Albion Online has been in my sights for some time and this week, I finally found the time to sit down and try Sandbox Interactive’s newest title. Before I begin to detail my first day with Albion Online, I have to admit that in recent weeks I’ve grown particularly weary of the batch of MMO’s I’ve been playing. Whether it’s WildStar, Guild Wars 2 or Elder Scrolls Online I’m looking for something more or perhaps different than I’m used to. Many years ago I used to play Ultima Online and I still hold very fond memories of it. Although it wasn’t truly sandbox (it wasn’t from), there was a great deal of scope to how you could play. Whether it was crafting, exploring, a bit of both or trading with other players in town, it was totally up to you. The recent crop of MMO’s that have appeared since World of Warcraft limit your ability to do just one thing or if you choose multiple things, you often feel railroaded with little scope for freedom. Stepping into Albion Online feels like I’ve travelled back to Ultima Online and at this moment in time, for me, that’s a very good thing.
Firstly, I absolutely adore the look of Albion Online. Yes it looks incredibly simple but it’s that simplicity that’s so refreshing. I’ve found myself more absorbed in this world than I have many AAA titles. Perhaps it’s my love of asymmetric viewpoints or its functional but bright and clean graphics - whatever the reason - it’s full of charm and atmosphere and reminiscent of not only Ultima Online but other games I’ve enjoyed in the past (Baldur’s Gate and Diablo). Its been a long time since I’ve trotted into a town and felt a buzz of chat and activity. Somehow it feels different here and perhaps the lack of cutting edge graphics allows you to use your imagination far more.
No doubt due to its Beta status, Albion Online has a complete lack of hand-holding when you first arrive. There are no tool tips and besides a quest indicator at the bottom of my screen, you’re left to fend for yourself. Fortunately, and this is unquestionably one of the best things about Albion Online, the community is incredibly helpful. Within seconds of me logging in, not only did I have all the answers I needed, but I’d been given 20,000 silver and received several invites from particularly helpful guilds (I joined The Vikings!).
What’s so refreshing about Albion Online is the fact that you’re free to do as you please, without restriction and as I quickly found out, the game seemingly supports you in that endeavour. I’ve always been the type of player who enjoys using a bow and nature based skills, with the Friar and Scout from Dark Age of Camelot two of my favorite classes in any MMO. With that in mind, I decided that I wanted to use a bow and a quarterstaff and sure enough, it’s possible here. Admittedly I’d have to do a little bit of work to get there but after spending a few minutes on the starting island to craft myself some rudimentary weaponry and armor it didn’t take long to begin my blueprint.
The Destiny Board
Albion Online uses a progression system called a Destiny Board. It’s effectively your roadmap that defines your character's progress and how they’ve specialised. There’s a series of branching paths that lead to you gaining access to improved weapon or crafting mastery. In my case, I’ve ventured left on the board to Journeyman Hunter, with a view to progressing my capabilities with a bow and unlocking the use of a quarterstaff. During my early play, the first milestone was easy to access and required me to gain only 750 Fame. Fame is effectively the experience you obtain from completing quests, killing enemies or crafting and is surprisingly easy to obtain as you venture into the wilds or go about your business at the anvil. Once I’d become a “Trainee Fighter” my next milestone was “Journeyman Hunter” that simply required me to pickup a Novice Bow and earn some more fame. It’s incredibly simple but as you progress, the requirements for reaching these milestones increases, with you needing to defeat certain enemies or do certain things.
At the moment I’ve almost unlocked the quarterstaff and access to a better bow and have had to earn Fame from Tier 3 enemies. This lead me into several new zones that contained soloable dungeons. Surprisingly and this even counts outside of dungeons, enemies hit bloody hit. Even straight out of the starting area they’re a real threat and inside the dungeon, taking on two enemies at once was particularly challenging: it’s also good to see that enemies actually have sensible “aggro” ranges.
The World Map
Where combat is concerned, it’s undoubtedly simple compared to the likes of WildStar or Guild Wars 2, but against real players - rather than AI - it’ll feels quite nuanced. There’s no ability to dodge attacks (that I can see) and all skills and utilities are obtained by what you wear. At the moment I’m wielding a bow and wearing medium armor, so at my “level” I’ve access to 4 bow skills and several utility skills that my armor provides. It’s an elegant and refreshing system and I particularly love that armor provides a variety of utility that you can choose when crafting it. Several duels that I had in one of the cities were surprisingly fun and even though I had terrible items with almost no specializations in my Destiny Board, I almost beat a highly geared and well experienced player. I’m looking forward to diving into PvP more.
Here's me, in all my splendor.
Another thing that has caught my eye after my first trip into Albion Online includes the localization of Auction Houses. Each town or city has their own rather than a central Auction House, meaning each area has unique trades and prices. I absolutely adore this because it truly allows for crafters and traders to learn what works and what doesn’t in each zone. In the starter town I joined, traders had cleverly listed certain items new players would want: bags, starter weapons and cloaks. Unsurprisingly they were, unbeknown to me, listed for very high prices meaning those who listed them were making a tidy sum from anyone who purchased. Clever, ruthless and brilliant.
There’s still so much I haven’t done in Albion Online and having been playing again today, I’ve decided that I’ll diarise my experience. If there’s anything I’d want right now, it’d simply be to improve some of the light sources (such as torches or lamps) and to also provide me with the ability to adjust the gamma and user interface size. Other than that and some slight animation adjustments, I simply need more time to uncover the depth of the game. Stay tuned.
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