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Albion Online Review - Trading Graphics For Accessibility

At a time when MMOs are getting more and more beautiful graphically with hyperrealistic 3D, Sandbox Interactive placed their bet on a less ambitious style. However, it must be admitted that this choice is rather bold on their part. So, with Albion Online, we are faced with a somewhat impersonal cartoonesque style in a hack 'n’ slash view. Visually, it remains at the limit of what can be considered as correct, granted, with an artistic direction that does not shine. And apart from a few illustrations, the tone is sober and rather classical overall. But then why make this choice? For two reasons. 
 
The first is that it is accessible from the first glance. It's simple and we adapt ourselves to the world very quickly, contrary to the immensity of the usual 3D environments that can overwhelm. The second is that this allowed the developers to propose their game both on PC and on smartphones/tablets running IOS and Android. However, it should be noted that the title is not compatible with a number of devices. So take the time to check if yours is.
 
Regardless, one can consider that Albion Online is a mix between Dofus and a MOBA. Indeed, we find a lot of mechanics proper to the latter genre. Whether traveling or in team play. When we see a clash between two groups of players, it isn’t unusual to compare it to a "teamfight" in League of Legends. The spell panel is another example of similarity with MOBAs.

Classic vs. Sandbox
One area where it can not please everyone is in its"Sandbox" nature, where the players are left to themselves and have to create their own adventure. If you prefer to be guided by quests and a semblance of storytelling, Albion Online may not be for you. On the other hand, if for you Sandbox means shaping your own story, then you won't be finding better anytime soon. However, if this particularity is an undeniable asset for the game to stand out, we note that the beginnings are not attractive enough for new players.

We start by creating a character with little personalization. Then, we learn the basics of harvesting wood, stone, and animal hide to eventually come to craft our own beginner gear (armor, boots, a weapon and a shield) and harvesting tools (skinning knife, axe, pickaxe, etc). You will also have a mount via a quest in the first city you encounter in the game. After that, you are completely free to do what you want, albeit with barely anything to guide and/or direct you towards your next step.
 
Even though the experiences are varied, Albion Online still focuses much on the PVP aspect. To launch yourself alone in the adventure is surely not the best way to appreciate the title. On the contrary, everything is done to encourage you to join a guild from your very first steps. From there, you can learn things in a user-friendly way. In any case, you will quickly find out that in a guild, access to material and gear is much easier. Indeed, there are not only gathering skills, but also a ton of crafting skills for players to level, and the best way to optimize the progression is by assigning everyone in the guild a role or two. One last thing that sets it apart from the average MMOs is the fact that it is very PVP oriented. Again, some will not like this bias. Obviously, the PVE and the trades also have a great place in the game, but the PVP remains a dominant component, there is no doubt about it. The whole is strewn with struggles between guilds that punctuate the conflicts in the world of Albion.

Engaging Content
But putting that aside for now, I will speak about the PvP in depth in another article, Albion Online also has quite a lot of great selling points that will please most of the fans of the genry. Starting by travels, which has a real importance here. Given that teleporting, to which a lot of games have accustomed us now, can be awfully expensive depending on what you are carrying, you will find yourself traveling on your mount most of the times. This makes the experience more authentic and allows, at high level, to experience the dangerous transport of precious goods, attacks of raiders, and other dangers orchestrated by unscrupulous players. Obviously the beginner zones are not concerned.
 
If we were talking about accessibility at the beginning of this article, the game is far from casual. In these same risky zones, the death of your character can be extremely punitive. You lose everything you have on you, currency aside. Moreover, living the life of a criminal gradually worsens your reputation and can deprive you of some useful services. Albion can be cruel, but it is also what makes it interesting.

Another appeal of Albion Online is that players are able to become anything. Indeed, you are what you wear. Here, no race or class, only equipment and mastery levels define characters. This system makes it possible to try out new and enormously varied combinations. For example, a mage may very well use thieves' boots to gain mobility or wear plate armor for defense. You may appear as a casual miner only caring about finding new ores, but fight off enemies with your oversized scythe when needed.
 
And while the game does greatly encourage specialization, the choice is wide and combat is not necessarily the most profitable activity. Indeed, harvesters, artisans, managers, traders, all these trades have their importance in a guild to ensure its proper functioning. Not only because the guilds can own territories and workshops in the capitals and then impose taxes on all other players, but also due to the fact that in Albion there are no NPC selling gear, or monsters selling them. Thus, everything you wear needs to be crafted, either by you or other players.

Monetization Model
Just a quick reminder that Albion Online is a "Buy to Play" game. In other words, you have to buy one of the packs of the game to play it, but gain access to it for life (or until the server closes down). There is, however, a premium subscription that gives different bonuses in regards to progression (fame rises faster, harvest bonuses, personal islands...) which quickly become indispensable, it must be confessed.

Fortunately, the system is fairly honest because you can pay for your subscription with the silver earned in the game. However, you have to invest a lot of time, and the MMO can quickly become addictive and time consuming.

It is also worth noting that the official site offers a lot of content to help you in the adventure, such as a character creation tool to observe the best builds (PVP, PVE, Mixed...), as well as some guides.

Conclusion
Albion Online offers another way to play MMORPGs. Both its accessible and old school sides give it a certain appeal. It should be kept in mind, however, that it will not necessarily please hard-core followers of the classical titles of the genre. Solo players may find it difficult to enjoy the beginnings, but the adventure is really pleasant. It is still lacking in certain areas but the Sandbox Interactive title is really interesting and worth a try.

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