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