Alganon: The Review

[Note: This review was done by R.W. Harper from Lorewriter.com and is reprinted here at his request. The review is copyright by the author and remains his property] 

Alganon:  The Review by R.W. Harper
Game Title: Alganon
Developer: Quest Online, LLC
Publisher: Self Published
Website:  http://www.alganon.com
Retail Price:  $39.99 (including a 1-month subscription) — Limited time offer currently for 50% off and $19.95
Subscription Price: $14.99 per month — Limited time offer currently for 30% off and $9.95 per month

It’s not hard to wander around the online gaming world and find a new MMORPG set in a fantasy theme.  It seems like there is a new one every month and most on the Free2Play model.  However, in early December, a new MMORPG named Alganon launched and unlike the majority of the other recent fantasy MMORPGs to come online, this one does have a subscription model.

One of several Talrok mounts available at level 1.

I was a little surprised when I bumped into the online Beta for the game in late November and instantly signed up.  I spent several hours on their web site, reading about the features of the game, asking myself what would be interesting enough for me to pay for another monthly subscription, and give me something that World of Warcraft doesn’t already provide.  After playing the game for about an hour, the “warm and fuzzy” came about and I pre-ordered and subscribed.

Now, the game hasn’t had a perfect launch.  In fact, there are a lot of rough edges still.  However, I have witnessed something that I haven’t seen in a lot of other large MMORPG games; the development team working hard to communicate and take care of their players on a daily basis.   The game has already seen at least 2 major patches, as well as several server-side hot-fixes and the game play experience is already shaping up for the better.

Looking at the premise of the game, at first glance it would seem fairly ordinary and typical fare of the fantasy MMORPG genre.  In some cases, this is true.  However, there are several unique things about this game that has gathered my interests; as well as the interest of many other players who are starting to call Alganon their new online home.

Let’s take a look under the hood…

The Setting

The lore of a game is something that is close to my heart as a gamer and as a game developer.  This game has a rich lore that seems perfect for expansion and evolution, as the game matures and expands.  There’s a rich world history complete with backstory on the races, the Deities of Alganon and discussions on the history prior to the game’s setting all available on the Alganon web site. 

The world that the game takes place in is known as Alganon and the two races that you can choose to play as are the Humans (from the Asharr faction) and the Talrok (from the Kujix faction).  From these two factions, players are able to create characters within 4 classes:  Healer, Magus, Ranger, and Soldier.  A deeper overview of these two factional races and classes can be found on the Alganon web site.

Talrok Magus looking for action in the Kujix starter zone.

One thing that has to be understood from the start, when beginning your adventure in Alganon, is that this is an evolving world.  Every good persistent world game evolves and grows over time and it seems that the designers of Alganon have that in mind starting out a solid content set. There is already a world event already underway that will open new areas and quests through player contribution and game-play.  This event is known as The Dawning and there is a great overview on the Alganon web site that discusses the event and its purpose.  I can say that as a player, participating in the event in-game, its associated story line and event specific quest lines have a drawing power that pulls me along in anticipation of seeing where the story leads.  It’s quite immersive.

The Visuals

The environments in the game are very nice to look at.  While any MMORPG game will have to skimp a little on texture quality in the environments for performance reasons, the developers did a great job by providing visually pleasing color palettes and crisp materials and textures to add to the immersion and in-game experience.  There are plenty of other small environmental details like animated grass and trees, ambient animations of wildlife as well as idle and spice animations of creatures.  It all adds to the visual immersion that I would expect in a RPG.

However, the player characters and NPCs are a little plain.  I would have hoped for a little more detail in creating my avatar and the selection and color palettes associated with this part of the game are sparse and somewhat a disappointment.  Here’s hoping that there will be enough itemization in the armor and weapons to aid in making this part of the game more pleasing to the eye.

Animations in general are quite good.  The animation blending seems smooth and there is only the occasional place that you see hitches in the transitions while in combat.  Overall, the blending is quite smooth and the animations add to the immersiveness of the situation.

The creatures are very well done.  The art style, models and animations are unique and convincing; the AI states are pretty solid, as are all of the associated behaviors, and this adds to enjoyment of the whole combat experience.

The Audio

Overall, the audio in the game is good.  The music soundtrack is very good.

There are many places in the game where the environmental audio needs some tweaking.  Ambient background sounds seem to be overused and they could probably use a normalization pass to adjust the volumes.

While I am a fan of the level up notification and the quest complete notification – they can get just downright annoying at times.  I would hope to see an option to disable this in the future.

The music is enjoyable, immersive and I keep it turned on which is something I can’t say for all of the other MMORPG’s that I play.

The Features

There’s a ton of interesting features in this game.  Some are already familiar, from other similar games, but re-tooled or implemented differently.  This very fact has caused a lot of discussions in the community, mostly on the negative side, but I will say that there’s nothing wrong with the ways that they have integrated these systems into Alganon.  In fact, I think the developers pay tribute to solid game design philosophy from other similar games and show that they can integrate and expand the core concepts into something better and scalable as their game world grows.

