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Albion Online – First Impressions

Ultima Online (cover)I started playing MMOs back when Ultima Online (UO) was only one world, when a red name struck fear into my heart and my armour consisted of a death shroud, my weapon a Katana, and a couple of black pearls in my pack. Oh, and an escape recall rune – sometimes running was the best option. When it divided into two worlds I learned music and fought dragons for fun. I know, that makes no sense, but it was a way to earn a living. I bought a house, opened a potion shop and… well… you know played the game. (I’m getting nostalgic – and now it is free to play! hrm…)

Why have I started with this article on Albion Online with a mention of UO? For the simple reason that there are enough similarities that I am reminded of my first forays into online worlds. Like UO, Albion is played from an isometric view point. After years of World of Warcraft (WOW), Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC), and a thousand other MMOs, all played from the over-the-shoulder or first person viewpoint, the return to this old-school style was refreshing. It does not detract from identifying with your avatar or going about your daily-MMO business.

Albion Online (cover)Like UO there is a player driven economy. At its heart is the need to gather resources and make things from them. There are some simple divisions of resources: wood, stone, metal, fibres, all of which can be crafted, either alone or in combination, into your adventuring equipment. This can be a bit of a grind – head out, harvest resources, return, craft, repeat, etc.

However, there is a charm to the process. Each zone holds different materials and to get the more valuable stuff you have to venture further from safety. I’ll be honest, as this is a first impressions and I haven’t moved far yet, but the aggro range of the mobs is sufficient to bring you into danger and keep you safe.

The items you craft range from weapons to armour, to clothes, bags and chests. Each item you make increases your skill in that area and before long you’re into a pretty specialised track. What do you want to make? Bows (my current passion), then you’ll be crafting bow after bow to raise your skill. Magic staves, same thing. But each track becomes itself specialised – there are particular types of bow or stave or sword which you need to learn to craft.

Albion Online (screenshot 1)

There are some short-cuts. If you have premium membership then you gain 20 learning points a day. You’ll also earn them from crafting and killing – each action you take gets you something. You are rewarded for just going about your business – no quests (well, very few) here. Once you’ve got a certain distance into a new skill the chance to spend learning points opens up and if you have enough you can spend them instead of crafting to get that skill.

And it is worth saying that the items you craft differ in quality. The more you make, the better chance you have of creating something more powerful than a bog-standard bow. It adds a little more something to the crafting process. The items you don’t want can be recycled for some materials and a little cash – it all adds up and is nice return on your effort. If you want to make more money, you can put your items up for sale on the auction house – as of yet I’ve not found, and hope I don’t, any NPC shops.

Albion Online (screenshot 2)

You can, should you wish, battle monsters (and skin the animals for leather) and you are rewarded with coin and skills. There are some dungeons and areas to explore. Expeditions, where you can head off to, alone or in a group, kill monsters and earn cash add to the flavour and activities available.

There are a fair number of bits I’ve got to get to yet and I am looking forward, with some trepidation, towards them. Firstly, I want to own an island and build my own home – create a little idyllic fortress of safety. I need to join a guild and, a bit like EVE, guilds own land and have territory to protect and fight over. PVP can be thrilling, exciting (I loved DAoC – in a good group, with voice comms and a bit of practice) and in Albion you can lose everything you carry – there’s a real risk here!

Albion Online (screenshot 3)

I’m right at the start of playing this game and I’m going to carry on for a while to see where it leads. So far, I am enjoying it – and I think there is a tie-in novel by Peter Newman somewhere. I’ll keep playing and see where it leads – it is the perfect game to log into, play for a bit, get some rewards and then head off and do something else. And that suits me right now.

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