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First Albion impressions from a beginner

I recently stumbled on Albion after browsing the mmorpg subreddit. AO gets a lot of bad press over there and even in it's own sub. Rather than read every nitty gritty detail about the game I took the plunge based on what the game is built around rather than the specifics of how it accomplishes it. I played for roughly an hour last night and wanted to give my unadulterated first impressions of the game. To be clear, I'm not reading any guides or opinions on AO. I really like the premise behind the game and don't want my opinion swayed or sullied by anyone jaded by decisions or shit that I haven't experienced for myself.

 

Character Creation

 

Character customization is pretty abysmal as it stands today. When I saw the first character template I was really underwhelmed. The art style in this game is admittedly not my favorite, but it's something I'm okay with. That being said I would really enjoy seeing more detail on the character model. As it stands today it's incredibly blockey with little texture detail. It may be because we're in Beta, it might be because the devs don't place much stock into the looks of the character since the game is isometric and mainly show cases character gear. Either way, I'd like more detail in the actual character model itself, but wasn't a show stopper by any means. 

 

Character portraits also need to be worked on. If the character model will be hidden by armor and cosmetic choices at creation largely become inconsequential then at least the portraits should be a unique identifier. I'd love to see something like what Eve did where the portrait is actually based on character model created. This isn't a show stopper either, but it's a huge detriment to the game. I'd rather not have portraits at all than see the same 6 in rotation endlessly.

 

Getting into the Game

 

I've gotta say, I was incredibly happy to see how the game starts off. No mass of pop ups on my screen telling me how to navigate or chop down a tree. No NPC to guide me on how to kill a rabbit and skin it. Just a little quest objective to get me started, and I was on my own. This is incredibly refreshing from the direction most games have taken in the past few years and reminded me of playing Runescape back in '03. The quest progression was logical and made sense. Gather some sticks, gather some stones, make a skinning knife and then go kill a rabbit. Skin the rabbit, get the leather, make some gear. 

 

Gathering materials was a bit confusing for me though. As I progressed to novice tools last night I didn't notice a speed increase or any bonus materials being collected. It's unclear to me what the purpose of the advanced tools are. Maybe they are used to gather the next tier of resources? Is there a benefit to using novice tools on beginner tier resources or is it wasteful? Since I only had an hour to play last night I didn't dive too deep into it. And to be clear, I'm not upset that the game isn't holding my hand. More just writing down thoughts that I had while playing.

 

As I mentioned before the art style is a little offputting to start. I'm thinking it's something I'll grow used to as time goes on and it's not really something that can be changed. I'm really hoping to see some dark scenes and landscapes even with the cartoonish style. Something like dead bodies hanging in enemy camps, gore, viscera etc. I'm expecting that it's out there and I just haven't seen it yet since I'm only a bit outside of the starting zone.

 

I'd also really appreciate the ability to (or it being default) move with left click and take action with right click. I murdered a lot of rabbits and chopped a lot of trees I didn't mean to last night.

 

It's also incredibly tedious to move in the game today. This reminded me of old school Diablo, in a bad way. Having the ability to open the map and click on the other side, then auto path there would be a huge quality of life improvement. I don't wanna have to click every 5 seconds to where I wanna go. Hopefully this is something that can be built in or is there already and I just don't know it.

 

Crafting

 

I managed to craft myself a novice fire staff and some correlating cloth gear to go along with it. I'm still trying to decide how crafting will be from my limited time playing. Either everyone will be mining/chopping/harvesting everything, or the first few beginning levels are easy enough to encourage a player to make whatever they desire to get started. I'm hoping it's the latter and there is some sort of investment in being able to gather and craft a particular item. Otherwise what I'm hoping for economy wise out of the game will likely be diluted as anyone could make whatever they need at any time.

 

The initial round of crafting is fairly dull but not entirely unexpected. It looks like you start off with a base amount of recipes to craft and you may be able to learn more. I'm hopefully that crafting at later levels takes more of a finesse approach rather than just gather 30 wood and 20 metal to make a sword. Mortal Online had a really in depth style of crafting where the type of wood and metal would determine the speed or toughness of the weapon itself. It would be great if AO takes crafting to that level, but even if it's a more simple version it at least serves it's purpose to make a player built economy.

 

Combat

 

I'm actually really happy with how the combat is in this game when I wasn't sure I would be. It plays almost identically to a MOBA in the sense that auto attacks are initiated with a click and active spells/abilities get activated by a set of q, w, r etc. I'm sure skill shots and teleports will be a thing in later levels so I can definitely see how AO is building on an already established form of competitive form of play. I do have concerns about how fun PvE will be with a system like that. Usually if you're looking to optimize DPS in a MOBA you're just hitting all your abilities on a first come, first serve rotation. Which is engaging if you're playing against other players and using/saving them wisely. If you're just smacking the shit out of a boss and not standing in fire it'll get pretty dull. Hopefully bosses are either fairly quick to kill and the real challenging is getting back to a "safe" spot with your loot or there is some sort of synergy between abilities at a higher level to make dpsing more engaging.

 

I'm still waiting to understand the trade offs of armor for the classes. Right now I'm using a staff and a shield and can't see to find a reason not to. That being said, I'm not sure why I'll be in robes much longer either. The set skills you can choose when crafting them may play a factor, or possibly there are trade offs to getting all armored up but it hasn't been made clear up until now.

Player Base

 

Initial impressions aren't great but I'm not convinced this is it. Reddit has no love for AO right now. The sub is dead because every person who makes a post gets snarky replies and downvoted to hell. The consensus seems to be that most folks aren't playing right now because they're waiting for the impending wipe and that the community is pissed the launch was pushed out. General chat last night was a mix of complaining followed by some Russian guild spamming for recruits and a few trade posts. I'm hoping to get my bearings in the game before the wipe so I can start off fresh with hopefully an influx of people and see what the game is all about once it's more active.

 

Overall Experience

 

Overall I really enjoyed the short amount of time I had to play last night. I know I haven't really even gotten into the skill trees or any sandboxy features like land conquest, farming, building etc. but I have that same sense of wonder that I did when I picked up my first mmo over 10 years ago. I'm very excited to see how things are after the wipe and the population picks up a bit.

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