Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Allods Online (Beta) First Impressions

It's good clean fun. I'm going to try and avoid getting too excited over this, but it's really, really, nice. I tend to say the same things in every review, so let's just suck it up and get this ball rolling. The sooner I begin just typing, the sooner I hit 'publish post', and the sooner I can make the internet a wonderful place.

I signed up for Allods after reading a brief blurb about it over at Tobold's (which I can't find now, ugh), and I happened across some image of a space boat that was so compelling that I actually right clicked the image and set it to be my desktop image. I've NEVER done that. I'm so anal about my desktop wallpaper resolution that I need to manually bring everything into Photoshop myself, manually adjust brightness and contrast, and "Save For Web..." to maximize my 72dpi viewing pleasure, while maintaining a small filesize that won't strain my bazillion dollar video cards or quad core central processing unit.

But when I saw the space boat, I needed to have it underneath my icons immediately. So compelling were the little space trees growing on the little space islands in the vaccumm of ... well, space... that I right clicked willy nilly and set that shit.

Word.

Imagine my surprise when a mere day later I was accepted into Beta 3, and was happily DLing and patching the client. Logged into WoW for a sec.... oh, ICC 10? Sure. Pew Pew Heals, cleared it, logged out and launched Allods.

My first impression is that the engine itself is very Torchlight or Free Realms. I like that style, so I was happy. Some people are probably looking for more bone gristle and bump mapping texture spools or whatever, but I like distinct art styles, especially when they're pulled off as well as they are in Allods.

The character models are pleasing to look at, and there's enough distinction between one piece of gear and the next that you recognize when you make a shift. I started out in some skirt, then got some pirate getup, and now I'm currently rockin the Indiana Jones look.

I sold my gear before I started taking screenshots, so here's a pic with my shirt off! Fanservice, woo!

The textures and monster designs are really well done. I mean, so far, a rat is a rat, and a termite is whatever, but then you come around a corner, and see a bunch of these guys:

... and suddenly you realize how lame voidwalkers and water elementals really look.

There's also this whole Russian vibe permeating everything, and I'm not sure if they'll leave that in or swap it out for boring American crap for launch, but I really like it. The game is going to be marketed by gPotato (they do Fly For Free, plus a bunch of other F2P MMOs), but it was made by some European company that I'm suddenly seeing no information online about.

I played for a good 30 minutes before I happened to look UP, and squealed when I saw the skybox.


...it's fully animated, too, and the clouds are forming, rolling, and evaporating like some sped up timelapse photography.

Little details like the texturing and modeling in some random kitchen area just really stood out.

It's really easy to tell when the artists are enjoying what they're doing, and are good at thier jobs. Again, I always say this, so let's just get it out of the way: I'll take a well executed art style any day over realtime individual whisker mapping. I'll take Zelda: Wind Walker over Gears of War-tever 10 times out of 10. This game pulls it off.

Gameplay: Hmmm... it's WoW. 300% WoW, so that when you hold down both buttons you walk forward, right click dragging strafes you, left click dragging swivels camera, P opens your spellbook and N brings up the talent pane.

Doesn't bother me.

Syncaine will die, and immediately proceed to roll over in his grave, but who cares. WoW didn't break any huge molds so much as perfect the existing implementation, and this is a logical progression.

My 'rogue' ended up actually being a hunter (oops!), and 90% of the time in early levels I just hit Steady Shot (yes, it's actually called that). Even when mobs were point blank, SS gave me better overall damage, so I just macro'ed my Belkin's 4 key to just be 4444444444 and would hold that down pew pew pew. That was kind of a let down, and I made it pretty far that way, before I realized I had about 4 talent points saved up that I hadn't spent yet. Oops!

The talent 'tree' is just a list at this point (rep pane in the same screenshot, not much to say except there is one):


But that upper right hand talent with the orange arrow (love the button icon art btw, don't remember who was praising Blizz on that front, but these guys deserve it too) is Incendary Arrow. So I conceivably could have been using that way earlier. I also grabbed Heart Breaker shot (below Incen), and Caltrops.

The way the arrows work took some getting used to, as you need to actually prep every arrow you want to be 'special'. Looking at the bottom of my UI, I have a quiver that can hold 7 arrows.


When I cast Incendiary Arrow, it begins lighting arrows, and placing them in my quiver. Heart Breakers just kinda give it some fancy purple glow, and puts them back there. So, looking at my quiver above, I have an Incen in slot one, followed by 6 HBs. Incen places a DoT on the target, so it's the best to open with. HBs have +crit and +chance to knockdown, so I follow up with those.

