Alganon is the first game released by Quest Online and designed by David Allen of Horizons fame. Normally a fantasy MMO these days needs something to seperate it from the pack, and Alganon’s claim to fame is the inclusion of group sizes up to 216 players, in-game deities as well as a skills system a la EVE Online.
Many players will soon notice two things about the game. First, many of the features listed on the game’s website simply aren’t in the game, specifically the Deity system, instances, the Consignment system and pets/companions. Second, the look and feel of the game is remarkably similar to World of Warcraft. Nowhere is this more evident than in the character generation system, which looks almost exactly the same.
When you first start the game, you’ll create a character from the game’s two classes: Human and Talrok. Humans are self-explanatory, while the Talrok are the humans’ dark cousins with a dash of what many would term ‘dark elves’ mixed in. Each race has the same four classes, although each class is able to take on different roles based on which of the skill trees you choose to concentrate on. The classes are Warrior, Hunter, Healer and Magus. Warriors can generally either be tanks or DPS while Hunters go DPS and Buff/Debuff with some secondary healing abilities. Healers are dominant healers with some crowd-control and buff/debuff abilities, while the Magus is heavy DPS with one talent tree that can turn it into a pretty solid secondary tank.
Once you’ve created your character the game throws you into a starting area similar to many other games: You take a quest that requires you to kill x numbers of y monster, or perhaps fetch a of b item by killing monster c. One thing Alganon has for it is that there are a large number of quests, and each chain leads you onto the next so that at least for the first twenty levels or so, there’s never a point where you find yourself going, “Okay, now what?”
Around the second town you reach, you will begin to look into crafting. Alganon features multiple crafts including blacksmithing, mining, alchemy, tinkering, scavenging and others, as well as a catch-all ‘Novice Crafting’. Each character can learn two skills plus Novice Crafting, and they learn recipes from trainers as their crafting skills increase. While the game claims that some of the best items can only be crafted by crafters working together with adventures, the lack of in-game community, the general malaise surrounding the auction house and the lack of a commission system thus far make it much harder to work with others to craft those items.
One of the largest knocks against Alganon pre-release was that it was accused of being a WoW knockoff, at least visually. This is quite obvious in both the character generation screen and in the UI, which is almost a complete cut and paste of WoW’s UI with only a couple of modifications. The icons are different, and the characters look different, but the style is essentially the same as Blizzard’s behemoth MMO. In fact, visually, Alganon has almost no distinct identity at all, looking quite similar to both World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online. It isn’t that the graphics are bad, per se, it’s just that if people wanted to play WAR or WoW, they’d be playing those games and not Alganon. At least the game doesn’t require a lot of horsepower to process the graphics, although the game is still plagued by bugs, memory leaks and graphics glitches in various places in the game world.
The sounds and music in the game are more of a mixed bag. While you have orchestral music through the game, it also has little distinct feel to it. This is less of a problem with Alganon itself and more with fantasy MMOs in general, which seem to pull their music out of a bag titled ‘Generic Fantasy Music’, and play it through the entire game. The concept is that the game will feel more like an epic movie, with the music having a similar ebb and flow to a fantasy film. The problem here is that with the music playing all the time, it tends to fade into the background and gets ignored. A better option might be to play a few seconds of music when you go into a new area or start a battle, but then save the best music for actually epic moments, such as hitting maximum level, slaying the last boss of a long quest chain, or something of that nature.
Most of the sound in the game sounds just fine although a handful of the UI sounds (opening bags and a few others) are quite a bit louder than the rest of the game, which can be quite jarring to the player. It’s interesting to see a number of classic video game quotes appearing in the NPC dialogue, at least at first. It’s less interesting after the fourth or fifth NPC tells you “It’s dangerous to go alone.”
Alganon also features a very large game world with two continents and about 30 named zones. This is ordinarily not an issue, except for the fact that by level 25, I’m still in the first large zone, although admittedly each large zone is made up of a number of smaller areas within it. There are also mounts and portals that will teleport you from place to place for a price, as well as the ability to bind yourself to a bindstone and recall once every 45 minutes.
One of the things that is different about Alganon is that when a monster drops a ‘special’ item (a magic item in general), it drops a chest. This means that it’s very obvious that something nice dropped so you can’t mistakenly loot all from the corpse and forget about it. However, for those who want the element of surprise, this can be a bit upsetting as well, so this feature can be a mixed bag.
Normally, it doesn’t take this long to review an MMO. The problem with Alganon is that for one, it’s simply so ‘ho-hum’ and simply boring that it couldn’t sustain my interest for very long at all. Second, the largest issue isn’t that Alganon is broken so much as that it simply is unfinished. A lot of the pre-launch gameplay features still aren’t in the game, four months later. These include instances, the consignment system, companions and pets as well as deities and crusades. All of these are still currently listed on their features page.
It’s possible that the current change in direction may improve the game, but to be brutally honest, Alganon has a long road ahead of it for mediocrity, much less success.