One of the most exciting features that Kasparek showed me are the newly implemented instanced dungeons. Instanced dungeons can be accessed beginning at about level 10 and are definitely NOT solo player friendly. In fact, when we were touring the first dungeon, our two level 50 characters took more time than I would have figured to bring down a pair of level 13 monsters! This is a purposeful design, Kasparek said, to encourage players to party up. Instances should be run in parties of 4-6 though there has been some talk about making dungeons accessible to the solo player similar to what Dungeons & Dragons Online has done.
Instances contribute directly to the lore of Alganon and quests are completed to move on. Some instances have other instances inside of them that depend on completing one quest before moving onto the next section.
The Death System
The dungeons made me wonder how death will be dealt with in Alganon. Kasparek told me that if a character dies in an instance, they are sent back to the beginning but not booted out. In instances and elsewhere in the Alganon world, if players return in ghost form to their corpse, gear will take a 10% durability hit. If they choose to respawn, gear will be dinged for a 30% durability loss. As players get better and more elaborate gear, the cost for respawning could become quite hefty in terms of item repair cost.
Customizable UI & Graphics
Another awesome feature in Alganon 2.0 is the almost completely customizable user interface. Nearly every part of the UI can be moved, resized, or taken out altogether. The only part of the UI that cant' be altered in one way or another is the inventory bag display. Inventory will always open in the lower right hand corner.
The customizable UI is a terrifically nice feature as players will want to take in the Alganon universe. The graphics are really nice and a lot has been done to bring pizzazz into the look that was missing in earlier versions of the game. Devs are busy applying dynamic lighting effects, particle effects and more. Alganon is a very pretty world with a lot of variety in textures and environments. The undersea Tempest Temple instance, for example, has gorgeous colors and innovative art. (I really loved the nautilus shell lamps!) Trees move in the wind, feet crunch on the gravel, ambient sounds surround players, etc. In short, Alganon gives players a sense of being in a real world.
The In-Game Map
The in game map has been overhauled as well. The new display uses 'fog of war'. Map features and areas are revealed as players explore the world. Numbered quests are shown on the map similar to World of Warcraft's system. While the general location of a quest area is shown, the exact location is not. If a player is, for instance, sent out to kill a specific type of monster or perhaps sent to take out a 'named' monster, a general location is given. The monster, however, may be out for a stroll or otherwise occupied. There's no 'click the monster name and run right up to him' in Alganon. Players are required to put a little effort into finding their victims.
Monsters are now aware of their environments too. One of the game breakers for me in 1.0 was the fact that monster ran through things and were literally part of trees and rocks. I couldn't see them but they could see me and I paid dearly. Now monsters have mesh terrain to follow and they do recognize impassable objects. Creatures react to potholes, trees, cliffs, etc. Similarly, they do not run through players any more. Such behavior used to cause characters to stop fighting and stand there with their backs turned while being beaten to death. Now the odds are more even.
The Sky is Falling!
The only VERY small thing that still bothers me (that I noticed at any rate) is the gigantic chest that randomly drops out of the sky when some monsters die. All monsters' corpses can be searched but occasionally when a monster dies, a huge chest just thunks to the ground on top of the corpse. Don't get me wrong: The chests almost always have some sort of nifty thing inside. It's just the way that it shows up. I almost find myself metaphorically looking up to see if I'm going to have a chest dropped on my head. Think slapstick comedy of old movies.
Quest Online developers have made a lot of improvements in the game that will be released on the 28th but they are not content with resting on that achievement (huge as it is!). Kasparek told me about a lot of things that are planned for post deployment. He named quite a few: Network optimization to allow for streaming content; characters sharing Tribute purchases such as mounts; new Marketplace items; a PvP system; solo instances; new character models; new multiplayer dungeons and more.
Kasparek and I did not play much. This was a tour of the game to see its new and improved features. Are there bugs? Of course but that's why there are open beta tests. Are there things that some folks won't like? Granted but that's nothing different than any other game out there. Is it going to be difficult to overcome the head office drama? Absolutely but it can be done with the sheer will of developers and the game they have made.
The Bottom Line
Former players will not recognize Alganon 2.0 in my opinion. So much has changed in so many ways that it's almost unfair to compare 1.0 and 2.0. Time will tell if former fans can be lured back into the game but I suspect that new players will like what they experience. This is the game that should have been released from the get go and there are a LOT of good reasons to give Alganon a try.