Allods Online
Choose My Adventure, in my mind, is as much an investigation as it is a voter-led romp through a particular title. There's a reason each writer who takes on a CMA limits the voting pool to games he or she hasn't previously experienced in-depth; it's always more interesting to discover and explore than it is to travel across well-beaten paths. Writing and playing for Choose My Adventure almost always involves being surprised, either for the better or for the worse.

When the community chose Allods Online as the subject of this edition of Choose My Adventure, I was skeptical. The game looks, on the surface, like another cheap World of Warcraft knock-off designed to siphon a few players away from Blizzard's enormous subscription MMO with promises of free gameplay and some sci-fi/steampunk tweaks. What I discovered over the last five weeks, however, is a solid, charming traditional MMO that is hindered at almost every turn by the incompetence or greed (I can't be sure which) of its publisher.

Confusion galore

Allods Online presented me with a number of immense problems right from the start, none of which had anything to do with the game itself. In signing up for Allods, I was re-routed past the North American website through some sort of portal into the EU website, so the account I created ended up being on EU servers. At least, I think that's what happened. The gPotato registration process is a convoluted mess of redirects, forwards, and multiple sign-ins, so I'm not really sure where or how I'm signed up for the game.

Alllods Online
I do know that gPotato wants people on the EU server. I know this because I received a private message from the publisher asking me to play on the EU server instead of the NA server, since the NA server apparently has lag issues and a low population. I'm not in the business of doing publishers favors by voluntarily helping them put their best face forward, but it appears as though my efforts to create a North American account were foiled by clever website trickery anyway (and probably some personal impatience with the process). It would have been my first choice to showcase North American servers, lag or no lag, but that didn't end up happening.

Nothing about gPotato's account system is intuitive or friendly. It almost feels as though it was designed specifically to confuse the user and to hide important information. For a company with so many games under its belt and such a large global presence, you would think that gPotato would have a better grasp on the fundamental back-end components that are so very necessary to MMO design. Yes, graphics and quests are important, but perhaps not as important as making sure players can add funds or reset passwords. The gPotato system is an outright mess that isn't worth dealing with when there are so many other publishers offering similar games and fewer headaches.

The great gPotato scandal

Sadly, the most notable part of my entire Allods Online adventure didn't involve a challenging boss, beautiful zone, or compelling quest. Instead, it involved my efforts to gain access to the subscription server of the game. In order to play on the Allods sub server, you must purchase game time. To purchase game time, you need gPotatoes. There's no way to simply buy a month of time with your credit card; instead, gPotato forces you into its proprietary currency.

Allods Online
And that proprietary currency is not, of course, sold in the amounts you actually need to accomplish anything. One month of game time costs 1,300 gPotatoes. Your purchase options are either 1,000 gPotatoes for $10 or 2,000 for $20. In other words, your first month of sub-server Allods game time will cost you $20 minimum since there's no way to acquire the exact number of gPotatoes it takes to cover one month of gameplay. If you never return to the game after your first month and fail to make cash shop purchases, that remaining $7 is effectively free money for gPotato.

All of this could perhaps be excused. Proprietary currency in weird amounts is nothing new. But what happened with my gPotato purchase was more than subjecting myself to annoying currency and exchange rates. I made my first purchase of gPotatoes on December 23rd, 2013. Upon making the purchase, $20 was removed from my bank account. I received an email from gPotato indicating the transaction was "pending." Only after the transaction was approved would I have access to the gPotatoes I needed to pay down my subscription time.

Allods Online
If you've been following this CMA, you know what happened next. For two weeks, my gPotato balance sat at zero, and my transaction stayed stuck in "Pending." No further information was provided. No error messages, questions, or clarifications ever surfaced. And then, 14 days after my initial purchase (and a couple of hours after complaining on Twitter), my funds were suddenly refunded. The mail accompanying the refund claimed the transaction was not "approved," though as I've noted before it's hard to imagine a circumstance in which a company had my money to refund but couldn't approve the transaction that gave it that money in the first place.

Allods Online
All in all, the subscription server, cash shop, and anything related to gPotato's weird account management pages and incomprehensibly incompetent payment processing turned out to be a hassle I never imagined. Simply put, there is no reason to ever think that giving your money to gPotato will yield any positive result; instead, stick solely to free-to-play servers if you want to test the Allods Online experience for yourself. It's just not worth the frustration.

About that game we played

If you're a sharp counter, you've probably noticed that I've now burned about 950 words of a 1,000-word column simply expanding upon the back-end problems that transformed this particular Choose My Adventure into an ever-unfolding debacle. And that's really the true bummer of this whole thing. Everything I've seen of Allods Online, at least at the lower levels, has been well-made, beautifully presented, and infused with a humor that's rare to see in fantasy MMOs, all of which I've tried to describe over the last month and a half of articles about the game. It is an excellent free-to-play game, but gPotato's interference in the name of profit (and subsequent inability to accept money, for some reason), has rendered it almost not worth playing. It's as if gPotato built the world's greatest theme park but forgot to install an entrance gate. Allods Online is all fence.

It's a damn shame. All this time voters have waited to see Allods take the CMA poll and the whole thing is ruined by one publisher's inept handling of what otherwise could be a spectacular IP. Allods Online isn't a bad game; it's just been made bad by the people who hold the purse strings.

Mike Foster is looking for a way to beat the winter chill, preferably by losing himself in a brand-new game world. Help him find his way to warmth in Choose My Adventure, and keep an eye out for him on the Massively Stream Team as he puts your votes into action.

This article was originally published on Massively.