Not having played Alganon when it first launched in December 2009, I was not bound by preconceived notions about what the game would be like or scarred by a horrible experience. In fact, I went so far as to not even read about the game before logging into it for the first time which was probably a good thing. There's been a lot of drama surrounding Alganon's development which is outside the scope of this article. Suffice it to say a cursory Google search on David Allen, Alganon, Quest Online and Derek Smart will yield all the information necessary.
Caveat: Having only played to level 7, I can't claim to have seen 99% of the game or any of the higher level content. I'll be treated to a developer tour at a later date and will report on what I see at that time.
Alganon immediately has a familiar feel to it as it accurately mirrors other successful MMOs out there, most notably World of Warcraft. Character creation begins with selecting an 'empire'. Think Alliance vs. Horde. In Alganon, the empires are Asharr and Kujix. There are five "families" from which to choose that determine game play style. Each has a nice explanation of what its style is and how the game will be played if chosen. In 'toon creation, players choose a class: Magus, Soldier, Ranger, or Healer. From there, one's character can be customized with a variety of facial features, hairstyles, and skin color. There's not as much customization as some games but more than in others.
Entering Alganon sends new characters into a beginning area to learn the game's mechanics. Movement is standard WASD with a rotating camera. Again, there is a lot of familiarity with most of the core mechanics of the game. Players are sent out on some beginning quests to learn controls and earn a bit of equipment, etc.
One of the more unique systems in place is the 'study system' where 'toons work to learn various subjects in Combat, Magic and General topical areas. By 'studying', characters improve. For instance, the first area of study my new warrior started was Combat Techniques which, when completed, gave my character a small boost in offensive power.
I immediately encountered a few annoying problems, however, which didn't improve over time. Everything seemed to respawn in exactly the same place every time. There doesn't appear to be randomization where things are placed. For instance, my initial character was a miner. There is a place outside of the first major town where several ore veins are grouped together. I could simply stand there, mine the veins, wait a few minutes and do it all over again. There is a bit more randomization with monsters respawning, however. At times, different critters at different levels would appear in the same place.
There is no auto-attack which forces players to actually take part in the battle. If a character is close enough to an enemy, it will attack but players have to initiate their own counter-offensive or they'll simply stand there and get beaten to death. This is actually a good thing. No bot behavior here.
Weapon, offensive and defensive skills level up during battle. Frustratingly, sometimes charging monsters run through a character which instantly stops an attack, leaves the 'toon with its back turned to the enemy and forces players to restart the attack. Characters are often at a disadvantage having been pummeled while scrambling to figure out what happened. My character died more in the first seven levels of Alganon than any other character in any other game I've ever played. Some of that was definitely my fault but a lot of it was due to the character 'jump' and being beaten half to death before getting in my first hit! Additionally, monsters would randomly appear at times. I noticed that they literally popped out of the 'woodwork' or 'stonework' or wherever I happened to be.
Graphically, Alganon looks good though, at least in this particular build, but it's nothing spectacular. Even so-saying, it's a solid, pleasing-looking world. Spell and attack effects are good as well. Again, graphically Alganon contains nothing off the charts or earth shattering. But devs never implied it would be otherwise.
Crafting is robust and items created are much better than those that can be purchased from in-game vendors. Crafting is relatively simple; simple enough, in fact, that even a non-crafter type like me could figure it out! Folks who crave item creation will find a lot to like in Alganon.
There are people out there who have decided to hate this game regardless of any of its merits. I call them the 'anti-fanbois', those who will despise the game because of perceived similarities to WoW or because of who is leading the development (or not leading it as it were). To behave so is unfair to a group of folks who are doing their level best to make a decent, playable game. From what I've seen, Quest Online devs have a ways to go but have made some amazing strides along the way. I give them a lot of credit for sticking to the task during difficult times.
Alganon's current build is incrementally introducing new aspects and improvements to the game. From what I have read elsewhere, it's a far cry from the game released in December. Yet from my perspective, it has a long way to go to be commercially successful. As it stands right now, I honestly can't see Alganon making money for Quest Online. Whether that's because of the developmental woes and controversy or simply because it doesn't fill a unique enough niche in today's MMO market remains to be seen. So-so simply won't cut it if Alganon doesn't capture a 'niche audience'. Hopefully the re-released version set to debut later this month will bring something new and different into play. Only time and an updated game client will tell. We'll keep you posted.
This editorial was written using Alganon version 126.96.36.1994 and the build immediately prior.