Alganon – Breaking Out of the MMOG Mold in Open Beta

Tired of being a copycat of every other player you see running around in your game of choice? How about being fed up with being expected to use the same play style day after day after...

Tired of being a copycat of every other player you see running around in your game of choice? How about being fed up with being expected to use the same play style day after day after eternally dragging day? If you answered yes to either question, then listen up folks because Alganon may be the cure for your gaming woes.

Alganon is a new MMOG being produced by Quest Online, LLC (QOL) and is the brainchild of industry veteran, David Allen, President and Co-Founder of QOL. The game recently went into open beta and players have been flocking onto the servers to see what it’s all about.

In some ways, the game really is your grandfather's MMOG, and for me, that's a good thing. Alganon has the deep lore, history, and character development of what I like to call old school MMOGs, but with the conveniences of the modern world that players have grown accustomed to.

This combination has led to some inevitable comparisons, most notably to World of Warcraft. The interface, movement, camera controls, and specialization system will be very familiar to the swarms of players that have spent any time in the world of Azeroth. Just like WoW, during its development process, Alganon didn't set out to reinvent the wheel when there was no need to do so. This approach was a bit of a double-edged sword.

When you first step foot in the world of Alganon, there’s an initial feeling of familiarity. On one side of the coin, this means the game is instantly accessible. You already know how to move, swivel your camera, and have the very basics of combat under your belt within seconds of entering the game. On the other side of that same coin, there is a sense of "been there, done that" as well.

It won't take long before you’ll see people comparing the game to WoW in the chat channels and complaining that this is yet another clone or that the game sucks. Do yourself a favor, and take a look at their level before you decide to believe their words. Most of them are level 5 or below. The game may feel similar to WoW in the beginning, but it doesn't take a lot of effort to dig below the surface and see how Alganon easily stands on its own merits.

When players first log into the game, they'll choose from two races, four core classes, and five families. The Humans are considered the good guys, while the Talrok are considered evil. Looking at both sides, you could make an argument for either case, but for the sake of simplicity, they each stand on their respective sides of the alignment scale. The four classes to choose from are Soldier, Ranger, Magus, and Healer (more on these later). This brings me to an immediate difference between Alganon and its predecessors - families.

Families are divided into various play styles: Achiever, Competitor, Explorer, Socializer, and Crafter. Choosing this "sub-category" at the beginning of your character's creation gives players a sense of community and belonging before they even enter the actual game. If players choose a family that truly represents the style of play they enjoy the most, they'll have access to a number of other like-minded players without having to spend an eternity shouting over the general broadcast chat channels. Being part of a family will also give you access to special items within capital cities from Family Merchants.

After character creation is complete, it's time to jump into the world. Any of my long time readers should find it no surprise that I chose to create a Talrok Magus and check things out on what I always consider the more interesting side. Right off the bat, it was time to quell a rebellion. My brothers and sisters have been lax for the last few hundred years in spreading the word of the gods. It's time to correct that oversight.

One of the most interesting things to me about Alganon is the fact that the gods play a significant role in the world. As time goes on, there are plans to have the gods walk the lands, being played by company personnel for live events. One of my favorite things in the early days of EverQuest was the battle of the gods when Cazic Thule fought with Firiona Vie, thus changing the lands for a time.

While things in Alganon won't be the same, the fact that the gods will have a significant role in the world is an exciting prospect. Future plans include various areas of the game being under the domain of certain gods. Followers will get some type of bonus, while followers of opposing gods may find themselves at a disadvantage. The prospects of such divine intervention are exciting to say the least.

As I mentioned earlier, some things in the game will be very familiar as you complete quests and level through the game. The specialization system is similar to the talent trees in WoW. Like other aspects of the game though, this too is different in scope compared to earlier games.

Each and every core class in the game is designed to have more than one purpose. Want to be able to tank with your Magus? Climb your way up the Frost tree and you'll find yourself with protection just as good as heavy armor. Combine this with abilities in the tree to heal yourself while raining destruction and you've got yourself a mage the likes of which have never been seen.

If you want to concentrate on single target damage, go up the Fire tree. For those more interested in helping their party and providing crowd control, the Storm tree is the one for you. No one wants to pick a class and have to continually fulfill the exact same role over and over. With this system, you’ll no longer have to.

