Albion Online PC Review

For the right player Albion Online can be a viable alternative to the big names in the MMORPG genre.

By Woozie, Posted 02 Aug 2017

I’ve been chopping down lots of trees since Albion Online launched and it’s not because the game puts them in the antagonist’s chair. It hasn’t been just trees either, as ores of different kinds have felt my wrath. Sandbox Interactive’s recently launched MMO does an interesting thing, allowing players to spend most of their time fulfilling roles like woodcutter, leatherworker or blacksmith, gathering materials and/or crafting items which can then be sold on the game’s many markets or be given to guildmates, provided you’re part of a guild.

I started Albion Online like everyone does: dropped in the middle of an island wearing only my underwear. A fairly informative tutorial taught me the basics of how things can be gathered and crafted. When it was done, I found myself in the middle of the town, not assaulted by yellow question marks and people eager to tell me their lives’ stories. Indeed, Albion Online doesn’t hold your hand for too long before setting you free and letting you do whatever you want to do in its world. There are a good amount of choices, as well. If you feel like chopping wood, you can do that and see the appropriate skill rise in level, making you better at it. You can, of course, choose to be a farmer, craft backpacks or, if you’re more about conflict, go down the path of a warrior, archer, or mage, wielding one of the many available weapons.

Albion Online, PC, Review, Review-in-progress, Screenshot

At the center of it all you have the Destiny Board. If Path Of Exile’s skill tree had you going “What the heck do I do now!?” Albion Online’s Destiny Board might get a similar reaction out of you at first. With its many branches, the board (which acts as a progress tracker) will feel intimidating to new players. Despite having a search function, the impossibility to zoom out completely, or have skill areas highlighted better make tracking things tricky even once you start getting used to it. The Destiny board has a couple of overarching nodes of sorts like the adventurer node (which literally requires you to do any activity) and the Reaver node (which advances as you kill creatures). Aside from those, there are many others which focus on specific activities like using staves, then specializing in a particular type of staff. Then there’s stuff like smelting ore into bars, crafting or harvesting items and so on.

This ties in to Albion’s Online credo of “You are what you wear”. Instead of forcing you to wear cloth if you’re a staff user, the game allows you to wear whatever. You can, should you want to, be a staff user with a shield in their offhand, a plate helmet, leather chest and cloth shoes (or no cloth armor at all). Wearing these while battling foes will level up each of their appropriate node individually, making you better at using them. It’s really the weapon that decides”which role you fulfill. Why, however, would you want to wear a mixture of items? It mostly comes down to skills. Every item piece has a set of skills (passive bonuses in the case of off-hand weapons). You may find that the Mage’s hood offers something you could tie into a build with, say, a bow. This makes it so that you’ve a lot of initial flexibility with your build, even if the game does make use of the holy trinity of Tank-Healer-DPS. Gatherers who advance in level get access to gathering gear which helps them escape from hostile mobs while increasing their gathering yield.

Albion Online, PC, Review, Review-in-progress, Screenshot

This, naturally, means that specializing is required if you’re after efficiency. The way the Destiny Board works is that upon reaching a certain threshold in a skill past the first node, you can use Learning Points to expedite the learning process. The more points you have in a skill, the better you are with it. Branching out all over the place will only do two things: leave you without Learning Points much too quickly and not make you stand out in any way. There’s a certain risk attached to this as you’ll have to choose a build which may end up not being entirely to your liking after a while. I picked cursed staves and cloth armor (more out of the desire to play a mage rather than based on an informed build choice). This makes it so that I have access to skills that weaken foes or put dots on them. My third skill is a spell that deals massive amounts of damage after a few seconds, depending on how many DoT stacks the foe has on them. You can, hopefully, see there is a puzzle-like element to one’s build. Now, the more points I spend into the Warlock tree (while, of course using this sub-set of staves), the better I become at it. However, if this becomes stale at one point, re-rolling will require a large amount of time to get to a similar point of efficieny. Equipment is also spread across eight tiers which are straight-up better the higher you go, making up a good chunk of the game’s progression.

In letting you roam free and choosing your playstyle, Albion Online does a great thing. However, at the same time, it’s very sparse on information, at least in-game. Save from the help channel (which has provided invaluable help thanks to Mods and community members willing to lend a hand), there isn’t much to aid new players. Thus, reading the guide section on the website becomes required fairly quickly if you want to understand how things work, where to find resources and how to deal with the game’s many systems. The subscription system in Albion Online is a familiar one. Access is gained upon purchasing a starter pack, after which Premium status is gained through a monthly subscription of $9.99. While you can play without Premium, the bonuses it gives, which include discounts to travelling, refreshing Learning Points and Crafting Focus make it absolutely needed if staying competitive in the least is what you’re looking for. Without it, everything slows down to a crawl and, to be quite frank, makes it difficult to want to keep playing. Premium status is applied on a per character basis and is not account-wide. On the flipside, Premium status can be bought using in-game currency (more precisely by converting silver into gold) which, provided you’ve some entrepreneurial chops or do high-level dungeons, can come by in a decent amount.

