WoW-clone is a pretty derogatory term these days. It symbolizes a lack of innovation, a blatant copying of concepts, and in general is used to associate a game with a player's angst toward the genre they love and hate. And while there's little doubt that Allods Online will be called a WoW-clone, my early impression of the game is that it's quite well-done, with a style all its own, and the potential to become the best F2P game available. Of course this is just an early impression after a few hours spent in-game, and who knows what issues more time playing will bring to light. But so far I just have an urge to get back to playing.
Now if you don't fancy Blizzard's mega-hit or games along the same line of content, I would steer clear of Allods. It's very much a traditional MMORPG, even if it is highly polished and playable. If you're tired of this type of game or just plain avoid titles like it, you can probably stop reading here. Still with me? Good. Allods Online is definitely deserving of a download and trial, and since it's free, you've got nothing to lose except time.
The first thing I noticed is how swiftly and easily the client loaded and updated, despite the fact that the game's servers must be flooded with new players. I was logging in and selecting my race and class within minutes. The initial race select screen caught me off guard at first. It's barely worth mentioning, but the artwork here is akin to something from a loading screen, and it took me a few minutes to realize each of the drawings of the game's different races were selectable. This is neither here nor there, but really serves as just a warning if you're a little brain-dead like me.
I tend to gravitate toward the "good" races in games with two distinct factions like this. I always play dwarves in WoW, stick to dwarves in EQ2, played dwarves in WAR... you can see where I'm going here. But there is no such thing as my stout favorites in Allods, so I went to the next best thing: the Gibberlings. There are orcs, humans, elves, even a type of undead in the game, but nothing quite as unique and (dare I say) adorable as the Gibberlings.
They remind me of what hamsters would be like if they walked upright, wore clothes, and stabbed things with knives. But the real distinction is that when you play a Gibberling, you're actually playing three characters at once. You can even customize each of the three when creating them. Want a mix of male and female Gibberlings? Go for it. You still control them like one character, and they move and act as one, so it's more of a style than function sort of thing. But still... nothing like taking down a big nasty orc with a trio of hamster-people.
I chose the class of Trickster which is of the scout archetype, meaning I can go stealth, deal massive damage from afar and up close, but have limited defense. One of the cooler skills I experienced in my first few hours was "Feint", which makes your character actually jump to the side of the enemy and stab him, giving you a boost to dodge temporarily as well. It was disorienting at first, but I can see how such a skill could become pretty useful in PvP encounters too.
Skills in Allods are done a bit differently than you may be used to. At first they were doled out automatically during the tutorial as I leveled up. But once out in the open world, I discovered that each level gives you a talent point, and all skills are tied to the talent trees. The first rank of each skill costs first point, the next rank costs two, and so on and so forth. New skills are unlocked further down the trees as you level, and each path on the tree lends itself to a different style of play for that class. For instance, my Trickster is currently working his way down the more melee-oriented path, because that's just the style I prefer.
Speaking of the tutorial, as far as first impressions go, it was a good one. Minus the fact that the first things I killed were actual rats (which might be a joke on the developer's part), it was a really nice introduction to the world, with interesting quest dialogue and a lot of happenings. I have to wonder if some of the game's PvE encounters are as interestingly scripted. The tutorial really did a good job of acclimating me to the controls, interface, and game lore while actually being interesting to play through. Not all titles can say that.
The quests seem to be well-written and at one point a Gibberling NPC actually referred to a bad guy as a "douche elf", so needless to say I'm in love with the writing staff. But the actual quests themselves are your typical kill this, collect this, go here and talk to this person. Again, this isn't "bad", but I guess part of me still wants to see something new done with such an integral system. They still serve the basic purpose of masking the grind, and giving players guided objectives.
Worth noting is the fact that players are given a stat point to assign on each level gained, and stats really do affect your ability to fight effectively. But what stats are good for what class? Luckily the developer has seen fit to highlight what skills are most important to whatever class you're playing, so you know where to place your points and what gear to be on the lookout for. Interestingly enough in the general chat channels I heard more than once that pumping points into one specific area is always a bad idea, so beware.
After a bit of questing and butting heads with the crowd of players all hunting the same mobs, I decided to call it a night. It's a derivative experience for sure, just like the game many will say it apes. But like that game, it's so far extremely well done, and I can't help but want to log back in and play some more. Most expected interface features are there (robust quest-tracking, detailed maps, item comparisons, etc.) What will really determine whether this F2P game is worth devoting time to however is what the end-game involves and what sort of weight the Item Shop has on enjoyment of play.
Right now, the solid state of the mechanics and the client have me eager to delve deeper, but how long will it last? I'm pretty eager to find out, and until I know more, I'll enjoy running around the Allods with my little trio of rodents.
This article was originally written prior to the item shop pricing being released and so isn't mentioned here.