Review – Albion Online
I was initially planning on giving Albion Online – available now on Windows, OS X, and Linux – a pass, as it’s been a while since I played a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) but I was still feeling burned out on the genre. However, after catching a few PVP (player versus player combat) videos on YouTube I had to give it a shot, I’m glad I did, as Albion Online takes most of the traditional staples of the MMORPG genre and flips them on their ear.
Take, for example, the idea of choosing from a selection of traditional classes like the classical trinity of Fighter/Mage/Cleric. Albion Online does away with classes entirely, instead taking ‘the clothes make the man (or woman)’ to heart and allowing you to customize your character by making (or buying) them a new set of clothes. There are three armor types: cloth, leather, and plate, and there are multiple tiers to each, but you’re not limited to wearing only from a single style.
In fact, as each type has different possible spells embedded in them, gamers may find that their chosen playstyle benefits more from mixing and matching than from going with a full set. My own set includes a cloth helm which allows me to cast a Poison spell, a leather jacket that provides an Invisibility/Ambush spell, and leather boots with a sprint ability.
Another MMO staple is creatures that act like loot pinatas, with even lowly rats having the potential to spill human-sized gear onto the ground when they’re defeated. Albion Online gets rid of that entirely, with enemies only dropping silver – and only enemies that make sense to drop money, so you won’t need to wonder about how a rat got 40 silver or where it stored that wad of cash. The economy is almost entirely player-driven, with all weapons and armor created by players – not found off a random creature in the wilderness. This means players need to either learn crafting skills to create new gear for themselves or earn enough money to buy it off the in-game auction house or trade chat channel.
This does result in the game tending to skew towards farming up resources, at least when it’s time to try and craft new armor or weapons, which some gamers might find tedious. I found riding around different zones chopping down trees or mining ore outcroppings offered enough variety to keep me entertained, though trying to run all the way back to town when slowed to a crawl by carrying everything I found that wasn’t nailed down did test my patience. Fortunately, those who are more interested in combat can go farm up silver or hit the PVP zones to try and pick off unaware players for big paydays – then buy the materials they chose not to farm.
The final major difference between Albion Online and other MMORPG is that there’s really nothing in the way of story here. This is a player-driven sandbox game, and every story to be told spins out of the encounters players will have in the PVE (player versus environment) and PVP (player versus player) zones. Though the game is still in the early stages after launch, massive battles between rival guilds have started to become more common. There’s a real base here for interesting stories like those coming out of space sim Eve Online, another game that’s almost entirely player-driven.