As mentioned in my blog this week, I've been playing a lot of Allods Online. There's a lot to say about this game, which could conceivably at first be merely dismissed as another clone of Blizzard's megahit. Surely enough it shares some of the common features of World of Warcraft, but come on... so do a lot of games that came long before the big mama-jama of MMOs.
At a certain point we'll have to stop pointing fingers and calling games a clone of this and that and accept that there are commonalities across the genre. Besides, I'm not one to brush off a quality gaming experience merely because it's derivative, and thus I've been enjoying my time with Allods. Enough that I've decided to throw caution to the wind and write up a second impressions based on my second sitting with the game. Why? The first couple hours with any MMO are usually clouded by newness and what's spiffy in the game. I've consistently found that the second time I sit down to play a game for a good length of time is usually when some of the more bothersome traits stand out.
With that in mind, I logged back into Allods a day after my first visit. I stood around one of the first encampments of NPCs, completely flooded by a swarm of fellow players. It would seem that Free-to-Play and polish amount to lots of word of mouth. The downside of the massive starter area population? The zone chat is a never-ending swarm of Warcraft conversation devolving occasionally into Chuck Norris jokes and caps-locked spam. On top of the chat, most quests involve the killing of certain mobs or collecting of various objects, and hence it's not uncommon to see herds of player standing around spawn-camping. Luckily it seems players are wise enough to accept spur-of-the-moment party invites, which makes completing these quests a much easier task.
I checked out my quest log and decided it was time to venture off and finish a few I'd merely begun the day before when it occurred to me: there is no mini-map in Allods. A single tear dripped down my face. I suppose it's not entirely necessary to have one, given that the game's map is well-detailed and tracks all quests for you, but still I've grown accustomed to having one in my games and the compass they have in place of the mini-map is just shy of useless.
I did manage to finally nab my little Gibberling scout the skill "Incendiary Arrow". Before acquiring my burning projectiles, I'll admit to being a little dismayed over Allods' combat pacing. It seemed slower than necessary, and I found myself wondering why my character didn't have an auto-attack to speed things up a little. But Incendiary Arrow changed that. Using the skill charges up about eight shots worth of flaming arrows that are put on reserve in my quiver. Whenever I pluck off a "Steady Shot", one of the arrows is used. If it finds its mark, a DOT is applied to the target that causes a significant amount of damage every two seconds for twelve seconds total... and it can stack up to three times. When before I'd spend about a minute pulling and hacking away at enemies, Incendiary Arrow suddenly had mobs dropping before they even reached me. I only hope other classes have similarly helpful skills at their disposal or I'd imagine less-DPS inclined classes would die from boredom during solo play.
Eventually I was tasked with my first group quest called "Daemon Soul". Handily, the group quests are denoted as such in your quest log, and luckily with so many players out and about it wasn't hard to find a group and go tackle the beasty in question. What was rather unlucky is that we were all DPS or crowd-control players and we quickly met our doom. I was trying my best to use the little Gibberling scout to kite the bugger around after I gained agro, but I still dropped faster than my brother when faced with the prospect of standing up to his wife (zing!).
Once deader than dead, I found myself in Purgatory with dozens of other wasted souls, a massive servant of the gods watching over us all until such a time when we could return to the world at large. I only died the once, but the wait was rather swift, even if the place where I found myself when resurrected was a far run away from the quest I was trying to complete. No, it's not Purgatory that I find troubling about Allods Online's death penalty. It's the resurrection penalty "Fear of Death" that comes with being revived by a fellow player. No, I won't say that the penalty itself is too harsh. What is too harsh is the price players must pay to remove said penalty using cash-shop items called Perfumes. This is the root of the reason the game's fans are in an uproar over the recently announced cash-shop prices, and it's a good reason at that. As noted bloggers Keen and Graev have pointed out, the potential expenditure for an average raider is sitting somewhere around $50 a month for the required amount of perfumes to enjoy a crucial part of the game.
But I digress. The game is in Open Beta (even if characters are staying through to launch) and there is time for the developer to change the public perception of their money-hungry ways and I hope they do as much. It would be a shame if such a quality gaming experience fell because of pure greed. Heck, Allods is such a nicely polished experience in my first few hours that I'd gladly pay a standard subscription for it if I was asked to do so. And yet clearly the company behind the title thinks that there's far more money to be made through the cash-shop instead.
In any case, I'm still having a really enjoyable time with Allods Online. And as I've stated in previous writings, I'm inclined to give the developer some of my money for cash-shop items. But I think given the current state of their pricing, I'll be waiting for a while before taking that plunge and I can only hope that the shop is marked down as a whole before too long. In the interim I'll keep scrambling around the floating islands killing things with burning projectiles until such a time where I deem it too costly to be worth my time.