With the loads of big companies and licensed MMOs on the horizon, sometimes smaller, independent titles can slip through the cracks. When Quest Online invited MMORPG.com out to Phoenix to see Alganon, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I knew it was a cartoony looking game with a strange name, but not much else. What I found was one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had in quite some time.
Alganon should be very familiar to MMO fans. It’s not revolutionary in any way, which is unto itself a bit of a revolution. Quest Online is a small, privately funded company based out of Phoenix, but unlike many such companies, while they have grand dreams and aspirations, they’ve clearly focused on a very solid, stable and attainable MMO for a team of their size (about 40 people).
“[Alganon is an] MMOG that isn’t biting off more than we can chew, but that still provides people with what they want,” said President and Co-Founder David Allen as he demonstrated the game and the tools that built it.
At launch, hopefully later this year, Alganon will feature two races and four base classes (that eventually expand into 12). It’s a level based game, chalked full of quests and is set in a traditional fantasy world that visually clearly owes a lot of inspiration to World of Warcraft, but fictionally evokes memories of EverQuest and other more traditional fantasy.
It’s also a subscription based game. Allen was very clear about this fact. Alganon was developed as a subscription game and that is what they feel works best. They have no urge to change that, and despite pressure from potential publishers and investors, they’ve remained true to that goal.
The most unique aspect of Alganon is their class system. Players begin with one of four very basic classes:
- Ranger: They’re exactly what you’d expect, with a bit of a twist. On top of ranged damage and support, they also specialize in anything related to what Lead Designer Hue Henry calls “AI manipulation.” Things that trick, confuse or confound NPC enemies.
- Soldier: This is the single target tank class. Sword and board, or two-handed weapons.
- Magus: The area of effect (AOE), damage per second (DPS) class should be very familiar to casters from any MMO.
- Healer: Guess what? They heal.
So what’s unique about this? Nothing… yet. Quest Online knew what people expected and wanted from a fantasy MMO, so they didn’t reinvent the wheel for no reason. Each of these classes does exactly what you would expect them to do and will continue to do that over the course of their entire career.
What’s unique is the next twist. They wanted to let each person make the class their own, and so they’ve allowed each of the three classes to sub-specialize in a second field and those are not always what people might expect. The idea is that no matter what they do in this second category, they will always be perfectly effective in their core role. This means people don’t need to worry that the Soldier that just joined the group cannot tank. He can. The question becomes, what else can he do?
They’ve broken it down into three sub-specialties per class. Players can choose to mix and match, but ideally, they would go 100% into a specific category, which essentially just provides a second full skillset without any sacrifice to the first. These specialties are:
Soldier: On top of their single target DPS skills they can specialize in:
- Tactics: This tree provides the soldier with buffs that help himself and the group.
- Weaponry: For the more offensive tank, they gain additional DPS abilities.
- Protection: This line lets a tank become a multi-target tank and absorb even more damage to protect the group.
Magus: Aside from their AoE DPS role, they can specialize in:
- Frost: A Frost Mage can… wait for it… tank. That’s right, the Tank Mage is back.
- Fire: This focuses the Magus on a role as a single target offensive force. Ideal for bringing down an individual enemy.
- Storm: Buffs and debuffs get added to the magical arsenal.
Ranger: These woodsmen can augment their support and AI manipulation as follows:
- Guardianship: This breed of Ranger gains the ability to become a multi-target tank.
- Lifeblood: A ranger who takes this path learns the arts of natural healing.
- Instinct: For more offensive flair, get some DPS skills in your bow.
Healer: Don’t want to just stand back and watch health bars, but for some reason chose healer anyway?
- Spirit Mastery: A DPS driven option for the Healer that lets him not only give life, but take it away.
- Channeling: These guys add buffs to their healing arsenal.
- Divination: For group oriented healers, this lets people heal more than one target at a time.
Obviously, some of these are expected and some of them are not, but this solves an age old problem for MMOs. It lets people create a character that matches their desired play style, but doesn’t make it confusing or leave the possibility for a player to gimp their core role. With this system, a potential group always gets what it expects and usually has some redundancy.
Another nice feature is the Studies system. Alganon took a page from EVE Online and made some of the game’s progression offline in origin. This system works in conjunction with traditional advancement and lets players study, in real time behind the scenes, to improve in specific areas. This balances things out and lets more casual players who might not have thousands of hours to dedicate to keep up with their comrades.
Studies predominantly take on two forms. They can either gate content, such as studying to unlock a new ability or chain of quests, or they can be used as an alternative to another form of advancement, such as studies that improve stats.
One of the areas where the size of the team likely did hold them back is races. For launch, Alganon will only feature two races, each on their own side and on their own landmass.
The humans are the core option. They represent the Asharr, one of two sides. They are exactly what you’d expect and begin their careers in the the Asheran Forest on in the Southwest of Ardonya. For launch, the game will have two enormous domains for them to explore: Asheran Forest and Haggon Marsh, to the Northeast.
At a glance, that doesn’t sound like much. This is just two of many areas on the planned map, but after extensive exploration and tours, it is obvious that the areas are large and varied. There is a wealth of content that should keep people entertained for quite some time and given the Quest Online team to expand organically outward in much the same way Lord of the Rings Online expands their world through free updates.
Eventually, on the Asharr side, the Humans will be joined by the Sylvan, Dronar and Kodian races. The Sylvan are a magical, ethereal race. They are not quite the traditional elves, although they are in tune with nature. The Dronar have a lot in common with generic fantasy Dwarves, their a hardy race from the deep North, but physically they are extremely large and built. Finally, the Kodian are an animal race, in this case bears. They’re a bit more naturalist and make wonderful Rangers.