Oh, Allods Online. You poor, misunderstood beast. Those who love you speak very little, while those who once loved you and were burned for whatever reason... well, they speak the most. I tried to keep this in mind when I took an "official" look at (or re-visit in) the game. Allods has been called many, many things since first rearing its beautiful head, but no one seems to talk about how fun, or not fun, it is. Generally all you hear about are cash-shop woes.
I already have a character that I never leveled past 11, so I logged him in and got right to it. Despite all the patches, fixes, tweaks and cash-shop rearranges that went on since I last actively played, the game seemed pretty much the same. It was still beautiful, ran well, and sounded nice. So what was I looking for? What would I notice that I had not noticed before?
Click past the cut and I'll tell you all about it.
As I have mentioned, the game looks awesome. Yes, you might have heard it called a World of Warcraft "clone," which not only is ignorant but also shines light on the fact that details are often lost on gamers. If Allods is a clone of WoW, then so are many games. I could spend this entire article breaking down the similarities between WoW and many games. Allods has wonderful details and graphics options that make the game glow. The skies, while a bit strange, are pretty. Clothing and armor is detailed and sharp. Combat and magic effects are downright cool. All of these details would seem to bog down even a decent gaming system, but mine was just fine.
So far, the monsters and critters I have had to kill have not been anything too spectacular. After all, a deer is a deer and a rat is a rat. Still, the Elves, Orcs, Humans and even the tiny Gibberlings (who come in packs of three!) are really done well. The Arisen are a bot-like race of alien things but are definitely cool. All of the races come from a pretty unique world that is a combination of steampunk, classic fantasy, and science fiction. The Astral ships, for example, are awesome-looking and something to go after -- if you have the ability to grind your way to the top. Once you own one, though, you will have access to a multi-player ship that is controlled in real time. With it, you can venture into the Astral, finding new lands to explore and other players to shoot out of the sky.
Grinding, however, is the name of the game. I have repeated the word "grind" a lot while describing Allods. I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea, though -- if the grind was tolerable for those players who've made their way through the game so far, then something nice must be going on. I wouldn't place it near the nightmare grind of Final Fantasy XI, and I would not put it near the "easy soft" grind of a game like Zentia. When I say the grind is "challenging," people often call me out and say that it is not a challenge -- just a process. Call me crazy, but killing 20 monsters, each one taking several minutes to kill, and then repeating that process for almost all of your quests, is definitely a challenge. It can be a challenge to anyone's sanity.
For some reason, the grind is seen by many as being merely par for the course, as a needed suffering that comes with achieving great things. In fact, some of the most vocal critics of the game are players who hit the max level fastest and enjoyed every minute of it. I read many blogs that proclaimed Allods as literally the greatest thing ever -- something that was quickly cast aside as soon as the game asked for some money. Forget the "free-to-play" title... if you want to play as much or as fast as some of those writers did, you must pay. It's a shame many of them did not think this way. Like those critics of the ancient Star Wars Galaxies NGE, they will continue to criticize the game without ever considering that it might have changed over time.
Even with the grind, I had fun throughout this last week. Thanks to my usual in-and-out schedule, I soloed most of my time away. If you solo, you will feel the pain in Allods. Take on the wrong creature or slip up and forget to use a certain item or ability and you will find yourself sitting in purgatory, the in-game "waiting room" between deaths. As soon as I had joined a group, though, I could feel the difference, not because I was suddenly able to take down critters I was not able to before, but because things just flowed better and the combat became much more enjoyable. That is usually the result when a soloer finds someone to partner with, but it should be noted that in Allods the effect is much greater. It's not like the difficulty drops by half when you join a friend in battle; it's more like the difficulty drops and the fun spikes. The combat looks prettier and everything goes faster. This game is made for groups.
Still, I was alone most of the time. I simply gave up on certain quests until I could gain a level or two, but I did a lot of exploring. Unfortunately, a game like Allods doesn't care how curious you are -- exploration doesn't get you much in the ways of experience or items. If you're cool with taking a glacier's age to hit a level, then explore to your heart's content. I did, and I loved it.
I jumped onto Astral ships and stood on the edge of the world. I died more times than I should have and noticed all the little details along the way. For example, in one area of a large, centralized community center, I found a room with an Orc leader inside. He had smashed the door open, and he and his companions stood defiantly. As I walked in, a thick smoke clouded everything, and I realized that someone had lit an open fire. When I walked out of the room, the smoky haze faded. It was truly immersive and effective. The world of Allods is filled with details like that, the kind that are more than likely ignored by a great number of busybody players. It's unfortunate that the rumors of horrible cash-shop practices have scared off so many potential sightseers. They are missing some true beauty.
At the end of my week with Allods, I have to sum up by saying that the game has been the victim of too many rumors. Were there issues with the cash shop and other in-game mechanics? Yes. Have the devs fixed many of those issues? Yes. If you do not want the cash shop to affect you, it will not. You might take a little longer to level or might have an issue fighting monsters that are above your level (I thought that was the idea in the first place). Don't wait for me or anyone else to prove to you or to convince you to download this game. If you have been curious about it, for goodness' sake, download it and try it out. If you were burned in the past but really liked it, log back in and see what you think. Just remember that if you do play a certain way or at a certain speed, you might just feel the pain from the cash shop.
Someone has to pay, somewhere.
Next week I am going to jump into Second Life for a bit. My account is around seven years old now, so I am eager to get my feelings on record. Whether you call it a game or a world, it's still deserving of a good play-through. My character's name is Beauturkey Basset, so join me if you'd like!
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. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Raptr!