May 21, 2012

[Allods Online: 2 Years Later: Part 2]

[Go to Part 1]

  The first of the major changes I noticed (which was added to the game last year) is a new Tradeable Currency system. Basically, it allows cash shop currency to be sold for ingame gold. However, unlike most games who have this type of system, the exchage rate is set by the game itself rather than by players, based on how much of the tradeable currency (Gem Shards) is in the system at any given time. This automatic price control is an interesting way to keep monopolizing pay-players from price fixing the market. It also allows free players access to the cash shop without spending any real money if they so choose by basically letting them use their ingame gold to buy cash shop items. In the cash shop itself there is a tab that toggles the payment option for items between gPotatoes (the normal pay-currency) and Shards.

The Shard/Gold Exchange

  One of the things I tend to regularly buy in F2P games are mounts, so this aspect of the cash shop was another new thing for me (since I had stopped playing the game before they were released). The system in Allods Online is a bit unique, in that in addition to being able to acquire multiple different mounts, they can also be leveled up and reskinned. Mounts (and various different skins for them) are available as special event prizes, lottery box items, and stand-alone cash shop purchases. There are also character costume sets and even (for some reason I don't even want to speculate about) an entire tab just for underwear.

Fluffy hats!

  Another interesting mechanic added since the game's release is the Reincarnation system. Basically, after doing a series of quests, high-level players can unlock the ability to create a linked alt (Incarnation) that will share various items and bonuses with their main character. Besides the money-saving aspects of not having to buy new mounts, bag upgrades, etc., both characters can learn one of the abilities from the other's skill set that otherwise their class would not be able to, which opens up some interesting class customization possibilities.

  However, something I discovered as I was playing the game, is that once again there is a cash shop drama brewing, this time around an upcoming addition to the game's Patronage system. To explain: Characters all have a 'Patron Saint' that bestows temporary stat buffs and healing skills when a certain item (Incense) is used. These buffs gain experience through use and can be upgraded to be stronger via quests (up to level 4). The upcoming addition of a fifth level that can only be earned after enough of a certain cash shop item is bought is upsetting many players because the real-money cost for enough items to reach this rank (which appears to be mostly important in endgame PvP) would equal hundreds of dollars. Many people are angry over the 'pay 2 win' aspect of this mechanic, and I can see their perspective. For some reason, even after two years, the cash shop in Allods seems to periodically experiment with a new game mechanic added specifically to force players to spend money. Even though in every past case such mechanics have ended up eventually removed, the bad feelings they inspire linger on.

At level 23, my Patronage Level is 3.

   I have to admit I really don't understand the coercive attitude the Allods devs seem to keep falling back on when their game could be so much more popular if they simply advertised it's strengths (like their really neat Astral Ship content where players sail in search of bosses to fight as well as engage in ship combat with the opposite faction) instead of periodically trying to gouge their most invested players. Time will tell if the game eventually resolves this issue the same way it has fixed it's past monetization mistakes, but even so it's sad to see yet another example of the game's community being upset by a cash shop decision. Making your players feel like they're being taken advantage of is a big FAIL for any F2P game, whether or not that perception is accurate. It's also funny that at the same time when I decide to come back to give Allods another try after hearing about so many good additions to it, that this happens again. =P

Player-crewed Astral Ships can discover new lands and treasures.

  In conclusion: For those who still enjoy a 'classic' quest-based F2P MMORPG, Allods Online delivers a solid PvE experience with lots of nice features and the game does a lot of things well, so I recommend trying it out for those reasons alone. But in the end I'm left rather conflicted -- on one hand there are many things about the game I think are fun, but in a F2P MMO being able to trust that you won't be punished for not paying 'enough' (or at all) is very important, and I don't feel Allods has that trust. Therefore, I can only recommend it for casual/PvE players since I think that most serious min-maxers or PvP-oriented players will end up frustrated at the endgame unless they don't mind paying the costs (in grind and/or money) to reach the top level of performance. The majority of the cash shop is, in my opinion, fair to the casual player who is not too hung up on staying on the bleeding-edge of the power curve.

After two years Allods Online has grown a lot and I really think it's one of the better F2P games out there. It's just a shame that instead of finding a synergy with it's cash shop, it seems to still struggle to find a balance between profit and playability, even after all this time.

Related Reading:
An Allods Online Beginner's Guide

No comments: