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.
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.
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.
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.
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.