Ever since the days of Ultima Online people have been pining for a game that really brings that experience back, even though the game is still running and recently got an expansion pack. We all know, however, that isn’t the underlying issue. When people ask for an MMO they’re demanding something that allows them to live another life.
I’ve said this before and I’m going to say it again (and again) until I get tired of hearing it: most of today’s MMOs provide a theme park experience. You go from NPC to NPC to ride the ‘rides’ and once you’re done, there’s almost no point in visiting the older areas. It’s kind of depressing that you paid for all that content and now you’re stuck with basically nothing unless you want to start a new character. Well, it seems that the developers of Albion Online heard the complaints of other MMO players and decided to go with something a little different, so kudos to them for that.
What Makes Albion Online Different?
Ever since this game was announced, I have been over the moon with the idea of a sandbox style game that gives players a chance to really own the world and truly contribute… and it was going to be absolutely free to play. Now that’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, they ditched the ‘Free-to-Play’ model and started introducing starter packs that ranged from $29.99 to $99.99, but this is really no different from any other MMORPG in that you buy the game and then pay a premium fee to continue. Of course, it has the free-to-play option after you buy the game, so it’s not all bad, right? Moving past that, let’s take a look at what the game is like.
A Look at Albion Online
To explain why the continent seems largely unsettled, the Albion Online lore states that this was once a settled landmass but circumstances caused the world to be cut off from it. Now it’s accessible again and everyone has a chance to forge their own path and players are allowed to build pretty much wherever they want. The world can be developed however the players wish, right down to the very equipment that everyone wears.
In Albion Online you can build your own towns and when executed properly, they can become a pivotal area for the zone they’re placed in. Then again, they can also be built in such a way that other players cannot enter them. So basically, you can run out, PK someone, have their entire guild on your tail, and then run into your guild-controlled city and make silly faces at them. Of course, there’s nothing to say that they can’t stand outside your city and gather an army as they wait for you to show your face again but hey, that’s the game, isn’t it?
You also have the ability to build farms and take control of entire cities. In other words, Albion lets you take control of the entire world and gives you options that pretty much no other MMORPG has given you in the past. The game lets you write your own story, which sounds cool, but you have to remember that you’re in a world full of people who are doing the exact same thing. So the competition is fierce.
A New Means of Progression
Did you know that the old means of progression has been in dispute since the days of Final Fantasy? Actually, if you want to go back even further you could take a look at Ultima, which used a skill-based progression system. Final Fantasy tried it in FF2 then returned to leveling until it settled on a sort of hybrid in Final Fantasy 10. Most MMORPGs have used the leveling system with the exception of Meridian 59 and Path of Exile, so it was a bit of a surprise to see Albion Online abandon it for the Destiny Board. Instead of reaching higher levels, you need to focus on certain skills and the destiny board will show you what you need to do in order to unlock the next ability. This includes the ability to gather better resources, wear better gear, ride faster mounts, etc. If you’ve played Final Fantasy 12 then you’re already pretty familiar with this concept but you’re not exactly going to be farming license points.
When you start the game, you’ll be on a set path for destiny points. It’ll basically walk you through the necessary points for crafting your clothes, making basic weapons, and starting out in Albion Online. In true sandbox form, you can choose to skip the tutorial if you wish, but that may not the best idea. Also, in true sandbox form, you can pursue as many skills as you want. You could technically master every trait on the board but you’ll probably find yourself at a bit of a disadvantage for a long time if you don’t spend all of your time in one specific area.
A Word About the Destiny Board and Premium Status
Albion Online is a buy-to-play game as long as you purchase the base package, but it has plenty of little ways to penalize you if you don’t pay for premium status. Learning points are used to speed up your progress on the destiny board and you have to purchase premium status to earn 20 learning points per day. You do get 200 extra learning points for a first time premium purchase, and they can only be used after you unlock tier 3 on the skill you’re trying to ‘level up.’
Okay, so what does that mean exactly? It means that you can play the game for free, but it also means that those who sink more money into it are going to move a lot faster than you. In other words, if you’re a free player then you might want to stay out of the black zones because premium players are likely going to kill you and steal all of your stuff. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of things for you to do even if you’re a bit low on funds for premium status. You can still explore and help your guild out. Honestly, this game is still pretty fun even at the base level.