Combat generally has me 1) prepping some arrows, 2) launching an Incen, 3) chucking my Caltrops out in front of me (AoE targetting reticule, a la WoW AoE spells), then 4) hosing off HB shots while the enemy closes in. Once I've run out of my 7 shots, it's just 4444444 steady shots until it dies. In fact, it's kind of weird, because even shooting my prepped arrows is still SS, they're just made fancy. The tooltip for SS states it "will use special arrows if they are present in the quiver". Later in the talent tree is a muti-shot equivalent that I imagine will use two of my preps. As I level up, I'm hoping I can prep more at once, and I really hope they implement prepping on the run, because as it is, I have to stop. Stand still. Prep 7 arrows. Continue to catch up to my party.

Speaking of my party, HUGE shout out to Kulkrak, a.k.a brannagar from Corpse Run. Not only did he instantly know who I was when some scrub named Ixobelle joined the party (woo!), but we quested together for a few hours, and he basically told me everything I'm telling you guys concerning my class. He's played a bunch of the different classes already, and knew his way around the map. Huge help, you rock! His blog is chock full of videos and tips from the first wave of the betas, so open it up in a new tab now and check it out for finer details. Tesh also had a good writeup last month with lots of pics.


All in all, I enjoyed it for the first night in there, and I reckon it'll get better once I realize that I can buy new spells instead of just running around pew pewing level 1 smite on everything from Brill to Arthas. I intend to dig deeper again tonight, and want to see about moving towards actually being a melee class. I have a stealth move, but it's a 5 min CD, and seems to be geared towards "sneak past those mobs" than "get ready to open with an ambush on that dude". There are lower talents that are basically Mutilate, so I reckon it just takes time. Kulkrak was telling me that at level 10, three talent trees open up, and there are racial trainers as well as class trainers, so it seems like the opportunity for lots of builds to open up.

The game seems like it has SO much potential, that the whole Free2Play thing just makes me nervous. How they handle the cash -> game part is going to make or break this. So far the store isn't implemented yet, so I have no idea how it will work. I saw a few random vendors selling some strange stuff that speeds up time spent in purgatory, but it didn't make any sense until later in the night. I thought it might have had to do with the RL$ portion of the game so I ignored it. But then I died (once, pretty much on purpose). Up until I purposely pulled like 5 mobs onto us, I never dipped too far below 95% HP. Then I finally died, and released my soul into Purgatory. I was down in some basement area with some big god thing looming over me, and a timer on my screen was telling me I would be sent back to the surface in 11 seconds.

Apparently, this timer gets longer, and you can buy some stuff to knock time off the timer. It's available for ingame currency, but maybe with RL$ it's more cost effective to buy? Imagine raiding, and your tank goes down, and he needs to pay $3.17 to get back up to the surface for another attempt?

That's me waving my arms around and postulating. I have no idea if that's how it works, but that seems like the grim worst case scenario I could come up with on the spot.

I have no idea how PvP works yet, since I've only spent a few hours in the (huge) first city, just running around questing. Once I get deeper into it, I'll post back second impressions, but so far I'm liking what I see.

14 comments:

novograd said...

Hey there! I'm Azar and I run one of the biggest fansites in English for Allods Online.

You may be interested in the new talent trees at level 10. It unlocks talent grids!

Check it out via a talent calculator: http://allodsbase.com/en/talents

Azar.

Ixobelle said...

@novo:I just got a link ingame for novogradtimes.com, which I imagine is your site too. ;)



As an update, I just checked out the Item Shop, for those who are curious, and it looks interesting. Stuff like a bigger bank or bags (which aren't game breaking, but very nice), and odd items like megaphones which allow you to say things over the entire world channel. I can imagine that will be interesting for gold advertisers... or will it since you can buy pouches of gold straight up?

You can't buy weapons outright, but can buy 'chests' that contain a rare item. So with enough gold you could just open chests until you were stacked, I guess? Other items are potions (flasks), and RP outfits.

Looks interesting. I could see dropping 10 bucks a month on this game in the item shop, since there's no subscription...

Eaten by a Grue said...

Do you have to raid for the epics or can you buy them?

Ixobelle said...

I *think* you gotta raid for them... unless there's really expensive random chests you can just buy 50 of and hope you get an item that suits your class.

You can buy gold, though, so there's a few ramifications to this.... since anything you got out of a 'rare chest' purchase that you didn't want could go on the AH, possibly making you gold, but then again, if it's gold you're after, you could just buy it... I think the time sink will still be the way to earn nice gear.

I ground my rep up to 'respected' in the main town when I realized there was a 'kill ten rats' (literally) quest that netted 1000 town rep, and could be repeated immediately. That might be a bug, and it might be supposed to be a daily, but I did it ten times straight (~15 min) to push me over to the higher rep for that faction, which gave me access to a whole set of blues that are serving me very nicely at level 9. I kept getting whispers last night asking where I got all my gear, and was spreading the rat killing gospel to those who would listen.

I reckon my next post will be a full exploration of the item shop, now that I actually found it in my interface, and what it really means. I think it won't break the game, but the combat system really needs some work. SS SS SS SS SS SS SS SS SS is getting old.

