Alganon Preview

Introduction

Quest Online is releasing their new fantasy MMO, Alganon, at the end of this month. I have had the opportunity to get my hands on this game for a couple of weeks and below is my Alganon preview.

Character Creation

Character creation in Alganon is pretty straightforward. You are given the choice of either the Asharr or Kujix faction and that choice also determines your race. Humanity serves the Asharr and the Talrok (which look a heck of a lot like elves) serve the Kujix. Once your faction and race are settled, you have four pretty standard fantasy rpg classes to choose from: soldier, ranger, magus and healer. Next, you choose to which of the five families your character belongs. More on families later. Finally, there are a few customization sliders where you can tailor the look of your character.

Creating My Ranger
Creating My Ranger

Classes, Abilities and Specializations

Alganon sports four character classes that fit closely to the main archetypes of fantasy gaming: soldier, ranger, magus and healer. Though this might seem to be painfully limiting, each class has four (core plus three more) ability specializations that serve to further differentiate characters. This allows two characters of the same class to play slightly differently and fill different roles in a group situation. Let’s take a look at two examples of classes and their specializations.

Soldiers are the tanks of Alganon and as such, their Core specialization is wearing heavy armor and taunting their opponents. However, soldiers can also specialize in Weaponry which will increase their offensive capabilities, particularly with two-handed weapons. A warrior who focuses on Tactics will gain crowd control and utility skills that will serve a group well. Finally, a Protection specced soldier will become master of the “sword-and-board”, sacrificing damage for the ability to tank and absorb hits like no other class.

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Solder Tactics Tree

Rangers are a strange mix of bowmen, melee dps, healers and controllers that can serve many functions on a battlefield. A ranger’s Core abilities focus on managing threat, snares and party-buffs. Guardianship rangers gain additional defensive abilities which allow them to avoid damage and possibly be effective off-tanks. Rangers focused on Predation increase their damage-dealing skills while their counterparts who study Lifeblood gain considerable healing skills.

Every level, characters gain a point, which can be applied to one of the abilities under one of the four specializations for their class. Each point allocated improves one of the character’s actions, eking out a percentage more damage, giving a better chance to dodge, reducing the cooldown time, etc. If you’ve used WoW’s talents, or EQ2’s Acheivement  Points, this system will be familiar to you.

Studies

Alganon’s studies are an interesting addition to the fantasy rpg mix. Like abilities, studies provide an incremental increase in your character’s abilities. This could be a higher resistance to magic, or access to better crafting materials and recipes. However, unlike abilities, studies are not gained by leveling up. Studies are learned in real-time, points accumulating each second, even if you are offline. As long as any of your characters have studies queued up, you will continue to advance. Players of Eve Online will recognize that game’s skill system as the inspiration for Alganon’s studies.

Adding New Studies to My Queue
Adding New Studies to My Queue

More on Families

One of the unique features of Alganon is that every character is part of a family. Though they have flowery, fantasy rpg names made up of randomly chosen syllables jammed together with the odd apostrophe, the families really represent your character’s motivation and look like the results of one of those “What Type of Player Are You” quizzes. Characters can be Achievers, Competitors, Crafters, Explorers or Socializers. Being part of a family is a way to get players with similar interests and motivations together from the start of the game.

Being a part of a family in Alganon is a great way to join with players that share similar interests. For example, power gamers can be in the same family and casual gamers can be in their own family… Every family has its own chat channel that all family members can freely participate in. This channel is automatically “made active” when you log into the game.

Your character’s family does not impact his abilities. However, each family will have merchants that sell “heirloom” items that affect his appearance. These include tabards, clothing and non-combat pets.

Pretty Pictures

Alganon has an art style that is reminiscent of World of Warcraft with its cartoony structures and characters. However as I played the game, one thing that struck me was just how pretty the landscape was. The colors and textures are great and the water effects really brought the world to life.

pretty_water

Another item of note are the excellent, hand-drawn world maps.

world_map

Quests

Quests in Alganon are nothing new: You travel to a quest hub, pick up all the relevant quests at the hub, then travel into the wilderness with instructions to kill 20 foozles, or collect 10 motley hides. Once done, you return to the hub, get your rewards, rinse and repeat until ultimately, one of the NPCs gives you a task that involves walking to the next hub. It’s not a bad system… it is just the same system. Unfortunately, in my brief time in Alganon, I didn’t see any quests besides kill and fetch quests — no escorts or scripted events. As it stands the quest system is serviceable, but nothing special.

