Alganon – Review
Alganon is a MMORPG Game that recently converted to a Free to Play model (Though I will be debating this later on). Designed by Quest Online, LLC a company headed by the controversial Derek Smart, Alganon attempts to offer a little something extra to the arguably overcrowded MMORPG genre.
First let me briefly outline the game. You take on the role of a soon-to-be adventuring hero set in a somewhat dark fantasy world. To create your character you first choose from two races, the Ashar and the Kujix. The Ashar are the “White Knight” truth and justice sort and the Kujix are a race of amoral Social Darwinists. After selecting a race you have to choose from one of five families. The families are Achiever, Competitor, Explorer, Socializer and Crafter. The point of them is to group players of similar interests into these families, the clues being in the name for what interests they represent. So a power gamer might join Achiever and a casual player Socializer. Each family gets their own private chat channel and exclusive access to certain market items.
You then move on to the character customization and after, are thrown in to one of two game areas depending on the race you chose. As I chose Kujix I was told that my fate was to go forth and spread my race’s particular blend of Social Darwinism to the world and perhaps kill and loot a few monsters on the way. After this you will quickly realize that for all appearances Alganon is your standard template MMORPG. The combat mechanics, classes, kill/fetch X amount type quests are all things that are instantly recognizable to anyone who has played an MMORPG before or even a normal RPG for that matter.
But as mentioned at the beginning, Alganon tries to offer a little something extra. One departure from the MMORPG template is the leveling system. Like the classic RPG system, you have levels and level up by gaining experience, usually by cleansing the local land of any and all fauna, otherwise known as grinding. Alganon features this but also uses the studies system; an EVE-Online style offline training mechanic where “studies” are learned in real time with higher “studies” taking progressively longer time to learn. Studies are one of the cores of the Alganon leveling system as not only do you get significant stat improvements from studies but unless you learn certain studies you will not be able to access certain quests.
This mechanic has the benefit of not needing to be constantly logged in and grinding in an effort to improve your character. Even better is that you can queue studies so as not to be left behind if you aren’t going to play for a while. In Alganon’s FAQ this is cited as part of their effort to allow casual players the time to support playing more than one MMO Game. A good idea in a market where everyone is competing for a slice of the same player base pie. I’ll quickly mention here that from reading active players comments on Alganon, the character progression as whole allows a great deal of flexibility and depth not always seen in other games, although I can’t confirm this personally.
Criticisms are many with Alganon. First off the UI could have been better, it feels rough and navigating the various character menus became a chore. They do boast of the ability to customize and mod the UI but you shouldn’t rely solely on the player base to improve it for you. Graphics as well were boringly average, although it did have its moments. Some people won’t mind this but I feel it doesn’t help looking like every other game out there.
In the EU time-zone it’s very empty, a few but friendly people in family chat and because of my Free to Play restrictions no access to the main chat channels. In my time playing I didn’t see a single soul, which has left me wondering if I was in one big instance. Now I know it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy to say don’t bother playing because there aren’t enough players. But some people do want to jump straight into an MMO where the player base is already established and not help create one instead. Though I have heard that the North America time-zone is very populated so this is a negative that depends on where you live. I also witnessed players in chat joking about the games various bugged or unfinished content, which didn’t help my overall impression of the game.
Another angle that Alganon is using to attract players is it’s extensive in-game and out of game social network system, MyAlganon. It features blogging, out of game interest groups, a personal album for uploading pictures, a calendar and of course guild support. For the community focused player these are definitely worthy features. For those who enjoy a little attention to boost their egos, the MyAlganon site keeps track of the most popular blogs, groups and members. In my experience of playing this seems to have attracted a friendly and helpful community of players, a definite bonus in any MMO. MyAlganon also features the Library, which the developers boast as the most accurate depository for game info in any online mmo game. Another very useful feature, taking away the chore of wading through fan sites to find out the stats of that ‘Helm of Awesome’ you heard about.
My main complaint with Alganon though is with it’s payment system. On first creating an account I was immediately confronted with a one time special offer to purchase the complete feature set of the game at a discounted price. Now with being led to believe the game was Free to Play and not a trial I was surprised by this and also somewhat annoyed. Since how did I know whether I liked the game enough to want to buy the complete features, before I had even begun its “trial”? This is on top of already having a real money payment item shop in-game. To me this gave mixed signals, I felt if it wanted to take the Guild Wars approach to a subscription free system it should have better stated this and not used the term Play for Free on its main site.
Overall Alganon is a difficult one to pin down. Personally it didn’t offer anything that would keep me playing but at the same time I could easily understand why it had a loyal fan-base. A strong social network does help foster a persistent community of players. Perhaps then it’s that type of MMO that only blossoms once you’ve invested a lot of time and (money) into it? But again this comes down to whether your wallet agrees with that assessment.
By Zac Dai