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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Allods Online Review

This game gives me bittersweet memories, as it was a game with so much potential ruined by an overzealous cash shop.

There's a lot of good to be said about Allods Online, but there is almost as much bad to counteract it.

I was able to get into the game during its first closed beta round, and I was very impressed with the game. The graphics were comparable to WoW, but it had a much different feel to it. This was especially the case with the Empire side which featured a gritty urban/industrial setting and a number of crowded buildings and small alleys.

Character creation was the best I have ever seen for a free-to-play MMO. There were a number of different ways to customize your toon so you didn't look like everyone else, including three different body sizes. To say the least, I was impressed.

I eventually settled on playing the Empire side, going for an Arisen summoner, and found myself a little guild to be a part of. We quested together defeating monsters, completing missions, and clearing dungeons. It was a blast! The dungeons featured bosses with insane HP and sometimes had to be taken down a certain way, your classic kind of MMO goodness.

I eventually made my way to level cap before closed beta had ended and got to see some of the high-level zones, though the guild never got to explore the Astral endgame content. The requirements for getting a ship were pretty high, and we knew it would all be wiped anyway, so we decided to wait on Astral for when the real game opened.

About halfway through closed beta testing, the game received a patch which introduced the "fear of death" mechanic. What this basically did was nerf the player considerably for upwards of an hour (at level cap) to where they were nigh useless until the time expired. This was an incredibly annoying feature, and complaints were posted all over the game's forums. Short of having to pay to get the debuff removed, your only option was to have what was called Incense to keep the FoD from affecting you. Incense was a rare commodity in closed beta, and most people blew through what they had pretty quickly.

As we played and posted on the forums, we were given some advance information. You see, the game is originally developed in Russia and they get patches a couple of months in advance of the US/EU versions. As players trying the RU version of the game migrated to the US and EU servers, we quickly learned that the game was taking a turn for the worse with patches that were live over there but still unheard of over here.

This information was downplayed by gPotato, who often would lock and delete threads pertaining to RU patches. They claimed that what happens in the RU version doesn't necessarily happen in the others... though history goes to show from the game that the grand majority of the time things are indeed identical.

So for a while, the forums became a place of doomsayers worrying about the patches looming on the horizon while gPotato did its best at damage control.

Finally the game progressed to open beta (which in most f2p game terms means release), and that's when things really hit the fan. Incense was a cash shop item, and many of the items in the cash shop were outrageously overpriced. The web soon caught word of this and Allods took a hit of negative press. gPotato promised to work on the pricing, and several weeks later changes were finally made. This didn't go over very well for a number of players, as they gave literally thousands of posts of ideas (including a pay-to-play subscription model) and overall were left feeling ignored.

Yet more doom and gloom patch information was leaked, this time talking about a number of huge class nerfs, huge Incense buffs, added XP grinds, and removal of the FoD mechanic in favor of a cursed item mechanic. Even more people (including myself and most of my guild) finally decided to give up on the game, but kept a watch on the forums to see if any progress was being made.

After a number of months of watching and waiting, it was apparent that everything found in the RU version of the game happened both in the States as well as in Europe. The game became a grindfesting moneygrab.

Normally, when a free-to-play game is announced it causes little splash and is assumed to work on a "free-to-play but pay-to-win" situation. This wasn't the case with Allods Online. Not only did it attract a huge following but the developers made a number of promises that the cash shop would be fair. For a while, it looked like Allods was going to be "the game" to put f2p games on the map here in the US.

Unfortunately, due to a number of botches from the publisher and developer, things went south and fast. There's even an entry for allods on the Urban Dictionary (which sums things up nicely). Oh Allods, what you could have been!

So where is the game now? It's currently on its second expansion, though a number of people have quit long ago. gPotato claims that the number base is still strong, but there are those that disagree. It's all moot though since we'll never see an official numbers release.

For those of you still considering the game, I applaud your bravery (and mock your foolishness). The game was best way back in closed beta and will never live up to its true potential. Still, it does feature some pretty unique classes and great gameplay, at least in the early levels. I hear that around level 15 or so, the game becomes unplayable without incense (or whatever they are calling it now). Be ready to jump through a good deal of hoops or an excessive amount of grind if you really want to play this game. You have been warned.

I'd give Allods Online in closed beta four stars without hesitation, but since then things have gone so downhill it's really not worth most people's time.

Final Rating: 2/5 stars

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