However, the developers are close to finalizing a system for “dynamic quests” that

check for multiple different character attributes (or even account or world-wide attributes) and change a player’s available quests based on these criteria. This allows for us to design quests that, based on player choices and the state of the world, are different for each player. This system allows us to not only setup simple quest chains, but also to create a system where custom quests are available based on player choice.

I did not see evidence of dynamic quests when I was playing, but mmocrunch has been told that the system is in place, but the developers are trying to determine the best way to use the system without gating players from certain quests and rewards. (Personally, if you have an innovative technology such as this one, I say “Gate Away!!”)

Crafting

I have to admit to just scratching the surface of crafting in Alganon. On the surface, it is pretty similar to World of Warcraft. You can choose a gathering skill such as mining, or skinning and take a crafting skill to go with it. I picked skinning and leather working on my ranger. As you find nodes, or kill creatures, you can gather raw materials from them which increases your skill level, which in turn allows you to gather from higher grade nodes. Each gathering skill comes with some basic refining recipes you can use on the raw materials to create items that are used by the crafting professions and also raises your skill level without the hassle of finding nodes. Once you have some materials, you open your crafting skill window and see the recipes there. If you have the materials, just press a button and you will create the desired item — no crafting station required.

The Crafting Is Familiar
The Crafting Is Familiar

Unfortunately, I don’t have more insight into how crafting fits into the overall economy, or how useful the gear is compared to quest rewards and drops. It seems to be similar, but more involved than WoW’s system, with a lot more interim combines, and more crossover between crafting professions (you need to buy widgets from a tailor to create something with leatherworking). Higher level crafters on the beta chat seemed to be happy with the system, indicating that the gear was at least moderately useful compared to what you could find adventuring.

Deities and Crusades

At some point during your character’s career, he will be asked to throw in with a deity. Deities form another type of faction in Alganon and each provides its followers with additional quests, items and abilities. In addition, deities will lead their followers into battle to conquer territory and further their agendas. All that sounds cool, but no more so than any other quest giver and PvP premise. What makes Alganon’s idea interesting is that the deities in question won’t be abstract constructs, but actual characters you can interact with in-game. Even more astounding is that Quest Online plans to have the deities controlled by live GMs.

In ALGANON, gods won’t just be legends, they will walk the lands. Many players will be able to see and interact with their Deity directly, as they are controlled by in-house staff hired specifically to role-play within the world. When the Crusades are added, players will be able to fight along side their deities in these massive battles between the two factions, and receive powers, teachings and knowledge from their chosen deity.

If they can pull that off and make this kind of epic interaction a regular occurrence, that would go a long way to setting Alganon apart from the crowded pack of fantasy MMOs on the market today.

Is It Ready for Release?

Alganon releases the end of October, less than a week away. I played through the early levels and can tell you that the game is playable and I did not have trouble with extreme lag, or any crashes. There are bugs, like in pretty much every MMO at release, but nothing that will get in the way of you playing the game.

On beta chat, I did hear that some of the classes were getting reworked and I know that my ranger’s ability tree had many places where the abilities offered either weren’t that inspiring, or made little sense. For instance, through level 12, I still had abilities that gave bonuses to powers I didn’t have yet. Other abilities gave 1% cost reductions to powers that cost about 30 focus. Expect the ability trees to be reworked either before release, or soon afterwards.

Just Another WoW Clone?

A lot has been made on various gaming forums and even in beta chat that Alganon is nothing more than an unabashed WoW clone. You have two factions, with exclusive races (including elves with Popeye forearms) doing battle. You have a skill system, a combat system and a crafting system that could have been lifted straight from WoW. Hey, the “bad guy” starting area is even arid and blindingly orange!

god_help_me_barrens
Not the Barrens Again!

Here’s the thing, I don’t think anyone who had played it will argue with the fact that at first glance, Alganon looks a heck of a lot like “just another WoW clone.”  In fact, I am not sure the developers would argue that fact either. Alganon’s design philosophy seems to be to shamelessly borrow aspects of other successful games, mix them together in proper proportion and then add a dash of “don’t fix what ain’t broke.”  Toss in a desire to listen to their players, focus on what is fun about MMOs and maybe add a couple of neat ideas into the formula and you end up with Quest Online’s upcoming release.

