Game On

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - JA­SON BEN­NETT

Ti­tle: Al­bion On­line Plat­form: Win­dows, Mac Os, Linux, An­droid and iOS Cost: $29.99

Rat­ing: Ev­ery­one 10+ for fairly mild fan­tasy vi­o­lence

Al­bion On­line is what’s known as a sand­box game. Many games guide play­ers from start to fin­ish, so ev­ery player has pretty much the ex­act same ex­pe­ri­ence. Sand­box games are dif­fer­ent in that they al­low play­ers to de­cide how the game will be played.

Have you ever wanted to be a pow­er­ful knight, fac­ing down mon­sters and pro­tect­ing your friends? That’s an op­tion. Or per­haps a pow­er­ful sor­cer­ess, blast­ing a mon­ster from the dis­tance with fire magic? Also a choice. But what if you just want to rel­ish the sim­ple life of a lum­ber­jack, farmer or mer­chant? All of these are op­tions in Al­bion On­line.

Al­bion On­line does this by un­leash­ing the power of cap­i­tal­ism. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing in the game is player-cre­ated — ev­ery weapon, piece of ar­mor, magic po­tion, horse, etc., is avail­able and traded at var­i­ous mar­kets in the realm.

The play­ers who want pow­er­ful weapons kill stuff to make money, then buy items from crafts­men. Then the crafts­man uses the prof­its to buy raw ma­te­ri­als from gather­ers, who use the money to buy bet­ter tools from the tool­maker, who gets the ma­te­ri­als for his tools from the gather­ers. And when gather­ers must col­lect re­sources from dan­ger­ous ar­eas, they hire the pow­er­ful war­riors to guard them.

Al­bion is an econ­omy-driven game.

There are a few quests at the start of the game to teach the ba­sic me­chan­ics — how to gather re­sources, craft a tool, kill a mon­ster, make sil­ver coins and ac­quire a mount to ride. And that’s it. After that, play­ers are on their own. Very lit­tle hand­hold­ing or di­rec­tion here.

Most game-play­ers are fa­mil­iar with the con­cept of ex­pe­ri­ence points — kill mon­sters or per­form quests to gain ex­pe­ri­ence, level up and thus be able to get bet­ter weapons, fight stronger mon­sters, etc.

In Al­bion On­line, ev­ery­thing play­ers do earns them fame, the game’s ver­sion of ex­pe­ri­ence points. Craft a sword, and sword-craft­ing fame is earned. Craft enough swords, and the abil­ity to craft a more pow­er­ful sword is un­locked. Chop down enough trees with an ax, and the abil­ity to use a bet­ter ax, which can chop down trees of a higher tier, will be un­locked.

Com­bat fame works the same way. Killing a mon­ster earns fame for your weapon and ar­mor. Kill enough mon­sters while wear­ing leather ar­mor, and the abil­ity to wear stronger leather ar­mor is un­locked.

The key to suc­cess in Al­bion is spe­cial­iza­tion. A crafter would be bet­ter served choos­ing to craft, for ex­am­ple, swords and only swords. A sword­maker could go even fur­ther and only craft one par­tic­u­lar type of sword, for even bet­ter re­turns.

Time spent hon­ing an in­fe­rior skill will slow down progress.

Some play­ers I met on­line

didn’t craft or gather any­thing. They fo­cused solely on bat­tling mon­sters and other play­ers, and this strat­egy can be suc­cess­ful, too.

In Al­bion, about twothirds of the game world of­fers full-loot player-ver­sus-player com­bat in what’s known as the Red Zones and Black Zones.

Play­ers start off in Blue Zones, where there is no player-on-player com­bat, but the high­est tier of ma­te­ri­als and mon­sters is only in the more dan­ger­ous ar­eas. If a player is killed in the Black Zone, ev­ery­thing he has on him — weapons, ar­mor, re­sources gath­ered, his horse, etc. — will be taken by the play­ers who killed him. It adds a sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ment of risk, which also has the ef­fect of mak­ing ma­te­ri­als

from the Black Zones even more valu­able.

The end-game of Al­bion On­line re­volves around Guilds and Guild-ver­susGuild com­bat. Towns and whole ar­eas in the game are con­trolled by pow­er­ful ca­bals of play­ers, and they guard those ar­eas from out­siders and com­pete in Guild Bat­tles to seize more ter­ri­tory.

If it seems over­whelm­ing, just re­mem­ber that play­ers get to play the game how they want — the life of a lone ad­ven­turer is still fun and just as valid.

Be­yond the ini­tial price of the game, Al­bion has a “pre­mium” sta­tus avail­able for $10 per month. Pre­mium adds sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits in help­ing level-up your com­bat, craft­ing and gath­er­ing skills much faster than that of non­premium char­ac­ters. It’s also pos­si­ble to pay that $10 monthly fee by earn­ing in-game cur­rency (sil­ver) and ex­change it for months of pre­mium sta­tus. In about two weeks of play­ing, I earned enough sil­ver to pay for two months of pre­mium time.

Al­bion isn’t go­ing to be a game for ev­ery­one. There is no grand tale that plays out in front of you, no quests, no fi­nal epic boss to de­feat and win the game. The story be­ing told is yours. It doesn’t have a con­clu­sion, and it’s what­ever you want it to be.

Re­view code for Al­bion On­line was pro­vided by the pub­lisher.

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