With the NDA lifted, I thought I'd share my thoughts on my experiences in Alganon. I'm referring to this as a beta review, however, since the game hasn't officially launched and updates are still in the works. Since I will be subscribing, I will do another review a couple months in.
Even though I'd been in beta for awhile, I've only really been able to fully test this past month. The reason? My graphics card. I had an 256MB ATI Radeon X1300PRO, which just wasn't cutting it here. The lag made it difficult to get much done; and it was a chore to play and test. However, as luck would have it, hubby's card went out. While he was out getting a new one, he picked up one for me. Nothing high end and it was fairly cheap. But I upgraded to a 1 GB ATI Radeon HD4650.
What a difference that made. My fps went from 15-20 to 50-70. My performance issues were very minimal and I found myself having fun. Ok now on to specifics:
There are two factions, the Asharr and Kujix. Unfortunately, there are only two races at this point -- human and Talrok. There are four classes -- soldier, ranger, healer, and magus. Each class can specialize using ability points. A ranger, for example, can be a decent healer if they spend their points in that line; and a magus can actually tank if specialized that way.
Once you have your race and class chosen, there is also a family to chose. The families have specific names but they are oriented around being either an achiever, competitor, explorer, crafter, or socializer. It's really just a way to hook you up with some other players with similar interests from the start and you'll have your own private chat channel.
General Game Play
Depending on your race, there are two different starting areas. The Asharr area is green, lush, and heavily forested. I did the majority of my testing here as a healer. The Kujix area is very yellow and sandy and did remind me a bit of WoW's horde starting area. My fps was much higher here, presumably because of the minimal landscape. And I heard some folks have less performance issues here in general.
Combat was fairly standard with no down time. And that was a big factor in my enjoyment. I absolutely hate having to stand around waiting to regenerate, or spend my limited newbie money on concoctions filling my small bags and having to stop, sit and drink. To me it's just tedium and darn annoying.
There are portals that you need to first open up with a quest. Each hub has a portal, as well as the main city. There are mounts; however, they were too expensive for me to try out. From what I saw the Asharr can ride a mule, while the Kujix get a boar.
Quests objectives are marked on the map making it relatively easy to get things done. Having trouble with a quest or seeking other game-related information? They have a built-in library system where players can submit information they've discovered. It's a bit like an in-game wiki, but you don't need to minimize your screen to search outside the game. I found it to be very handy. I was dabbling in crafting and needed an item dropped by mobs. I searched the item name and it told me all mobs that dropped it, along with level range.
Also, there is a studies system where you can advance certain skills even when offline. You pick what you want to start studying and you can queue up other skills as well so the studying continues overnight.
In beta we could pick up an unlimited number of crafts. However, it is my understanding you will be limited to two on release. Just by looking at the craft names you might assume that tailoring is for the magus/healer, leatherworking for rangers, and blacksmithing for soldiers. But this is not necessarily so. Each of these three crafts makes armor for all professions. But the stats will be different. So before you choose a craft, you may want to investigate which of the three is more appropriate for your play style. There is also an alchemy profession, as well as harvest-type abilities where the nodes show up on your mini map.
Graphics are more along the lines of WoW and Runes of Magic, rather than say EQ2 or LotRO. Character models are ok. I could create a fairly attractive human female with long hair; however, the Kujix females were a bit ugly. Although my Kujix ranger did have a pretty cute tushie. But considering the low-end graphics, the required system specs are fairly high. So even though you may be able to play WoW, that may not be the case here. The required specs are 2gb ram, 4gb hard drive. So that right there will unfortunately exclude many players in a Vanguard sort of way.
I've always been a fan of good game music. I don't put music cd's in while I play; I'd rather hear the game environment. And the music here doesn't disappoint. In some places the music is quite beautiful and I keep my music volume turned up.
But other sounds I found to be annoying. The skill-up sounds can be loud. And the combat sounds of my healer starts to get to me after awhile. I tried turning combat volume down but it hasn't made a difference, so I just had to grit my teeth and get used to it. My ranger on the other hand just made pleasant plunking sounds, so I might rethink my class choice on release.
I've been a registered member of the Alganon community since 2006. As a game goes through various development stages, usually the community changes as well. But I have to say, except for the week that the Fileplanet floodgates were opened, the community for the most part has remained stellar. Yes, there are the occasional fanbois who chide anyone who even mentions any sort of WoW comparison or just makes any sort of complaint about the game in general. But for the most part everyone gets along and is welcoming and understanding to newcomers.
