Albion Online is an MMORPG developed by Sandbox Interactive. It’s closed-beta launched a little over a week ago on Monday the 23rd, and we had the chance to test it. So first, let us look at what Albion offers as selling points before we go into praise and critique: Open World, Guilds, Pvp, Player-controlled Economy and Cities, Dungeons, Guild versus Guild battles and more minor features beyond that. After testing it the first day and a few days after that i can vaguely say that from the content i have seen these selling points are actually pretty accurate.
So the first thing that most people will probably notice after starting the game and building a character (male/female, hair, colors etc.) that you’re kinda just there, thrown into the world, with no particular task or storyline to bind you to the place you started at. Characters who log in the first time are even spawned randomly at one out of a couple starting towns, so check the map if you cannot seem to find your friends at your local town! Not to leave new players completely unguided you will notice a list with 2 to 3 tasks at the bottom side of your UI.
It starts off with simple things like collecting stone and wood, and crafting starting gear, but once the starting tasks are done the tasks get really difficult and seem a little too grinding focused. Now before we get into that let me introduce you to Albion Onlines fame system: Everything you do gains you fame, comparable to xp in other MMOs. Now since Albions no-level policy states “You are what you wear.” your Fame acts as the limit for what you can wear (similar to a level), by completing earlier mentioned tasks. These tasks are actually Albions Skill/ Perk system, called “Destiny Board”.
While they look and are built like achievements (Gain 12000 Fame while wearing this Equipment) they actually unlock perks by getting completed, like being able to wear stronger gear or use higher material tools to be able to gain even higher level materials. Now gaining so much Fame early on sounds actually kind of much, and it is. But luckily there are quests given by non-player characters who stand around in towns and villages. These quests help to package your main goal, achieving a new perk, in much smaller and enjoyable sizes with more frequent rewards, and are mostly centered around collecting or crafting resources and killing monsters in and around your area. Now while killing and collecting are fairly easy to do once found told material or beast, the crafting part gets a little more tricky. Since you, by chance a completely new player to the game Albion overall, were thrown into one these towns and given tasks to collect, kill or use the smith to create starter gear, the game did not really bother to explain the rest of the town. Now having played an MMO before you could probably guess that the chest in the middle of a town is where you can store your items, but it is up to you to guess where to refine materials like smelting ores or tanning leather, or even gain materials out of equipment you won’t need or use if you get better one and speaking of which, you will have to know all these things before you can get gear better then the starting gear. The map is tiled into square “areas” that are connected to each other. The world is open and since you are not tied to a story or main quest the game also lets you go where you please, with every map tile (except towns) having its own dungeon, with stronger enemies and a boss at the end. Now we have arrived at one of my bigger points of critique: resource fighting. I know it is necessary for players to compete over resources, else risking oversaturation of the player driven economy, but when it is implemented so strictly that players who literally farm one resource in one area for multiple hours have to compete with players who want to finish a quest that is based on collecting these same recources players will find themselves in uncomfortable situations like: 4 players standing waiting for ore to respawn, and whoever clicks it first, gets it.
But this did not affect my gameplay that much actually, with the map being open you can always find your own spot. Where it really started affecting the gameplay was with the dungeons. I found myself in following situation multiple times (half of the times atleast), wanting to explore a tile and battled my way through the inhabiting enemies and then finally reaching the dungeon entrance, just to find an empty cave with a teleport back outside at the end of it. Now this is not a bug, as far as i know the dungeons are not instanciated, meaning that aslong as other players farm them, by clearing them and killing the boss over and over the dungeons will probably be empty for you. The only options left are either outrun them while they are busy with smaller enemies and attack the boss first to get the loot, or look for another dungeon alltogether.
Controls and similarities to other games
The game controls mostly with the mouse, the keyboard only used to cast one out of 5-6 possible abilites (that do not come from your perk tree, but from the armor/weapon you’re wearing), and to chat with other players. Having to click to move and having QWER DF as the default setting for the spells makes the game feel like controlling a moba (League of Legends, Dota, Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm) but that is already the only parallel you can draw between mobas and Albion Online. Another game that Albion reminded me of was Runescape, mostly from the camera perspective, gameplay and cursor relying controls.
Definetly promising and interesting things:
On my adventures through the lands of Albion i came across a few cities, and to my surprize, there were next to no Npcs inhabitating those cities, and not even one quest to choose from.
Why is that you might wonder, and the answer is: Player controlled cities will probably be more of a thing that i imagined when i first read it. With the cities consisting of 20% the center market place with one npc who can make you fast travel to other cities on the map, 40% empty land players can buy for the ingame currency you gain from completing quests and build houses on them, and 40% one huge castle with an inner area that can be claimed in its entirety by one guild, which will probably be the equivalent to claiming the town. I’d like to imagine that the lack of quests in these cities is because sometime in the future the players are supposed to take quests from eachother, keeping the economy alive and the cities crowded. And this is what makes this game very promising exciting and interesting.
A small summary and a few sidenotes that of things that bothered me or things i liked about Albion Online:
- You cannot rotate your camera perspective
- The perk trees difficulty curve seems a bit off
- Towns in starting regions tend to be very crowded
- Combat with friends together is fun
- Creating a guild is easy and you can cusomize a banner that will decorate your equipment
- The game tends to not introduce you to its features
- The global chat seems a little toxic and scrolls extremely fast
- You will have to fight over recources very early into the game
- Clearing dungeons is very entertaining
- Monsters drop nothing but money, animals can be harvested for materials (Leather)
I definetly recommend to check out Albion Online once it launches, since it will be free to play (nothing to lose right?).