Alganon re-release: worth all the hype?

For starters, there are two things that I will not cover in this look at the Alganon re-launch:

  • Derek Smart: I am still not that familiar with the man. I am familiar with his games, and familiar with the snarky jokes made at his expense, but I do not feel it has any bearing on how much or how little I enjoy a product that he is involved in. His religious beliefs probably affect his life and thus his work more than most things, yet I do not care to read about them either. To put it as he does in his forum signature: "Game developers are just human beings who happen to make games for a living. If you want to hold us up to higher standards of conduct, then go ahead...but don't be surprised if we don't uphold them."
  • "WoW clones:": If we spend any amount of time comparing user interfaces, monster types and general looks, we will be here all day. I am a fan of 30's crime novels, a genre that definitely "borrows" stylistically from itself, but I do not dismiss the use of subtle details that separate different authors from one another simply because they sometimes feel the same or are set in the same universe. Let's not compare vehicles for the content, let's discuss the actual content.
Starting out

First, we need to talk about the new starting area. It feels epic, sure, with a god sitting on the nearby mountain or standing above you menacingly, but it's much too short and could have been filled with more than a basic tutorial. Perhaps in the future the developers could lock you into combat or crafting in these new areas, because they are impressive. You will watch a cutscene intro (all the cool games have one) and learn a bit about the Lore. It seems that these new areas were designed mainly to show off a new look and feel for the game.

Incredible music

Once you're done with the intro, you will really feel the impact that music and sound has on the game. It's downright beautiful in some places. The audio, if done correctly, can sweep the player up into the world much quicker and much easier than if it sounds cheap. I was very surprised to hear the quality of the music, being that my earlier experiences did not sound as good. I could download the new music and listen to it as a soundtrack.

The new look

The new look of the game, one of the main features of this re-release, seems to mainly be a "beefing up" of what already existed. The "vignette mode" only differs from the normal mode with the odd, yet effective, black cloudy edges of the screen. Of course, I might be missing something, but if you need to look that hard for the differences then the differences are probably not great enough to notice.

The game just looks good, anyway, minus a few funny character animations and cartoony-ish models. It feels like a step between WoW's kiddie graphics and WAR or Allods' more serious look. There are even areas that remind me of Lord of the Rings Online or Vanguard, all while maintaining a unique edge. I would say that the new look is more of a new feel. The game simply feels more serious, more polished, than before. (Of course this could be due to the fact that I have come across new areas that I have not seen yet, or due to better shaders and textures. I do not know which.)

One of the details that I love are the unique flora and fauna of the game. Some of the flowers and plants looks like something you would find on an alien planet, giving Alganon a slightly sci-fi edge. What is this alien planet that I am on? Which brings me to....

The Library

I like to use in-game tools as much as possible before I ever go to an outside source. But, if you need a source or just want to read up on game mechanics or Lore, you can do that from the in-game Library. While not a new item, it's such a simple tool that makes you wonder why more games don't do the same. You have all the information you could ask for; quest NPC locations, recipes, skill definitions, maps...all within one smooth-running source from within the game. It's brilliant, simple and will save players time.

"My main issue with the game has nothing to do with the former game it was, but the game that is has always been. The issue is with the linearity of the game, the slight pushing of your character through certain level specific areas."

The offline learning

EVE Online has it and so does Alganon. The depth of EVE's system is lost in Alganon, though, being that the skills you learn exist mainly to help you delve deeper within set professions. This is not a system that allows a non-healing class to heal, or to allows a healer to fight with a two handed sword. Make no mistake, this is no sandbox game in that respect.

For the record, it's not going for that, instead allowing the linear choices you make to have more depth. (I like to picture my character thinking about the subjects while he conquers monsters.) It's an interesting system when mixed with limited classes/professions.

The Cash Shop

Essentially, Alganon costs twenty dollars for the client and no monthly fee. In place of that fee they have included a pretty impressive cash shop that sells actual sets of armor and items from mounts to potions. Don't worry, none of it is going to allow your arch enemy to gain god-like super powers all because he put thirty dollars into the shop. He will, however, get around faster and finish his quests faster.

Of course, the lack of preview mode on many of the items is a laughable mistake, but within days of the opening they filled a forum post with pictures of all of the mounts available. Will the game do all right with a client cost and a cash shop? My guess is yes, being that all costs involved seem reasonable. The mounts range from a few dollars to around twenty-something, which is a luxury I wish many other games had. I'm looking at you, EverQuest 2.

The comparison

At this point I am supposed to sum up the comparison of the former Alganon to the current Alganon. I can't say that I experienced so much of the former, mainly because it seemed so buggy and so bland that I didn't really want to play it beyond the teen levels.

This time around I decided to play the other "side" and roll a human warrior, and all I can say is that the experience has been night and day. If you have played the former game, you will be surprised and excited. But you will still be disappointed in seeing some of the same rubberbanding, sometimes sluggish combat animations, puny spell effects and a host of other odd, but small, bugs. The new UI is not so much different than the old one, (although it does now allow for custom modding) which never seemed much of an issue anyway. Below you can see the old on top of the new.

My main issue with the game has nothing to do with what it was, but what it has always been. The issue is with the linearity of the game, the slight pushing of your character through certain level specific areas. I don't want to slowly be led through quest line after quest line from area to area. I want to go where I want and when I want, danger or not. But this issue exists in most of the North American MMORPGs and is in no way specific only to Alganon. Then again, I am not the type to let any boundaries force me back, so currently my character is taking a screenshot tour of the world; he's closing in on the capital.

But if you are going to try it out for the first time, you will have a good time as well. The trial is long enough to help you decide whether to buy the game or not. But it will feel a little odd that the trial "server" is unique from the other two "main" servers, and can feel a little cut off from the real game.

So, after all that, did they succeed in the re-launch of a game that could be listed as one of the top ten most made-fun-of games in existence? Yes, they did. Whatever whips were cracked, hours were worked or decisions made must have done something, because the game is going to be, I think, a real contender in the freeish to play market. It still needs a lot of work, but it's execution has been stayed for now. The game feels epic, huge, fun, and a little scary at times.

If you would like to see a full list of patch notes, go here. I would have loved to cover them all, but I need to go save up some gold for my donkey mount.
This article was originally published on Massively.