Rather than four classes being a limiting factor in your gameplay, it actually creates a sense of individualism. Instead of trying to create a number of different classes that are little more than minor variations of each other, the team chose to concentrate on four classes for Alganon's initial release and make those classes the best they could be. Each plays very differently from one another, just as they should. Too many times, we see a company create a myriad of classes just to find that in reality, they’re actually little more than a small number of classes with different paint jobs. Fortunately, that isn't the case with Alganon.

As odd as it is, the biggest reason I've been enjoying playing the Magus so far is that I've died... repeatedly. This isn't a cry saying the game is too hard, or anything of the sort, but rather a testament to the need to pay attention. Personally, I think this is something that is sorely missing from the majority of games on the market today.

If I've taken the time to choose my target, set my distances, and have an exit strategy ready, I've been good to go. Whenever I've gotten complacent in my hunting though, I've found myself in a world of hurt and struggling for all I'm worth to keep from eating dirt yet again.

Although dying is little more than a minor inconvenience in terms of time and money, I still have that strong urge for survival I've had in games with much harsher death penalties. Rather than being worried about some arbitrary punishment for failure, it’s the focus required during combat that keeps me involved. I like the fact that I haven’t been able to play the Magus with my brain on autopilot.

One of the first "innovations" to be found within Alganon is the Study System. Similar to that found in EVE, Alganon is the first fantasy-based game to implement a method of character development that continues even when you're offline. Skills can be queued up for easy management, and while there's technically no limit to the amount of skill points you can have (thus theoretically being able to learn all skills in each tree), it would take over three years to learn all the current skills available. The development team will undoubtedly add more skills before then, so rather than trying to learn everything, take some time to concentrate your efforts.

Sounds easy enough to master, right? Not so fast there, Spiffy. Even though your Soldier doesn't use any magic, you still have access to the Basic Magic skill path as soon as your character is created. Why in the world would you ever need something like this though? Knowing how players can't resist trying anything and everything they can in a game, the development team wanted to make sure there was never a time when a player's choices would be a complete waste. As such, there are items in the game that require certain skills.

For example, there may be a ring called Ring of the Fire Lords that increases the attack rating of a player. To wear it though, they may be required to have a Fire Magic skill of level three. Things like this go a long way to ensure a player doesn't feel as though they've wasted their time in case they've made a "mistake" in the progression path of their character. This system also means that running into a duplicate of yourself is going to be far rarer an occurrence in Alganon than it is in other games (*cough* WoW *cough*).

Probably the biggest innovation of Alganon rests within the game world itself, though indirectly. How many MMOG players do you think hit various websites seeking assistance on any number of quests, skill progression charts, mob locations, etc, on a daily basis? More than either you or I could possibly imagine, let alone count. The Alganon development team decided there should be no need for anyone to have to go somewhere else to learn something about their game, so they created the Great Library.

Having problems with Quest X? Need to know where Mob Y is located? Looking for some history on your class? How about wanting to look over your upcoming skills? All of this and more can be found within the Library without ever leaving the game. Everything (and I do mean everything) in the game can be located in the Library - every mob, item, spell, NPC, etc. The Library is also directly tied to the game, so it will always have accurate information.

If the stats for Item A get changed because of a patch, the moment the servers come back up, the Library will have the correct information. Your characters are also tied to this so information on them is always up to date as well.

To test this system, I logged onto another computer and went to to search for my character as soon as I leveled up. When the page came up, there it was... the new level I achieved 15 seconds prior, the new cloak I had equipped just a few minutes before, everything. All of it was up to date within seconds of it happening in the game. No more waiting for server restarts, 2am database updating, or anything else. The Library is a feat worth heralding as pretty amazing and long overdue in this day and age.

Overall, I've been enjoying my time within Alganon. The game is still in beta, so things aren't always perfectly smooth, but that's to be expected. For all the players that have been crying for years there are no more games left with that old school feel, I suggest you give Alganon a shot during the beta. Don't let the first thirty minutes decide the game's fate. The early parts of the game are obviously designed to get players comfortable, so do some solid exploring before making your final decision. You’ll be glad you did.

I'd take the time to discuss this further, but there's a certain quest boss I owe a beat down to as soon as I gather up my corpse. See you in game!

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