I had a chance to level a couple characters through the first 12 levels of Alganon. For the first four or five levels, I was bored. My ranger played a lot like an early paladin in WoW — auto-attack and hit my seal every so often. However, after that first dry period, I got my first good damaging skill, as well as a heal and I started to fight creature that could cut into my hit point bar. I made it to the first village, picked up my gathering and crafting skills and started to skin my kills. I found myself planning out some studies, loading up on the shorter combat studies and saving the 1-day “furs and skins” study (which improves the crafting materials I could work with) for when I was offline.

It grew on me…

Yes, Alganon is a WoW clone. It is also an Eve Online clone… and an Everquest clone… and I think there is a true desire among Alganon’s developers to be a responsive development team and add something new to the mix with their Dynamic Quests and Deity system. Can they pull any of that innovative stuff off? I don’t know. In today’s MMO market, and with the climate hostile to new games, I would say the odds are against them. But how can’t you root for the guy who promises to get you wading into a massive battle with your GM-controlled god at your side?

Should I Try Alganon?

I think you should give Alganon a shot if

  • You like WoW, or EQ2, but have seen it all and would like a fresh start with all new content.
  • You are thinking of returning to a fantasy MMO, but have played out all the classes and would like something new to see.
  • You want to get in on the ground floor of a game.
  • You want to be part of a small community with more direct contact with the dev team.
  • You like WoW, but think the community stinks.
  • You like WoW, or EQ2, but think the game has gone downhill in the past couple of years.

Alganon is not for you if

  • You are looking for some massive innovation that will give you that “first game ever” feeling again.
  • You are hooked on fast, flashy combat such as is found in CoX and Champs Online.
  • You are happy with WoW, or EQ2… if so, there is nothing to see here (unless they implement some of their killer features).

9 Comments

  1. The degree of similarity between the UI of this game and WoW’s seems mind-boggling to me.

    The problem isn’t so much “WoW’s interface isn’t broken, so why derive significantly for the sake of it?” rather than the copy being so thorough that I suspect they simply didn’t, by lack of either skill or time, design the UI more than “let’s take WoW’s UI and shake it a bit”. (Aion and LotR had UIs that, while having the same principles as WoW’s, weren’t similar to the point Alganon’s is)

    Because of that, I don’t feel like I can trust this game’s developers; if it’s lack of time, the game is rushed (Why neglect one of the first things that a customer comes into contact with?); if it’s lack of skill, what other skills did they miss in the game’s development team?

  2. Personally, I don’t have a problem with Alganon’s UI, even if they just plain copied it from WoW. Really, how different is WoW’s UI from EQ2’s? You mention LotRO and Aion as being “different enough”, but I don’t make that distiction. To me, almost all “point-and-click” MMOs have pretty much the same UI.
    .
    For me, it is a gameplay issue. Alganon is going to have to compete in a space where it is too easy to say “Why aren’t I just playing WoW?” Runes of Magic competes in that space, but it’s free. Alganon is going to have a standard sub fee and so, people are going to have to justify playing it instead of more mature games with bigger budgets and development staff. If I am going to be an elf in a PvE themepark anyway… I have a long list of polished games that already deliver that experience.
    .
    Having said that, there is no reason not to “trust this game’s developers” because they nicked the UI from the standard MMO UI template. Judge the game on its own merits. It is a playable fantasy MMO with elements mixed in from several games. If the developers can follow through on their ideas and promises of being responsive and aggressive about adding new stuff, then there are a lot of people who might like this game.

  3. Very fair review and thought the bottom questions on whether one should try Alganon were spot on. And in some ways similar to my own review! (but that’s not why I like it honest)

    Good read.

  4. Not trusting the developers because they made a choice to use an interface that most gamers are familiar with does not make any sense in my mind. It is not fun to log in a new game and spend my time trying to figure out how to move my character around and actually do something. I could list several games that did that, I did a demo on them and have never went back.

    Alganon is not in the finished state of say a WOW, or other games. So if you want a more finished game you best stay away for now. If you want an new world to explore, yet one where you are also a bit familiar with then this might be a game you like.

  5. This is a matter of “it’s trueism.” Well the Dev’s say it’s true so it must be true, and the fanboi’s say it’s true so it must be.