Tesh said...

Thanks for the mention! I fired up the CB3 also, and I'm still having fun with it. I have a pretty good bead on what I like and dislike about it, though. What it does, it does very well, I just don't have a lot of patience for a long level grind, inflexible classes and a paucity of information on how things work.

Case in point, the Herbalism trade skill; presently, I can only harvest silly little flowers in the city (that aren't used for anything, so they are vendor fodder), even though the skill is in the thirties. When exactly does it get useful to be a herbalist, and why isn't there feedback on the herbs that I *can't* harvest? (As in, when can I harvest them?)

OK, OK, WoW doesn't have that either on the official site or in-game, but they do have a friggin' HUGE amount of data out there in wikis and such that point it out. A lot of that is just thanks to age and fan devotion, but I tend to think that games need that sort of feedback to let players gauge the grind. Otherwise, there is no chain of incremental breadcrumbs leading players forward, and it's easy to lose interest.

That's a relatively esoteric concern, though, driven by experience with MMOs rather than something intrinsic to the game. I do think that games need to bring convenience to the table to get attention (they really need a minimap, for instance) in a saturated market, but it's not really a backbreaker for me.

The game is pretty, and fun to play. That's enough to recommend it. There are long-term concerns of business viability and player retention, but if they stay on top of things, they will do nicely.

I'm most interested in the ships. Perhaps I've just been spoiled by Puzzle Pirates, but I love having the option to sail my own ship with a trio of NPCs to man the stations. As such, the day Allods introduces a soloable ship available at low levels (ships are the "endgame" content presently) is the day that I really dig more into the game.

In the meantime, I'll just be puttering around with my ground-based Gibberling trio, plinking away at the baddies, enjoying the scenery. (I played Empire side, too, and the Arisen are pretty interesting, but I just like the Gibberlings more... terrible, I know.)

Ixobelle said...

i fi understand it, the lack of a minimap is unintentional, i keep seeing in chat where people are "hoping they bring the minimap back again soon"... it may just be undergoing changes for reimplementation.

I heart ya on trade skills, I have LW and made 20 things, but was pushing random buttons in some odd interface with little to no feedback.

Tesh said...

Oh, and I'll heartily second the appeal of the Russian design. It's a nice change from the boring Western stuff I see a metric crapton of, and the Japanese stuff that I like, but can't make sense of. I sincerely hope they keep as much of the Russian humor and art design as possible. (And yes, the art design is rock solid. The execution on LODs and mipmapped textures is a little wonky in spots, but that's a tech issue, not an art direction issue.)

Mordiceius said...

You better be planning to play as Empire.

The League has good humans, dumb elves and little furries but the Empire has evil humans, Hitler orcs, and Stalin's undead egyptian robot army.

Bojan said...

Tesh,
harvest starting herbs till lvl 50, then go out...
The thing i like the most in this game is that i dont know shit, an tehre is no Wiki to help (much).
Refreshing.

Tesh said...

Thanks, Bojan. I tried it at 25 and then at 35 and just decided it wasn't worth the time sink to keep screwing around with it. Maybe next time I'm in town I'll pick up those other points up to 50.

Y'know, I don't really mind the lack of a wiki. It's the lack of feedback in-game that I wish were there. And really, a wiki is just there to compensate for feedback the game should be offering anyway. I'm all for cutting out the middleman wiki and just playing the game. What I don't like is a lot of time sinking trial and error with no way of finding out if I'm making any progress at all. That's just Game Design 101 stuff, and *none* of the MMOs I've played get it right.

(Though WoW gets honorable mention for finally giving a hover box over mobs that notes whether or not they are relevant to a quest.)

Tesh said...

er, that should be "lack of feedback in-game that bothers me. I wish there was feedback when I'm playing."

corpserun said...

Thanks for the mention Ixobelle! Had fun questing with ya.

Tesh, from what I understand, the lack of feedback is because of the beta status of the game here. The Russian version has many more sound effects and other feedback than this one does. I assume they are translating them and prepping them for the release over here.

The addition of aural feedback should help immensely.

Dw-redux said...

Damn you!
I was attempting to save up free time for when star wars came out.

Signing up now, looks and sounds great :)

Hatch said...

"Stalin's undead egyptian robot army"

SOLD!

Actually, I don't have time for another MMO anymore unfortunately. But, I am glad to see that they've made it very easy for WoW players to transition to their game.

If you want to change the controls of your MMO, there better be a damn good reason. If the change is a quantifiable improvement, or opens up new gameplay possibilities, then go for it. But if you don't have an explicit reason besides "it's what I, the designer, like personally" to stray from the WoW controls, just stick to them. It will make it a lot easier for a bajillion people to try your game without the ui and controls getting in the way, which means you have a better chance for your art and gameplay to make a good first impression, instead of being obscured.