Because we don't do straight reviews on this site, a First Impressions piece is the closest you're going to get. In First Impressions, we run through the first 5 to 10 levels of a game and let you know what we thought.
In this one for gPotato's upcoming free-to-play Allods Online, we did something a bit different. Instead of just a write-up, we've also done a short video to show the visual side of our impressions. Why? Because Allods Online deserves it, in our opinion. Keep reading after the jump for the embedded video and a brief run-down of what we thought.
At first glance, from screenshots and even video on the Allods website, I must admit to have written this game off as another "WoW Clone". This coming from a guy who hates that phrase with a passion, but there's just no denying sometimes when an MMO resembles Blizzard's genre-defining game.
Once I fired up Allods Online though, I could see that it's a bit more than that. Sure the game looks very similar (if not better), but I got more of a Warhammer Online feel from it, instead. Diving even deeper into the game, and eventually doing some research, I saw that the inevitable comparisons are just familiar enough to make it easy to learn, but not stale or boring. And I'm not really interested in getting into that whole "WoW Clone" discussion, anyway.
So here are my impressions of Allods Online, after leveling seven classes to level five or six.
The art style of a game, no matter what some people might say, is a big deal in any first impression. Well, consider me impressed because I was blown away by the graphics in this game. I've always felt "stylized" graphics were a good idea, to help with the longevity, but it works especially well in Allods because it's combined with some realism. Star Wars: The Old Republic and some other upcoming games are utilizing this same style, and I think the Allods team made the right choice.
I mean, we're talking about award-winning artists here, and I can honestly say that I haven't seen art in an MMO that has stopped me in my tracks this many times since Guild Wars.
The controls are your normal WASD, with right click available to interact with items and NPCs. There's even a click-to-move option if you're used to that.
I think the pacing of levels is very quick for the first five levels, and then it gets a bit more challenging from five to six. I'm not sure at this point if that trend continues, but it was actually nice to hit that slowdown and challenge.
The quests seem to be very traditional, with your kill-ten-rats (literally), Fed-Ex and explorer quests making a strong presence. Nothing special so far, but at least there are plenty of quests to keep you busy. I do hope they get less grindy later in the game, though.
Combat is very slow-paced, although I hear rumors that it gets faster later in the game. Regardless if it gets faster or not, it's pretty painful for those first few levels. Melee classes are a bit better about it than spell-casters, but they still have some intricate chains and preparations that take some time.
I found myself having the most fun with the combat of the Psionicist archetype of classes. You must first link your mind to your enemy to open up new spells, and that preparation is pretty interesting -- and powerful. It's not fun when you're fighting a mob, but that's why I feel that most of the classes in this game would work best in a balanced group.
The Warrior classes were actually a lot of fun, and I had a blast with the Scout classes. Come to think of it, the only classes that were just ho-hum were the Healers and Paladins, but that's just me and my play style.
The UI is also very familiar, except for one major component: the mini map! They have a small compass in the upper right-hand corner for navigating, and it's fairly worthless. I would love to see a mini-map in this game.
Other than that, everything else is very clear and concise. If you've played World of Warcraft, Runes of Magic, Warhammer Online or any of those games, you'll have no problem navigating your way around this game.
I can't remember the last time I played a game on the first day of the first stage of closed beta and had it run so smoothly. To their credit, this is an experienced team who has actually gone through the initial beta stages of this game several months ago in the Russian beta, but even with this version being mostly a port-over, the performance is almost flawless. Lag? Yes. Crashes and rubberbanding? Nope.
In fact, as betas are a time to watch for bugs and glitches, the only ones I ever saw were typos in translated text. Other than that, at these early levels, I'm quite impressed with the level of polish.
My first impression of Allods Online is very positive, despite some of the nitpicking I've done. The traditional, familiar aspects of the game do not divert from the fact that it's still fun. In fact, the similarities seem to tighten up that initial learning curve and allow you to go out and see what does make it different from WoW. I'm excited to see later stages of this closed beta, and eventually dive into launch as we see more of the main features of the game, such as the extensive ship control and combat, PvP and the crafting minigames that are actually in now, but I didn't get a chance to explore.
With a projected launch set for sometime in Winter of 2009, and a business model revolving around no subscription fees and a item shop, I have no doubt that the teams at Astrum Nival and gPotato have a hit on their hands.