We have all heard of the controversy surrounding Alganon. Essentially, it breaks down into a few basic points: it is a "WoWclone," and it is being run by Derek Smart, a say-it-like-you-mean-it development bad-boy. Many claim he looks for negative attention and enjoys arguing with players. To be blunt, I don't care what people think about Derek Smart. I have said it before: I actually believe that he reacts to negative attention the way other developers wish they could. I don't keep track of his battles, though; I keep track of what he has done in gaming. All I know is that before he was with Alganon, I did not enjoy the game. After he became involved, the game got better.
Concerning the "WoW-clone" issue: If I had a gold piece for every time I've heard that, I could afford that incredible level 50 mount! (*snort*) If I took a moment to break down all games that have similarities to WoW, this article would be much, much longer than it needs to be. WoW was successful, and the industry takes cues from success. WoW took its own cues from other games before that. Still, does Alganon take more from WoW than, say,Lord of the Rings Online?
Read on, and let's discuss it.
I believe that most of the accusations of clone-like behavior stem from the character models -- they do resemble WoW's character models. Granted, there are only two races: the Asharr (humans) and the Kujix. I can see the similarities, but it's a minor crime, if a crime at all. Again, we are talking about a stylistic choice, and one only needs to look at popular comic books, book covers or movies to witness how a genre can share similarities between products. If someone judges Alganon a poor game simply because of its stylistic similarities to WoW, then he should avoid all of popular media and especially MMORPGs -- there are similarities between all of them.
Systems-wise, the game does again share some similarities to WoW. But if we were to list off all class-based games or games that use talent trees (including the current darling of the day, SWTOR), we would have another long list to read over. While I do agree that it is tiring to see yet another game that is taking cues from WoW, this is an industry issue that is not specific only to Alganon. Even then, Alganon allows a player to essentially have two classes in one, with further customization on top of that. WoW doesn't have that.
"My jaw dropped as I watched gamers cross their fingers, hoping that going "freemium" meant the game was failing."
After playing Alganon over this last week, I can say that the game is unique, beautiful and fun. I understand if you want to stop reading now, simply because you are mad at Derek Smart or think that Alganon, and all that it does wonderfully, would be better off shuttered and forgotten. You can skip this article and come back next week. I tend to pride myself on my ability to try any game. Thanks to this ability, I have discovered such wonderful games as Zentia, Vanguard and WURM Online.
In fact, I have received a few communications over the last few weeks that state discomfort in even trying the game, as though I were asking the player to come with me to a new church or some other uncomfortable situation. In reality, I am just asking him to forget all the negative comments and the armchair analysis of what Alganon has done wrong, and to try it. One reader told me last week that he was afraid of getting invested in the game, only to slam into the cash-shop wall. While it is true that the game will now replace the original box price with a fee to unlock levels after 30, what is there to lose? Let's say that a player does enjoy himself until that level and then must pay the fee -- if he was having fun, is the fee so large that it discounts the good time?
Alganon is filled with impressive community and amazing customer support. Several times now I have sent out a message in the help channel, only to be met minutes later with an actual GM. I felt a little stupid when one of my calls for help was solved by the GM simply consulting the Library, a built-in game wiki. I was impressed with his willingness to help.
The developers seem to be working on updates and tweaks, releasing patches and fixes in impressive time. The day after I reported a bugged NPC, a quick-fix patch was released to solve the issue (and a few others). I've heard rumors of further, more complex development projects -- but I will keep those to myself. Hearing those rumors only makes me want to help the developers even more, to make the game not only its own, unique game, but to pay back all the great team members who have received little or no attention due to the fog of "WoW-clone" talk and Derek Smart-hate. In fact, I have actually witnessed players wishing for the game's downfall, due to its connection to the famous loudmouth. My jaw dropped as I watched gamers cross their fingers, hoping that going "freemium" meant the game was failing.
I decided that I would just let the in-game quests take me where they would -- to follow more of a linear line than I normally would. While I could not resist exploring the map a bit, I pulled it back a notch and settled into helping local tribesmen and farmers with their menial tasks. Along the way I met incredibly nice community members (one even bought me a donkey mount!), discovered fun side-quests, and got pulled into chunks of mysterious lore.
Despite the small bugs that pop up occasionally, the game works very well on different set-ups. It also looks great, almost a combination of Ryzom, WoW and LotRO. The game throws you into an alien world, someplace that is familiar but very unusual. And while the character models could use some work, the mounts, monsters and wildlife look very nice.
Combat is a weaker point. The responsiveness is there but is a tad sluggish. Spell effects are still a bit lackluster, and mobs often run right through you, forcing you to turn around in order to face them. These are all things that can be fixed with small patches, and I have heard plans of possible character re-dos. With the release of the latest patch, my warrior class did receive a revamp and I noticed a step-up in power afterward.
Overall, Alganon's strong points:
It's a beautiful game that runs well on many different setups.
The game includes an in-game wiki that lists every single item, quest or bit of information that you would ever need. Ironically, its existence made me work harder to avoid using it, as some sort of challenge.
There are a variety of quests, and there are quite a lot of them. You won't be bored for a long, long time.
It has an amazing community. One player told me he enjoyed the "small community" feel to the game, and I couldn't agree more. I witnessed almost no useless or saucy chatter in the chat channels.
It's free to download and try until level 30. After that, players will need to pay to unlock more features.
Development seems to be ramping up, not the opposite. If this is a failing game, then I have no idea what failing means.
The music in the game is top-notch, possibly some of the best I have ever heard. You can even download the music for free on the website.
Alganon will stay on my hard drive for a long time. I hope it continues to defy the nay-sayers and basement-ragers who take it too far in the comments. Here's my open message to the artists, musicians and coders who are working on this infamous game: keep it up. Forget what you read in the comments section. Not all of us wish you ill.
Next week we will be looking at Global Agenda, a shooter-style MMO that brings back memories of Tribes, late night sessions, and pizza boxes. I will predict right now that I will die -- a lot. I am under the name of BeauHindman. Come join me in the new Sonoran Desert and we can pwn some faces together.
Each week Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. Some of the games will be far out of your gaming comfort zone, and some will pleasantly surprise you. We will meet each Tuesday and Friday night at 9 p.m. EDT (8 p.m. CDT), followed by this column the Sunday after. I welcome any suggestions for games, either in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter me @Beau_Hindman or follow me on Raptr!