Understanding PvP in Albion Online
You’ve probably heard some horror stories about the PvP in Albion Online. First, I’ll explain the PvP zones, and then I’ll move on to some of your more pressing questions.
Yellow – Attackers Need to Flag up for PvP
Losses: Gear durability
Red – Attackers Need to Flag up for PvP
Losses: Everything can be Looted from your Corpse
Black – No Need to Flag up for PvP
The biggest difference between red and black zones is that in the red you can see how many enemies are in the zone by looking at the map. In the black zones, you won’t be able to see the enemies and you will essentially be on your own. If you don’t know the maps well then you’re most definitely going to be at a bit of a disadvantage, so don’t just rush in and hope for the best because you’re going to be sorely disappointed. No, you are NOT Mad Max, at least not yet. Give it time.
To answer a common question: Yes, you can lose all of your founder’s gear if you are attacked in a red or black zone, so keep it in your mailbox until you get a little bit more experience and until you’ve progressed a bit further on the destiny board.
Cross Platform Play
This is one of the aspects that I was really looking forward to; you can play the game across multiple platforms, including tablets and smartphones. Just don’t expect to purchase a $50 Kindle fire and expect to play the game. Yes, that would be nice, but you’ll have to invest in a pretty decent tablet to really play on mobile. For full requirements, make sure you check out the website.
Gameplay – 8/10
I’ll admit I’m a bit biased when it comes to gameplay because I’m not a huge fan of the isometric view. I feel it causes a bit of a disconnect from the character and experience. I like being down there and in the world, usually from third person, but my feelings aren’t what’s at stake here. The question is whether or not the game works well, and it does. It’s smooth, it’s easy to play, and it looks pretty good in the process. One thing that I really want to point out is that somewhere between the Beta and the Final Release, they’ve really optimized the game and made it work on lesser hardware. In the beginning optimization was a bit shaky, but now you can indeed run it on your older laptop, making it a much better experience for those on a budget.
There’s a lot to like here, especially if you’re looking for something different. The destiny board isn’t exactly new, but it’s a fresh take on it, and the game really encourages exploration. Much like Eve Online, Albion depends on what you have equipped rather than inherent skills that you gain over time. This means you’re going to need to have backup gear, just in case you end up losing yours at some point. Also, the ability to actually own shops and various areas makes the game well worth playing.
Community – 9/10
Albion Online has a really good chat interface going on, and at the end of the day, the entire thing depends upon your ability to work together with other players. You could go it alone but it’s going to get lonely after a while and you won’t be able to take advantage of the more advanced features, such as castle building. It’s easy to see just why you would want to work together with varying groups of people, from small to large. Finally, I noticed that while guilds do have a limited number of slots available for players, you can create sister guilds and build an alliance – a feature I haven’t really seen since the original Guild Wars.
The sound effects are solid, as is the music, but what I honestly enjoyed are the graphics. They’re a bit cartoonish, but it actually looks great, and you have the fact that it can run on nearly anything. The visuals remind me a bit of Torchlight, which definitely isn’t a bad thing.
Value for Money – 9/10
Let’s get down to brass tacks here: games are going to need money if they’re going to survive. Many of the gameplay aspects are offered to the players for free, and that’s great, but if you want to be elite then you’re going to have to pay a bit. They’re not charging too much, only $9.95 per month, and there are definitely a few perks to going premium, even if only for a little while.
Overall – 9/10
This is a game that you can play on older machines and still be enjoyed. It’s also one that really manages to break free of the typical amusement park feel, ultimately allowing you to write your own story. It’s great concept, and it’s one that very few MMORPGs have taken up. If you’re looking for something a little different that allows you to play your way, then Albion is definitely for you. That is, however, if you can handle the isometric view and the brutal PvP.
+ Can easily run on most PCs and higher-end tablets
+ True sandbox feel where players can have an effect on the world
+ Relatively cheap price point
-Isometric view can break immersion
-Premium players will have a progression advantage over free-to-play users
Related: Albion Online, MMORPG, Mobile, PC, Review, Sandbox, Sandbox Interactive