Allods Online Impressions

If you wish to experience a massively multiplayer online role-playing game with all the bells and whistles but without the ongoing price tag, then Allods Online might be worth a look.

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Allods Online is a free-to-play MMO from Russian development studio Astrum Nival. Based on the Rage of Mages universe, the game's storyline follows on from Rage of Mages I and II, which both launched back in the late '90s. Despite its thrifty price tag, Allods looks like it will feature some enjoyable gameplay, varied factions and classes, and surprisingly impressive graphics. We recently sat down with producer Vincent Douvier, from Dublin-based publisher gPotato, who guided us through several areas of the game.

For those that are unfamiliar with the series, it originally began with the isometric RPG Rage of Mages. The game was also known in Russia as Allods: Sealed Mystery when it launched in 1998. The series then advanced to a true 3D engine with 1999's Rage of Mages II: Necromancer. After developing numerous titles since then, including the well-received Heroes of Might and Magic V, Nival is returning to the series with Allods Online.

Publisher gPotato describes Allods as a space opera, mixing a fantasy setting with sci-fi combat and exploration. While the storyline has yet to be revealed, fans can rest assured that some of their outstanding questions from the previous instalment will be answered. Allods features two factions, six races, and eight character classes, with a cap of level 40 at release. When you combine that amount of variety with more than 1,500 standard quests, even the most ardent MMO gamer should be occupied for hours. Naturally, there's also a player-versus-player element to Allods, but gPotato isn't talking about that yet. We do know, however, that there is a PVP game called Goblinoball. As the name implies, the aim of the sport is to kick a helmet-wearing goblin into your team's goal. While it's an orc sport, either of the game's factions can join in for the chance to win some gold and kick a goblin--and that prospect certainly sounds appealing.

The game is set in The Astral, a solar system filled with floating islands called allods, which have been flung across the galaxy after the explosion of a planet. In Allods, you will be able to use galleon-like spacecraft to travel to other allods. However, you won't be able to use these ships from the very beginning, and because of their complex operation, they require between five and 25 crew members to run, which means they're ideally suited to guilds. In order to build a ship, you will also need to obtain all the parts. Because of the difficulty in procuring these parts, you'll need a group of people working together to obtain each one. An auction house will allow you to buy and sell parts, as well as speed up your collecting.

Gibberlings are simply adorable.
Gibberlings are simply adorable.

Voice control will allow you to talk to other guild members and is needed to coordinate the operation of bridge controls, navigation console, ship reactor, and the bow- and side-mounted cannons. Once your guild has boarded your galleon and traversed the dangers of The Astral, you can begin quests. There'll be plenty of scripted raids in Allods; however, once you've scored some booty, you will then have the daunting task of taking it back to your home base and run the risk of being raided by space pirates along the way. The ship-to-ship combat looks like it will be one of the major features in Allods and should set the stage for some epic battles between the game's warring factions.

Allods has two factions: the League and the Empire. The League is characterised by a socialist doctrine and led by a council of representatives. It consists of human warriors called Kanians, elves, and adorable creatures called Gibberlings. This last race is always born as triplets, and while you control them as you would a single character, they remain together at all times. The Empire is capitalist by nature and ruled by a dictator. It consists of the humanoid Xadaganians; the blue-skinned orcs; and the undead, mechanically enhanced Arisen. We encountered a number of other interesting life forms, including a dangerous three-headed beast and the gargantuan astral demons, which can live within allods and attack galleons in the depths of space. Overcoming an astral demon will require the coordination of several ships, experienced crews, and would certainly be an impressive achievement for any guild.

We don't know much about the game's economy at the moment other than the fact that Allods will be funded by microtransactions. You will be able to buy new weapons and new items to kit out your ship. Allods will support up to 5,000 users per server, and servers will be based in Dublin for English-speaking servers and Eastern Europe, in addition to France and Germany. Russia, America, and Asian territories should expect their own servers depending on the local publisher. Allods is currently at a pre-beta build, with a Russian closed beta and European open beta programmes to follow.

Love elves and sci-fi battles? The two meet in Allods Online!
Love elves and sci-fi battles? The two meet in Allods Online!

Nival has used its own proprietary graphics engine, and the results are impressive. Characters are detailed and move realistically, thanks to motion capture. The Allods universe looks quite diverse, and while we only saw the alpine area, the forest, cities, and space areas expect to see a wide range of landscapes across the 16 allods in the full version. The graphics seem to be indicative of the attention to detail that Vival is putting into Allods, and we're hoping it will stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the best MMORPGs currently available. The music is being scored in part by Mark Morgan (Fallout, Fallout 2, One Tree Hill), so we should also be able to expect a decent soundtrack.

Allods Online is being published in Europe and North America by gPotato, and in Russia by Astrum Nival. The game is scheduled for a European release date of autumn 2009, with other regions to be announced shortly.

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