All the games I cover are so early in development that I can’t justify writing about their gameplay. So, you can imagine I was ecstatic to write about Albion Online! I’d finally be able to write about how something was instead of how it might be in three years! Then I read the news from February 23rd. PFFT, in internet time that’s like 5 years ago. Yeah well it was HUGE news, so big it ganked my gameplay column and rendered my knowledge obsolete!
I dare say it was the most important day for Albion Online since its inception. Get to the point. After years of testing and speculation the roadmap to launch was unveiled! It begins with a massive overhaul update called Galahad coming March 13th followed by another huge update called Hector in late May or early June then (drum roll please) launch July 17th, 2017! It happening!
This is all bit surreal for me. I’ve been following Albion Online…no that isn’t the right word. I’ve been rooting for Albion Online since before I was writing about MMORPGs. I never imagined that one day I’d get the chance to write about it. You can’t say that, that is shilling! SHILL! SHILL! SHILLLLLL!
You must understand something before we continue. Many years ago, I lived in Japan, a pet of my master Yoshi. Mimicking his movements from my cage and learning the mysterious art of Ninjitsu…wait no, that wasn’t me…that was Master Splinter…Let’s try that again.
Many years ago, when Albion Online first popped onto my radar it was a dark time in the MMORPG genre. No one believed in PVP MMORPGs. Publishers didn’t want to touch them.
I saw Sandbox Interactive (developers of Albion Online) as a little unknown that shouldn’t but against all odds was and maybe, with enough time, could be. They didn’t get as much press as other games and they’ve faced a fair number of challenges but like Thomas the Tank Engine they kept chugging along slowly but surely. You can say that again.
On top of having a fantastic company name that hits me right in the feels they were making the kind of game I wanted and they started doing it before Kickstarter provided proof of concept and a safety net aka starter cash. I also saw their potential success as a flag to other companies that MMORPG PVPers were a big enough niche to be worth taking a chance on.
So, I rooted for a game that was being made in spite of a genre that wanted nothing to do with it or PVPers like me but there is a difference between rooting for them earning success and being a fanboy. I’m calling this game like I see it. If you think my past will blind my future, you don’t know me and my time in this masochistic genre. 14 plus years of MMORPG fandom makes you cold…cold as ice!
Coming back to present, I ghosted Albion for a long time then finally bought it last summer. Last summer isn’t the present newb. Ok fine, the recent past! There are a few things I’m willing to talk about because either they are already working as I hoped or because they are close and getting improved with Galahad.
Clicking to move isn’t as jarring as you might think but it takes getting used to in PVP. I suppose my Diablo experience helped with that but navigating some areas was frustrating. I understand the need for choke points but there were times where I felt exploration was compromised. Such a big and pretty world beckons to be explored! Never have I so badly desired the ability to fall down a pesky cliff! Next time, throw yourself off one. Where the world lost me, and this is being worked on in the patch as well, is how alive it felt. It looked great but felt stagnant. Part of the fun of a giant world is the random chaos.
I’ve always loved the art direction Sandbox went with and it’s only gotten better over time. Like I said the world is absolutely massive, beautiful and full of biodiversity. Different areas look substantially different and I’ve stopped to enjoy a view several times. Considering this plays in a third person isometric view that says a lot about the look of the world.
Speaking of resources, I didn’t expect to like harvesting. I’ve rarely taken the time to harvest in games yet I found harvesting in the safe areas to be almost Zen like. It’s not that Sandbox did anything beyond the usual equip tool, hit resource, get stuff, carry stuff back, repeat we are all familiar with; but the aesthetics combined with knowing my goods would go to the guild and be used in a player crafted economy made for a relaxing and rewarding experience. Later when I wanted to live dangerously I harvested in PVP zones! Wait, so you are mad that it isn’t chaotic enough but loved the “Zen” of harvesting? Hey, I’m a moody gamer. Most of the time I like exploring a dangerous world and PVPing, the Zen of harvesting snuck up on me and became a surprise pleasure.
Albion Online is unlike any MMORPG I’ve played. It looks old-school but feels like something else entirely. It’s a game that will live by its open world content and its PVP although Sandbox has been taking steps to enhance the PVE experience as well. I feel it’s too soon to talk about the latter two but look forward to doing so after I see how Galahad enhances them.
You are invited to join me as I finally get to talk about gameplay, in a game - with a release date! Yes, in 2017 we are to the point where having a release date might as well be part of a MMORPG’s features!