In-game, there’s your typical leveling mechanic where you reach a threshold of XP (Experience Points) and achieve a new level.  At each new level, you can visit your class’s trainer and pay to learn new “Actions”.  In addition to class specific action training, you can also choose “Abilities” to specialize in, within 3 distinct class specific paths to enhance your core abilities.  You achieve 1-point to spend each level in an ability tree.

Human Male Magus. Yes, that's a pink robe.

As your character carries out combat there is also another character statistic working in the background.  This is the “Skill” mechanic.  Various weapons and combat states (such as Defense) increase in a skill value as you use them.  Increasing this stats makes use of in-game actions and items that use this skill more effective.

The last of the 4-core character progression features to talk about is the “Studies” mechanic.  This is an ability that will allow you to choose specific areas of study (from a multitude of subjects) that you can queue and level even when you’re not logged in.  If you’ve ever played Eve-Online, you are already somewhat familiar with this time-based training mechanics.  However, this is the first fantasy MMO to use this system that I know of and it’s a great way to progress your character when you’re unable to login and play.  This particular implementation of the time-based mechanic does a little more than just enhance skills, it will also unlock content to they user.

Crafting in the game is pretty interesting as well.  While in most MMORPG games, crafting is either really handy or its usually not that useful at all.  In Alganon, it’s one of those designs that I consider unique to the title.  You have your typical crafting and gathering professions.  However, each gathering profession can refine the items they gather to make it marketable to crafters to use in their recipes.  You also have your general trade crafting professions of: Tailoring, Blacksmithing, Leatherworking and Alchemy.  Tailors, Blacksmiths and Leatherworking make what you would normally expect them to but there’s a slight enhancement.  I will use the Leatherworker as an example.

In leatherworking you can make leather armor, arrows, staves, bows, reagents for leatherworking as well as enhancements for your character.  The difference is that you can also make light armor (for casters), medium armor (for Rangers) and heavy armor (for Soldiers).  Each of the armor crafting professions can do this, all with slight variations of the stats for that item being created.  Tailors tend to create the DPS (damage) armor sets, while Leatherworkers create balanced sets and Blacksmiths create defensive armor sets.  It’s a pretty neat system that’s explained in greater detail that I can do in this review on the Alganon web site.

The Community

Quest Online and the Alganon development team have gone another step above and beyond by creating a very rich web-based community, social networking features and an online/in-game research library.  The MyAlganon.com web site links directly to your in-game characters profiles, guilds and friends and carries forth an impressive step further by wrapping a full blown social networking experience around it, complete with Blogs, Groups, Picture Archive, Forums, and the Alganon Library.

A Talrok Ranger showing off some UI.

The Alganon Library is a repository for all of the information that the Alganon player will need. You can find information on the various factions, creatures, items, skills, quests, studies and abilities here — and a whole lot more.  This information is also accessible in-game through a built-in dialog that will allow you to call-up and research in the middle of the wilds if you wish.

One interesting thing that is also introduced in this game is the “Family”.  When you create your character, you’re given a choice of selecting a family to associate with.  There are 5 families you can select to be a member of and each family will have their own specific chat channel in-game and unique vendors in the capital city to purchase items from.

As in all MMORPGs, there are guilds.  Players can create their own in-game guild and will have access to their own in-game chat channels as well as guild specific content on the MyAlganon.com community.  They will have access to a guild bank in-game and will also be able to achieve in-game accomplishments that will be recorded in Great Library’s history books.

There is a whole lot more to be discussed about the community features of the game and I cannot even aspire to give it all of the justice it probably deserves here.

Summation

Overall, I am pleased with this game and feel that it’s worth my support.  I have had a great time playing with the community in-place now and find it refreshing to play in a relaxed atmosphere with other players that I can actually chat with, as well as the occasional GM that chats with me to see how I am liking things so far.

For all intent and purposes, Alganon is a PvE (Player vs. Environment) game at this time.  That is not to say that there may be aspirations to add PvP (Player vs. Player).  There is a clear delineation of the factions and this alludes to the availability of factional conflict in the future.

Sure, the game has some issues still but I have already seen the dedication and passion, of the development team, to get it fixed and keep their players happy.  This level of dedication by the staff of Quest Online and the Alganon team is most appreciated.  Visit their web site for more information about the game and sign up for a free trial while you’re there.

2 Responses to Alganon: The Review
  1. Luc
    January 26, 2010 | 8:25 pm

    I was thinking about playing this game as an alternative to some of the more “generic” games out there these days. It seems like this game has a lot of “new” or rather revamped ideas to it. Although as Harper says the lack of PvP content is a little disheartening, though I’m sure some form of it will be implemented eventually.

    ~Luc (MMO Nomad)

  2. Saylah
    January 29, 2010 | 2:27 pm

    Thanks for the review Ron. This is another game I can keep in my back pocket. I think ROM and Allods are going to float my boat for a while and I expect to join the STO players perhaps a couple of months after release. It’s always nice to have choices and my mind is completely open now to games that don’t come from the powerhouse dev/publishing companies since I’ve seen two very nice F2P games.