World of Warcraft is the 300-pound gorilla at the top of the MMOG pyramid; seeing the oodles of cash being raked in by Blizzard, most other developers are understandably interested in getting a piece of the same pie. Countless MMOGs have been released since that attempt this, whether they're shallow clones of the big boy or attempts at taking the innovation that WoW created and pushing it further. Most of these, unfortunately, don't move far enough from their source material to be long-lasting or compelling for a long stretch of time, and despite efforts to topple the behemoth, WoW still rises supreme in terms of subscription numbers.
Usually when a new MMOG comes out the derivation isn't crossing the line to plagiarism, but then there are always the developers who are unabashed in their copying.
Allods Online is an upcoming free-to-play MMOG from Russian developer Astrum Online Entertainment; at first glance it would be easy to dismiss Allods as yet another carbon-copy of WoW. Everything about it, from its graphics to the visual aesthetics to the user interface, will be immediately recognizable to anyone who's had even a passing impression of WoW. But Allods has some strong originality going for it that could present it as a compelling AAA title once it gets its Western release. Its second closed beta started at the beginning of December but will still run until the 15th. If you want to check it out before then the internet is literally hemorrhaging beta keys; it's the most "open" closed beta I've ever participated in.
Where WoW is a commercial, subscription based game, Allods will be free to play– there's not a whole lot of explanation on how the game will be monetized but I would suspect some form of an item shop to be a guarantee. Its free to play nature will be definitely interesting to anyone who might want to take a look without forking over a credit card; Sony's Free Realms was launched similarly and has enjoyed significant success even for its less-than-hardcore gameplay. Dungeons and Dragons Online also went free to play when it failed Turbine's goals as a commercial title, and since then it's actually done better for the company than at its original status.
Like WoW, Allods is based on the IP of an earlier single player RPG/RTS, released in Russia as Rage of Mages. Allods has also got its own lore which I found pretty interesting, at least as far as my brief exposure during the two starting areas went. Like WoW, Allods has taken advantage of the highly stylized cartoonish graphics that have not only kept WoW standing on its own two feet even five years out of date, but allow it to run on practically anything; in fact I got better FPS in Allods on one machine than I do running Wrath of the Lich King these days. This is certainly one of the things that has contributed so highly to WoW's success– you don't need a badass gaming machine to play World of Warcraft, it will run on a toaster with an LCD screen.
The standard Diku approach is still in play with Allods, implementing the same changes that WoW added themselves. You have the traditional class archetypes like healer/tank/DPS. Quests are the traditional kill X number of enemies, collect X number of objects, FedEx quests, defeat three different tiers of mobs before downing a big bad. You have the same sorts of professions and the same crafting system. The interface is practically the same as WoW's– without looking it up, I had a feeling alt-z would work to hide the user interface for screenshots the same way that it does in WoW, and I was amused to be proven right. Allods' version of the Forsaken are bionic/robotic zombies called the Arisen. I guess the Tauren equivalent would be the Gibberlings, but those guys are so adorable it's not even fair. Allods' most compelling innovation looks to be its astral ship-to-ship combat. Huge vessels can be piloted by a large group of players working in coordination, traversing Astral space to fight other player-controlled ships as well. It's a watered down version of the fleet combat familiar to EVE players but something pretty far beyond what you see in current MMOGs.
Allods is unapologetic about being Russia's WoW, to a degree that I can't even really rattle off here without getting pedantic. But it does bring unique things to the table that tweak and refine the foundation it was built on. If you're looking for something brand new, Allods isn't really going to capture your attention. But if you like WoW and can get past all the strange statues of someone that very much appears to be Lenin littering certain cities, Allods is looking like it will provide a pretty captivating experience. At the very least it's competing with WoW on price, and I think for a lot of people a game that's almost the same as WoW but free will be enough of an enticement that I feel Blizzard should be looking at this upstart with a cautious eye.
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