I have been enjoying my time in the Allods Online closed beta thus far, though I am still only level 5. I keep wavering between frustration at the server load of eager players hopping around, swarming quest mobs and nodes, and excitement of being among the first to experience the game in this way. Much like with the Warhammer Online preview weekend, I felt such a great camaraderie with everyone else asking where this or that mob was, or expressing wonder at this or that discovery.
It’s been interesting reading some of the impressions of the game so far: for some, it’s too much like WoW, while others offer suggestions for “improvements” that would make it even more so. My main problem is that I’m already nearing burnout; since I’ve been playing the Russian open beta, I’ve already gone through the same level 1-5 content roughly ten times now, and now I’ve got to stop before I ruin a good thing. I’ll just wait until the open beta when our characters will be allowed to continue to progress before I jump back in.
Between retiring Allods Online for the time being, and my decision not to re-up my Champions Online subscription, there has been a 100% increase in the amount of Dragon Age: Origins being played around these parts. Despite my loud protestations that I dislike single-player games, I managed to make it through at least one of the origins and the first little bit of the plot before taking an indefinite break. For me, the game is only enjoyable when I imagine myself playing alongside some other, real person (I admit to developing a crush on Alistair). My better half is still plowing his way through the story, though he’s adamant the story isn’t sandboxy enough for his satisfaction. Having watched him play through Oblivion and Fallout 3, I have to agree, though my experience in themepark MMOs have trained me not to run off the path so often and as a result I don’t brush up against the many invisible walls and impassable bridges in the DA:O landscape the way he does.
I’m not quite sure what exactly makes the difference between a more sandbox game like Oblivion, which allowed you to completely ignore the main quest and still have dozens of hours of enjoyment to milk out of the game, and something more linear, yet equally highly-rated, like Half Life 2 or Dragon Age, in which you cannot prevent major events from occurring and taking you along with them. I can’t imagine that these two types of games attract the same types of fans, judging from the muffled curses of “why can’t I kill this guy just to shut him up? Why can’t I go into this house? Why can’t I talk to this person? I could do this in Oblivion!” coming from next to me. I’ve been surprised to find that Syncaine has been enjoying the game as much as he has, and surprised again to agree with Tobold that I find DA:O’s replayability to be next to nil. After all, can you choose to become a Templar? Can you choose to be an apostate? These are questions my sandbox-loving partner asks, and he finds the answers wanting.
I don’t have an objection to this kind of sandbox play myself; I just find my imagination is lacking. I’m poor at setting my own goals in-game, so I’m happy to have someone set them for me. Meanwhile, we have tried about four MMOs together as a household and in every one I have started a new character, run up to the first quest-giving NPC, and turned around to find my better half stuck in a wall or having fallen off a cliff because he defied the straight and narrow path and wanted to do his own thing. With his vision and my MMO experience, we could be unstoppable, if only given the proper playground. Since he likes the fantasy genre and dislikes FFA PvP as much as I do, I’m left with one last option if we’re to find an MMO home as a duo:
We’re trying Vanguard: Saga of Heroes next.