    First off, lets talk about the fact that none of the developers will admit that the UI is a straight copy of WoW. Not similar, not close, a straight copy. You press N, you get the Talent Trees, split exactly like a Talent Tree in wow, M for the same looking map, B for bags that look identical, open in the same location as WoW’s, a Minimap that looks like a cheap knockoff, Monster and Player frames that are exact copies. It isn’t a matter of being close it’s a matter of being the same. Click the Esc button and you are greeted by the WoW main menu, in the same exact order.

    The game play is standard fare, yes — you could tank as a mage. WHY? What possible reason would you say to yourself — you know I really like the idea of tanking, I think I’ll play a Mage? Just because you make something an option doesn’t mean it should be that way. It makes no sense to play an inferior tank when you could roll a tank. Essentially the people who will play the game will either stick to 1 tree which is the standard role of the class or they will be Niche players who will want everything homogenized.

    The graphics are not pretty, there is no lighting, no shadows, the animations are horrible. The textures don’t mesh well, or they are so stretched they look out of place.

    The game is 4 days away from being released, 90% of the level 15+ content isn’t available. There are no instances, no end game, no PvP, 2 races, 4 classes, a host of bugs, too many David Allen fanbois, (don’t talk about bugs in the development chat because you might offend them all).

    And all of this is defended by the games creators and fanbois by the old “it’s trueism” ideal.

    “The Alganon UI was built from scratch. In addition, we use our own custom-built LUA system for our interface, which will allow full 3rd party support.” Bull. There is no Lua or Lua Support/Documentation in place nor will it be close to available when the game comes out (the ui is infact hardcoded into the game.)

    “What you see next year will be VERY different compared to what you see today.”

    From 2008. It is nearly identical to what it was in 2008. The lighting system is still non-existant.

    Another case of “it’s trueism.”

    “The concept of the Asheroth was created long before WoW came out. It is the name of an organization, not a world, and it just happens to be a similarity by coincidence. There is a rich history behind CRUSADE, the Asheroth and the Kujix. There are currently no plans to change it.”

    Clearly, they said it was true (with no proof) so it’s true. That’s the way it works right? You create a world with an identical UI, watered down graphics, bad texture meshes and blends, the same exact character types, two warring factions, a lot of similar names, same trade skills, and even take part of the name from the expansion (The Burning CRUSADE) and say it’s all coincidence and well there you have it. It’s all coincidence.

    After playing the game for a while, it will be at least 6 months before this game is ready. With no end game in sight, with no game essentially past level 15, with 4 classes, with 2 races, with broken skills, with float jumping, with terrible latency, 2 servers that can barely support the 20 or so people in the actual world.

    They are pushing the game out too fast and hoping to raise some quick capital. They will either take the money and run or stick and fix the game. Yet, unless you are a glutton for punishment this game will not be worth paying for, for at least 6 months.

    The ideas behind the game, the promises, and the possibilities are really high. Yet, the reality is a shallow click and play experience, with the same UI, same classes, same standard game play as any other WoW Clone with none of the polish.

    You will be better off playing Runes of Magic.

    I will be willing to put money on the fact that not only will this game never see expansion number one, but it will essentially be abandoned within the first 6 months. It’s just another hype machine, with little hype, too many empty promises, and zero end game at all, and no pvp.

  6. It’s not a bad game, but it just doesn’t bring anything really new to the table for me. I am tired of the typical mmo model. I am so tired of classes, levels, gear farming because that is all that really matters, crafting that imho is a step back from what UO offered a decade ago and the list goes on.

    I’ve gotten to the point with the genre give me something different or don’t give me anything at all.

  7. Thanks for the comments guys. I enjoy the discussion and I admit I chuckled at the name “Wowcloneisterribad”
    .
    Ultimately, I think Alganon’s message is, “We are a very traditional MMO, but we are smaller and cozier (meaning we’ll listen to you) and we have a couple really grand ideas we’d like you to bet money on.”
    .
    I look at Alganon similarly to how I look at Runes of Magic whose message might be “Yeah, we’re a WoW clone, but we’re free so suck it!” (And actually the dual class and item customization mechanics are very cool in RoM.) Now, in the current market, being “WoW but free” works… Does being “WoW but cozy” work? I don’t know.
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    I wish the Alganon devs well. It’s not like they’re unique in having cloned the DIKU/Everquest/WoW model. WoW, EQ2, LorTO, Vanguard, RoM and a host of others are very much the same basic game with a few different bits for variation. So is Alganon… it’s just that for some reason (perhaps because the art is similar, or perhaps because there aren’t as many different bits yet) people took notice and started yelling.

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