An online multiplayer role playing game that hits it right down the middle of the fairway.

The recent lack of variety in massive multiplayer online role playing (MMORPG) games in the PC community has been somewhat of a concern. Nearly every MMORPG currently on the market has the same formula, which is recycled over and over. Examples include the following popular games: World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Maple Story, Everquest II, etc. All of these games receive high marks by many players but there is a significant problem. All of them are practically the same game. You have a midevil/fantasy hero, which levels up, gets stronger skills, and kills hundreds of thousands/millions of enemies over and over. Getting sick and tired of that? Your solution is Albatross18: Realms of Pangya; "An online multiplayer role playing game that hits it right down the middle of the fairway."

For those of you that haven't caught on, Albatross18 is a golfing game, but set in a MMORPG environment. Like Maple Story, Space Cowboy, and Mu Online, the game itself is free, requiring nothing more then a live Internet connection. So how is this game different from the aforementioned games? In Albatross18 your goal is to play golf and beat your opponents, who are all humans. There is absolutely nothing computer controlled (i.e. AI) in Albatross. You join the game, go through some tutorials, and hop right into a live chat room, where you can create or join matches/tournaments/or play 2-4 at a single computer. Instead of hacking and slashing your way through thousands of enemies, you'll compete against 1-29 human players in an effort to beat them at a game of golf. But golf you say? How boring can that be!?

Albatross18 takes golf to a whole new level, by introducing courses, obstacles, and combos that would not be found anywhere in Tiger Woods' domain. While the game is relatively new, 6 or so courses are offered each ranging from easy to very difficult. Each course offers a variety of opportunities for players to utilize their knowledge of physics as they harness the wind and various structures to obtain a perfect shot. In addition, players can perform combos with their swing which each have special effects. All in all, Albatross18 can get pretty complicated at times, challenging the best of players. An example of a shot could be the following:

1) Take the wind into consideration
2) Aim your shot
3) Select a club length for the proper distance
4) Take a potion to max your hit
5) Start the swing meter
6) As the meter goes down press up and down once rapidly
7) Stop the meter right in the center target area for the perfect combo

As one can see, this strays from the formula that makes one MMORPG just like all the rest, which is:

1) Find monster
2) Click skill
3) Repeat step 1

Since there are so many different shots and opportunities in Albatross, you're constantly thinking and strategizing. Keep in mind that you need to focus on who is leading the tournament/match and how you can overcome their score by increasing your own!

Users are defaulted a character based on the sex they chose during registration but fear not! Additional characters can be bought in game through pang (the currency acquired by getting certain shots) or cookies (an actual currency that you buy with money). It should be noted that pang and cookies are not tradeable in game, so users do not need to worry about scammers or hackers nearly as much as other games. After you accumulate enough pang or cookies, individuals can buy shirts, shoes, hats, etc. for their characters, which increases your skill level in one of five categories (power, control, accuracy, curve, and spin). This of course helps you handle courses much easier then before.

Your avatar will also gain experience by completing matches/tournaments against other players. If you get 1st place you obviously win more experience then you would 2nd. By gaining levels (which is termed as Rookie, Beginner, Junior, etc - each having 5-6 grades in them) you can apply additional points to the above stats, so there is an incentive. The great thing about Albatross is the fact that you don't have to worry about losing as much. There is nowhere in your stats that shows how many matches you've lost and won. For those that enjoy that area of the game, there are trophies that can be won in tournaments to show your win abilities. In addition, there is match play, and your percentage of wins is shown in your stats. Otherwise, tournament and regular vs. mode do not affect your stats, regardless of whether you won or lost. This is an excellent feature as some, including myself, feel a character is somewhat ruined after they lose, or have a bad win record. The one dreadful area of Albatross is the time it requires. Often players log in well over 600 hours to get to a higher rank; however, there are many moments of downtime that you are waiting for other players to finish. Of course the server logs your time, but I will read, clean the house, or go do other things during this time. Generally you may wait 10 min. for a 40 minute match, so I figure people with 600 hours have actually PLAYED closer to 400 or so.

Graphically Albatross is a beautiful game, that looks like something directly out of Nintendo Game Cube (on a high end machine with all details max). Characters each have their own animations and the courses are richly detailed with trees, beaches, water, lighthouses, volcanoes, etc. The great thing about Albatross is that you don't need a heavy computer to run it effectively. The minimum processor requirement is a Pentium 3 800 mhz, so those with older computers can still enjoy the game; however, the accuracy required may warrant the need for a more up to date machine.

The sound is below par in the game, and if you're a golf junkie, you'll know that it is a good thing (reference to golf itself where below par is a negative number; this is actually preferred in golf compared to a positive score). The sound is just as vibrant as the graphics, and nails the sound of the swing to a tee! Combo sounds make it known that you mean business, and the background music is not too annoying. The music is present, but not in your face. It's a pleasing sound that does not make you annoyed. This may change after one plays the game more, but compared to other games, it's a pleasant break.

The online community is great in Albatross. Unlike World of Warcraft and one of the worst communities to date in Maple Story, players display a certain amount of professionalism here, just like the game itself. Often people that curse are asked to stop, and players themselves type properly and can actually carry on a conversation. Since there is no way to trade items/currency online, obviously scammers, hackers, and people that would try and duplicate items are not a factor. This really enhances the quality of the game because people only have themselves to worry about when it comes to currency, and not everyone else and how they can attempt to get their hands on the average joe's bank. The GMs (Game Moderators) are very active and will even ban users for cursing should they be reported. Unlike most games, users in Albatross are actually able to communicate to them and ask questions. A definitive plus, as online support is probably the most significant factor in sticking to a game. Finally, the servers/website is quick, responsive, and rarely lags, which is a plus in a game that requires such finesse.

Surely a game to peak anyone's interest that enjoys competition, skill, or sports, Albatross18 is certaintly a contender for a top 3 MMORPG to date.