Developer Sandbox Interactive launched their closed beta for their cross-platform MMORPG, Albion Online, last month, and I’m here to tell you a bit about my experience playing it.
Before I dive into my experience though, here’s a little background on the game itself for those unaware of what type of game Albion Online is. The game is a sandbox MMORPG, meaning you have pretty much total freedom as to what you can do.
There’s certainly plenty to do: you can craft a multitude of items, complete quests and raid bosses, own your own piece of land and home, create your own settlement, and face off against other players, just to name a few. You can also join guilds that own large cities and give members the ability to build their own structures including shops inside them.
Albion Online is also a cross-platform game, which means there’ll be one massive world in the final build the game that can be accessed from all devices that support it, including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. The game plays in a top-down perspective, similar to games in the Diablo series. You move around by either clicking where you want your character to go or by holding the left-button on your mouse in the direction you want them to go.
My experience with the Beta has been somewhat of a mixed bag so far. There were some technical issues I faced right from the get-go, as I had to reinstall the game twice before it finally worked properly (keep in mind though I was using a MacBook Pro that’s a few years old, so people with higher-end PCs may not have the same issue). I was also dropped from the server several times the first night I played, which unfortunately hindered my experience further.
After I was done installing, I created an account and got to the character creator. One thing I noticed soon after creating my character was that she was classless; I wasn’t locked into some kind of class/profession like fighter, mage, thief, or whatever. Instead, the equipment you’re wearing or using determines your skills such as spells, attacks, and other special abilities. This is one aspect I really liked, as being able to change your abilities by simply changing equipment makes for a much more customizable and fluid experience. If I didn’t like my character’s skills or wanted to mix things up, I didn’t have to worry about being stuck with whatever type of abilities I had. However, the fact that the abilities are in the armor is a double-edged sword; if you let the equipment fall into disrepair, you’ll lose those abilities and become extremely vulnerable.
Once I created my character, I was dropped into the world and given the task of gathering raw materials to make armor, a sword, and tools to extract certain resources. It’s important that these crafting mechanics were introduced in the very beginning, because it’s the most important mechanic in the game. I spent much of my time scavenging raw materials, refining them, and then building new items with them.
After completing these introductory quests, I was pretty much allowed to do whatever I pleased. I was given the ability to create the next tier of items, and was given a number of ‘Missions’ to pursue at my leisure. These missions fell under the five categories of crafting, gathering, fighting, farming, and fame.
Fame, by the way, is how you level up your overall adventurer level and gain access to more items and abilities. Basically the way it works is that you get a certain number of “Fame” points for just about every combat and crafting action in the game. By getting a certain number of Fame points from some of the activities will grant you access to the next tier in items. For example, if you want to be able to make better weapons (such as a third tier Journeyman weapon), you’ll have to gather a certain amount of Fame points by making a number of second tier Novice warrior equipment.
For the most part I stuck with the crafting and gathering missions, since they yielded better weapons, armor, and accessories for me to have access to. I spent my time going into the world gathering copper ore, birch wood, cotton, and any other resources I could get my hands on so I could refine the material to create more equipment.
However, this brought about a major gripe I now have with the game: there’s way too much grinding. I know that grinding is par for the course in almost every RPG in existence. But spending so much time gathering up raw materials and creating way more stuff than I needed seemed unnecessary. The same goes for crafting, as I was forced to make more novice level weapons than I would ever need before I could create anything higher level. You can sell your wares to lighten your load, but you have to sell them at pretty low price to compete with other player’s prices. As a result, you don’t get much silver for your efforts.
Though I spent most of my time crafting, I also spent time exploring the world of Albion. Besides gathering more resources, I fought enemies and explored some dungeons. I had to stick pretty close to where I started most of the time though, as I encountered enemies far too difficult for me to face alone.
Combat is pretty straight-forward: you click on enemies you want to fight, and you press the hotkeys to activate certain abilities like healing, strong physical attacks, and more. I didn’t have too much trouble except a few times when I got knocked out. When this happens, you have to wait about forty seconds before you get back up. Once you do, you’re given a brief period of to escape your assailants to get to safety. There were a few times though when I ended up running into another batch of enemies that I couldn’t defeat and got knocked out again. The problem was that my equipment would take a considerable amount of damage too. After dying a few times, I became frustrated because my armor would get destroyed and I would have to frantically run back to a town in order to repair it.
As mentioned above, you can join guilds (it’s much more likely you’ll be invited to join one though) and fight over who gets what territories. However, you must remember to provide enough food for your territories, otherwise the citizens will starve to death. I didn’t spend too much time hanging around the people in my guild, but it’s an interesting system that I hope is built upon in the final version of the game.
There are also many other things this game has to offer like farming and building structures that I didn’t get much of a chance to explore. However, it is a testament to the many different skills and objectives you can choose focus on. Overall, this game does hold a lot of potential, so long as you’re willing to put the time in. There are a lot of things to do in Albion Online, but there’s also a lot of grinding involved in order to progress. If you want to give Albion Online a try when it comes out, then you’ll need to be patient if you expect to get anything meaningful out of the game.