With Closed Beta Test 4 arriving this coming Tuesday, January 19th, high-level players will finally be able to see real Astral Ship combat and how it all works. This article is meant to prepare you for the awesomeness and hopefully answer some questions you may have next week and into launch. Follow along after the jump for our complete write-up, a gallery of screenshots we took during the tour and a video to fully capture the epic win. To begin the tour, I was teleported to one of the end game regions known as Dragon Ring. This zone centers on the astral demons and demon hunters. In fact, this whole zone is run by demon hunters who have their own reputation points you can earn. There are demon-specific quests that teach you more about the important role demons play in Allods Online.
The same goes for the next zone I was shown: Yazes Shard. This is the highest level zone you can go to right now (in CBT4), and it also answers many of the questions players might have about the important role demons play in the lore.
There's not really much else to say about these two zones just yet, as the visuals in the gallery speak the loudest. But I know you're really here for the astral ship information, right?
Astral Ships play a large part of the end game in Allods Online. Astrum Nival realizes that players want something more than simple dungeon raiding or loot lotteries; players want something new. From what I saw and was able to do with these ships, I'm fairly certain that this single game feature will pleasantly surprise many MMO gamers beyond what they could imagine -- especially in a free-to-play game. Are you ready for this?
The ships for each opposing faction -- League and Empire -- will have their own unique appearance. This will help you determine if a ship is an enemy at a glance, but it also gives character to each respective side.
When a ship is damaged, its appearance changes. Not only can cannons be damaged and made inoperable, but you will begin to see scraps and pieces laying around and holes in your ship if it's damaged enough.
During my tour, we were League characters aboard an Empire ship, so don't let our faction in the screenshots and video fool you. Although there are visual differences between the two ships, their features remain similar.
There are several stations to each ship that can be manned by players, and each of these stations has a very specific role. Basically, anything with a chat bubble above it is operational by a player. Your character's class does not play a part in which role you choose on the ship, so jump to your preferred station and know your role!
First, there's the actual wheel that controls the ship's movement. At this station, you can either have one man control three different aspects of steering, or have three players each control one. There's a station for thrust, one for side-to-side turning and one for up and down movements. While in navigation mode, you'll have a small navigational "skill bar" of sorts in place of your normal skill bar. These navigational icons let you control direction, thrust speed and something called Interhub Jumping, where you can jump between locations within a sector. This feature is especially useful for trying to find a nearby allod (floating island).
For navigation, there is a scanner or radar of sorts that acts as a 3D map of your ship's route and an indicator of any astral demons that may be closing in on the attack.. It is the navigator's job to tell the pilots where to go. The pilots depend on the navigator's expertise with the scanner to get them to their next allod, although the pilots can also bring up the main map (M key) to show a map of your location, including nearby allods.
The gunners are stationed on each side of the ship and it is their duty to destroy anyone -- or anything -- that sets out to attack them. Firing the cannons are interesting in themselves because they're not loaded with magical heat-seeking ammo. These cannons fire straight where you aim them, so the coordination between the pilots (to bank the ship or turn it a certain way) are essential to how the gunners can fire their cannons.
The ship's shield is also an important station on the ship as someone must monitor the defenses at all times.
The reactor is a very special part of the ship that has a role just as important as anything else. The reactor regulates heat on the ship's engines, and if it overheats, the ship will explode. Managing this heat is crucial to your ship's -- and crew's -- survival. When the reactor is shut down to cool off, the ship cannot move. So timing this cooldown allowance within a safe zone is important.
As you can tell, group coordination is everything when it comes to effective ship navigation and operation. Voice chat and good communication between players is essential to coordinating the perfect crew.
Combat in Astral Ships is like nothing you've ever seen. As I mentioned, the cannon fire is not only done by the players stationed as gunners, but also the ship's position via the pilots.
For the PvE part of ship combat, you will fight large astral demons that attack your ship. Killing these demons will get you more fuel for the ship, so it's not just about protecting yourself. If you find your ship running out of fuel, you'll need to do a little astral demon hunting.
On the PvP side of ship combat, it was best described to me as a complex chess match. The battles can get so heated that another ship can actually approach yours and board it, allowing character-to-character combat within the ship. For this reason, it's not only a good idea to bring enough crew members to man each station, but also have some ready to defend the ship in the event of a boarding.
Ships are fully upgradeable as well, allowing crews or guilds to work towards that better ship. Upgrade options include improved cooldown on cannons, more powerful cannons, stronger shields, faster engines, more stability in steering and much more.
If a part of the ship becomes too damaged, there are options to repair it. Managing these repairs is a full-time station in itself, so having a player specifically for this job is essential to any good crew.
Don't expect to simply sit in your ship all day fighting demons and other ships, though. One of the main points to Astral Ships is to explore those floating islands known as allods.
Once you find one on your map, you will need to manually navigate to the isle yourself. There are no easy-button autopilot routes to take here. Just like in battle, it will take the skill of the team to find and explore these islands.
Each allod acts as an instanced zone for you to explore. The location of allods will be ever-changing, so a definitive map is impossible.
Once you dock at the island's port, you will use the launch pad to shoot your character over to the island's pad. From here you will explore your very own instanced island, complete with hordes of creatures, all willing to give you scores of loot in exchange for their lives.
Loot is important in any MMO, and Allods Online is no exception. Yet Astrum Nival has introduced an interesting mechanic that combines full loot with the PvP ship combat. That's right, everything you loot from your island exploration can be taken from you by another ship on your way back to port.
Your treasure room is a very important part of the ship, and can also be considered a visual trophy room, showing off your journey's booty. It's also the place you'll want to defend most in the event of an attack. If an enemy boards your ship, they can literally run down to that treasure room and steal your hard-earned loot. The good news? You can do that to them as well.
Despite everything we can say here, you'll never know more than to see it for yourself. So we've embedded a short video below showing snippets of our tour. Enjoy!