking for. It may be behind a tree or rock, or just hiding down in a depression in the ground. It also could be nicely placed amongst some mobs requiring some skill to reach if you are equal or even above the mobs level. Some clicks landed me copper, limestone, and sometimes a jewel along with the others. The most I ever received from one node was 2 copper, 1 limestone, and 1 jewel.

There’s a vendor in town selling some reagents that you’ll need to go along with the ore when crafting. I also found, with the beginning recipes, you’ll quite often also need to refine the ore and get some drops from mobs to create the item(s).

From level 7-8 I went on more quests which sent me further along the zone. I was done crafting for the time being, after feeling used to it, and I wanted to see more of the great graphics in the zone. There are plenty of hubs with lots of NPC’s. Many of them just stand there, but they all have voiced greetings for you. The houses are nice. I always love many buildings you can go into. Just like the terrain, the buildings are varied in size and shape. Asheran Forest lends itself to log cabins and small wooden houses. There’s a few 2-story houses that I explored. This is where the camera flaws really showed up.

I found myself constantly zooming in and out, whether in the forest or in town. The trees are so lush with wide tops, and the camera doesn’t snap below them, so any trees in your way will have to be avoided by zooming in. Same goes for inside a building. There seems to be an attempt at camera snapping, as you enter a buildings doorway then turn right or left it snaps to the characters back just fine, and you can easily rotate around to get the interiors layout. But many times, especially in the multi-storied buildings you have to zoom in to avoid staring at the floor above you.

The most unique and exciting feature in the game, to me, is the Library. It’s simply defined as an in-game repository of information on everything in the game. It’s not simple though, as it has everything. If WoW had this, it would be like taking Thottbot, and WoW Armory, smashing them together, and then letting you access that info all without alt+tab’ing out. There’s also a slew of Alganon world lore to look up. It’s a very nice interface.

Apart from crafting being identical to WoW, the difference for Alganon is how they plan to get items into players hands. They’ve said that they plan on balancing the really good weapons and armor between crafting and drops. You’ll be able to get that Uber Green Glowing Demon Sword+1 from a series of challenging crafting tasks, or from a challenging raid. It sounds like they are trying to create a dichotomy of equality. That is to say, it seems they’re trying to create equal feelings of work and time invested for both the crafter and raider after the same item. I’m very curious to see how this plays out. Unfortunately no instances are available in the beta. Any real world testing will have to wait until after the game’s launch.

To sum up, I felt the game was very polished visually.  The server snags and lags quite a bit right now, but that’s to be expected in beta this young.  It plays very much like WoW in many respects.  I felt torn whether I should dislike this or not.  You could almost disassociate yourself from the graphics and you could simply believe you found some brand new zones in WoW.  I never used the term WoW clone before so I do not use it lightly now.  The interfaces from crafting looked ripped directly from WoW, as does a few other interfaces, and also the way you interact within those interfaces.  Ultimately it doesn’t make me dislike the game in the least.  It’s not a bad thing to be a clone.  And it really has it’s own look graphically.  At the end of reaching level 8, I find that apart from the knowledge base called the Library, there isn’t much in the way of innovation.  I don’t need innovation when a game uses many approved standards of play that agree with me.  I find myself wanting to play more to see how beautiful the rest of the world is, if nothing else, and to see how the crafting implementation will affect the player base and my enjoyment level of crafting.