Before I get into the details of my week revisiting Allods Online, the "controversial" MMO published by gPotato, I'd like to say that I am fully aware of its less-than-stellar launch. I'd go so far to say that I have heard a lifetime's worth of theories and discussions over the overpriced cash shop and odd death mechanic. I saw the players who worshipped the game during the beta and later screamed about the fact that someone had to pay for the game. I have my own theories, mainly one that says many Western MMO players' first experience with a free-to-play MMO was Allods Online. These players were not used to cash shops and scoffed at for paying something that was previously free in beta.
The cash-shop prices were too high. We know this. The developers and publishers both talked about it and continue to do so when asked. The death mechanic was over the top, and players could literally spend thousands of dollars on the game. This is all known; I have heard about it from the publishers' mouths myself. So here we are. The game has been tweaked and patched. The prices were adjusted; the silliest of the death mechanics have been removed. Players can still spend thousands on the game, but those same players can spend thousands in any number of MMOs.
Now that I have gotten that out of the way, allow me to tell you what I thought about the gameplay during my revisitation.
The largest difference I noticed this week was how much faster I was able to destroy monsters. It's such a simple thing, yet it made such a difference. The last time I truly played Allods Online, I was level 12. I had strugggled up to that point with leveling simply because mobs were so hard to kill. Each pull was like walking through molasses. Sure, I could have struggled through the process, grinding out level after level until I hit a higher plateau. Then I could have struggled though the process to obtain an Astral ship. I could have pushed harder and become the best PvPer the server had seen. I could have done that if I had more hours in the day than hairs on my head.
I don't enjoy grinding through games, however. I never have. I want to enjoy or explore a game. I want to experience a world and have some laughs with a few thousand strangers. As beautiful and free as Allods Online is, I just couldn't bring myself to smash my fingers into the keyboard for that long. That's not gaming to me; that's torture.
So I gave up. I plugged into the game once in a while and enjoyed it, but I never got into it. The mobs were tweaked just too high. Finding a group was usually miserable, and a lot of the content was reliant on groups. Every time I logged in, I felt as if I'd been asked to do my chores. Chores suck, by the way. Perhaps that's why I was so amazed that the loudest complaints coming out about the earlier versions of the game were about high-level activities or even cash-shop prices on optional goods. How could any dedicated player stand to play long enough to even get to those high levels in the first place and not complain about the grind? It boggled my mind.
Now, here we are. Here I am, I should say, finding myself wanting to hurry up the writing of this darn article so I can jump back in and play. That feels odd to say. In case my point isn't clear, allow me to just plug this thing in...
... OK, and turn this button all the way up...
I HAD FUN WHILE PLAYING ALLODS ONLINE.
"If a developer makes a massive world and expects me to adventure across it, surely she doesn't expect me to have to literally drive my character -- on foot a lot of the time -- by hand?"
What has changed? Combat is much smoother and mobs are easier to kill. A few comments on Twitter have confirmed that there was some sort of combat tweak done a while ago that eased the burden of simple questing by making mobs less epic. I noticed it right away. The developers have also added many neat little tools that help streamline the leveling process. There is now an auto-walk ability that steers my character exactly where he needs to go in order do his job. I've found that some players think auto-walk is the equivalent of dumbing-down MMO gaming, but I have no idea what the connection is. If a developer makes a massive world and expects me to adventure across it, surely she doesn't expect me to have to literally drive my character -- on foot a lot of the time -- by hand? The auto-walk feature helped me find where I needed to go quickly. The mobs were easier to kill. Those two things alone made my fun factor increase over the last week.
As I write this, gPotato has just released a brand-new patch that introduced mercanaries to the equation. If a player joins a dungeon, he can now rent an NPC character to help heal or fight during the adventure. I tried it out at level 13 while inside the newbie dungeon Xaes and simply blew through the place. It felt amazing enough to just finish a quest or two this week, but to destroy Xaes like that? That was the sweet spot.
The game is still as good-looking as ever. Honestly, it's one of the best-looking MMOs out there -- a perfect mix of stylized characters and realistic effects. Even with all of its beauty, it runs nicely on my older machine, and the animations and over-the-top spell effects make the game wonderful just to watch. I forgot how much of an impact the graphics alone must have made to the Western audience. Especially when compared to a game like Lord of the Rings Online with its uglier-than-thou character models, Allods Online is a visual treat.
"I have to say that I don't understand why the ships are not more loosely available. Sure, making them exclusive offers players something to reach for, but I really don't care about high-level play."
The one thing I was not able to do during this brief revist was travel aboard an Astral ship. These ships are player-driven behemoths that are used to travel and explore Astral space. They remind me of the mode of travel in The Chronicles of Spellborn, and I really wanted to nab a solid tour of one before the week was up. Heck, I'm not even sure if something like that is possible without being high-level, but I plan on checking into it now. I have to say that I don't understand why the ships are not more loosely available. Sure, making them exclusive offers players something to reach for, but I really don't care about high-level play. I want a smaller, weaker version of the ship, one that is sold in the cash shop for 20 bucks. Maybe it could only be used for non-combat exploration? Maybe make it so that only I, Beau Hindman, can have a custom ship with a customizable interior? I'd spend money that would make those high-level grinders look like cheapskates!
Allods Online is a brilliant, free MMO. It truly did change the way free-to-play games were viewed by a lot of players in this country, for good and bad. For those of us who had been playing free-to-play games for a while, we saw it as something that could be adjusted and tweaked. Others still see it as an opportunity to bring up the "Allods fiasco" just as people continue to bring up the NGE, years and years after it happend. Me? I'll be busy playing the game again while those players are typing up how much the launch two and a half years ago hurt them.
Next week I am jumping into the new Outspark MMO, Dark Blood. I've already streamed it once for a high-level tour and enjoyed myself so much that I had to dedicate a Rise and Shiny to it. It's plenty outrageous and violent with old-school, actiony fun. The only thing missing is the pocket full of quarters. You can watch me stream it live on Monday, the 13th of August, at 5:00 p.m. EDT right here on our Twitch.tv channel. See you in the chat room!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!