One evening in game chat, folks were discussing their ages. Surprisingly, a good portion of those online at that moment were 40+. Or maybe not surprisingly. It may be that us older gamers have enough on our real life plate that we're just wanting to relax and have fun. Bugs aside (and I'll get into that later), Alganon is probably one of the most stress-free games I've played. Maybe too easy and simplistic for some gamers, but at this point in my life, it suits me.
I hear this term all the time when describing Alganon and some wonder what the heck is so niche about it?
As I've already stated, it's stress-free game play and much easier than WoW at low levels. It's probably more akin to the EQ2 or LotRO early levels as far as managing mobs and no down time. Every class can solo and you don't need a perfect group composition to manage tougher mobs.
The community is small, older, and close-knit. There's some seriously nice people here and many are here because it's smaller.
The team is hands-on. I never beta'd a game before where developers were visible in game and asked how things were going in the game chat channel. Some that were having issues subscribing got personal phone calls at home. And I like the idea of hired staff to role-play with the community.
It's currently a PvE focus. Most of what's come out the past couple years have been PvP. PvP will be added at some point, but for now it's one of the few PvE-only options.
Some say there's nothing new here. They've copied the studies system from Eve and the abilities from WoW. But I don't like those games, so why can't I have those ideas in a game I actually enjoy?
As much as I'm enjoying my time here and intend to stay on, there's no denying there are some bugs. I've heard some say they haven't had any; and I've heard many with bugs I have never experienced at all. Here are just some things I personally encountered.
Log-in/Character Creation - When I first try to log in, I'm stuck at the image that says "loading". I have to ctrl-alt-del out and my second attempt always gets me in. No idea what is causing this. I've just gotten used to having to log in twice. While I had no issues creating my healer, when I created my ranger the screen froze at "sending request to server". Again had to c-a-l out, but when I went back in my ranger had indeed been created.
Novice Crafting - There's a craft called "novice crafting". I've never been able to make anything in this particular craft. The creation slider advances across but it doesn't actually make anything or use up components. And once I use novice crafting, it bugs out my other crafts which can only be resolved by logging out. To be honest, I don't really know what the point of novice crafting is. It seems to overlap with some of the other tradeskills.
Lock-ups - They don't happen often, but in combat occasionally everything freezes and I need to log out and back to correct. Fortunately, it seems my character leaves immediately as I've never logged in to find myself dead.
Slow Rendering - I don't often hear of others with this issue, but while mobs appear instantly, objects can take a long while to show up for me. I'll be running through what appears to be an open field and find myself stuck inside a tree that wasn't there a second ago. When I first come to a town, it's just full of npc's in an open field. Sometimes it can take a couple minutes for all the buildings to form. And it seems like I have to walk to a certain trigger point to get them to spawn.
Server Crashes - It was happening about once every few hours in beta.
UI Size - Not everyone has this problem but I've been unable to resize my resolution. I select the resolution, hit accept, but nothing changes and it resets to default.
Those are pretty much the major bugs I've experienced. I've heard some having issues with mobs warping or attacking from distance, but I haven't had that happen. Fights have gone smoothly for me.
Despite the bugs, the game has come along tremendously from when I first started beta. The team is extremely polite, helpful, and responsive. I like these guys. But let's be frank here. If Blizzard or SOE released this game like this right now, would I play? No. So yes, the team is partly influencing my decision to play.
I like the ease of game play and I like the classes. I know PvP will be introduced at some point. Maybe then my class will be nerfed and I won't have fun anymore. Maybe they'll make things harder because people complain and I won't have fun anymore. But here and now, I'm having a good time, so I will subscribe.
At some point they will be adding deities that will be played by in-house staff hired specifically to role-play with the community. Supposedly, they will be leading us into massive battles against the other faction. I want to be here to see that.
On October 31, they will have an event called "The Dawning". These events will unlock new instances we haven't seen in beta. And we'll be able to purchase special items and armor only during this event. I sure hope more than copper drops during the event so I can afford these items!
This pretty much sums up my experiences to date. There are a lot that had negative experiences and this game definitely isn't for them. But hopefully, some might understand why some of us are enjoying ourselves here. And I truly do look forward to seeing how the game develops in the future.