Albion Online, PC, Review, Review-in-progress, Screenshot

Albion’s world has a lot of ground that must be covered. Instead of being a truly open world, however, what we’re dealing with are fairly large instanced areas connected by a network of roads. These areas must be passed through mounted, or on foot, as Albion Online doesn’t have much in the way of fast travel mechanics. The closest thing to them are set naval routes which connect certain points in the world, however, they don’t come for free. Each area usually has three types of resources spread across three tiers (required in order to build tier-appropriate items, of course). You’ll have to do a bit of mapping, keep track of where resources might be grouped and which routes are the quickest (as riding your mount through several areas is time consuming).  The title also makes use of a free loot system, where any player, provided they have the appropriate tools, can gather any resource. Now, since launch, the amount of resources has been increased but, as there is always a good amount of players on these maps, gathering can be quite slow at times. A plus here is that once in your inventory, your character uses the gathering tools automatically. It’s true that there is the option of turning lower tier materials into higher tiers ones (with diminishing returns), however, this does not reduce the frustration that eventually sets in after repeatedly going out into the world only to be faced with depleted resource node after depleted resource node. Furthermore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that gathering can, and will, end up feeling like a grind, especially in long sessions.

Albion Online’s five major cities are important elements of the game. Every city (including certain smaller outposts) has its own individual markets. The same can be said about banks, where players can deposit materials. This, alongside the location of your personal and guild islands will make it so that choosing one city as a base is mandatory. This happens mostly due to the fast-travel costs that increase the more stuff you carry (and the further you are from your destination). It’s also worth keeping in mind that each city is placed in a specific biome which does seem to determine which resources are more likely to be present there. Fort Sterling, for example, lies in a mountainous region where ore is more abundant (also due to the presence of Ore golems). Furthermore, the cities also have land plots. These can be purchased by players during a monthly auction. Afterwards, buildings can be built which end up providing refining services (and not only) to other players. The catch is that the owner gets silver every time his buildings are used (at a rate established by them). This does give the cities a more “living” feeling, simply due to the fact that you will be looking for players with reasonable usage fees and, potentially, writing their name down for future reference. I even wrote someone a “thank you” mail for being a good chap and having a cluster of buildings with really accessible usage fees. Furthermore, as everything in the game is player crafted, knowledge of the markets is bound to be an advantage, especially as dying in higher level PvP areas means losing all your equipment. The player islands act as a small space where personal buildings can be built (much like those you find in towns), which can then be used free of charge. Permissions can be given, on the island, should you want friends to drop by or help which can turn it into a cozy little place away from everything else.

Albion Online, PC, Screenshot, Review, Review-in-progress

As large as it is, Albion Online’s world never manages to feel like more than a means to an end, or simple, inter-connected patches of land that must be harvested. As far as I got into the game, there wasn’t much in the way of lore or story. Undead are bad because they attack you, same as brigands and wolves. The presentation is also not a strong point of the game. While it’s partly understandable, as cross-platform play with mobiles was an intention expressed by the developers early on, the graphics aren’t particularly appealing. For the most part they do their job of highlighting enemies and targets, but as there doesn’t seem to be any way to rotate the camera (to my knowledge, at least), certain angles feel awkward. Targeting foes, when you’ve lots of players around you, or are in a bigger group, can also be fiddly at times with them clipping into each other. The same applies for aiming certain skillshots.  The sound doesn’t shine in any way either, aside from a couple of moments a fairly dramatic cello makes itself heard. After a couple of hours of playtime, I found myself switching to my personal playlist. The PvE I’ve experienced so far was also largely underwhelming. The open world creature killing has something to it that has kept the grind from making its true nature felt too strongly. Maybe it’s the simple fact that I did feel like a medieval lumberjack, going about trying to make a living. The same cannot be said about Expeditions and the Dungeons available in the world. Expeditions are 5-man dungeons that can be queued into from every town. In truth, they’re nothing more than corridors with mobs strewn all over the place, doing nothing to hide this fact. They can be a source to get an extra bit of silver and crafting materials, but doing them more than once or twice a day becomes very tedious very quick. The dungeons found in the world allow for grouping up with other players. This makes for a more visually appealing experience, as spells fly around everywhere, but ultimately gets to the point where it turns into a blob of players going through, massacring mobs. As far as rewards go, things aren’t too varied.

Albion Online is a guild-centric game. It’s to be expected, as it has a territory system with guilds fighting over land at established times during the day. What I can say is that I’m getting to a point where playing solo no longer feels as viable. While I may be able to gather and, although this is just speculation, sustain myself on my own, there are benefits to being part of a guild. It’s easier to make groups, for starters. Guildmates can help with upgrading buildings on the island (apart from having access to the guild’s island, of course). And, to be frank, having a group where players’ builds synergize has a chance to make expeditions less tedious, while giving the combat (which doesn’t stray too far from classic RPG nuances) a different shine as you time procs and help each other take foes on more effectively.

Albion Online, PC, Review, Screenshot

Albion Online’s servers fell victim to DDoSing a while back and there are still remnants. While downtimes and repeating maintenances are no longer present, lag tends to creep up quite often. In my experience, ever since the DDoS, evading lag has been a gamble. This becomes very problematic considering Albion’s focus on PvP. Higher tier zones are subject to full loot rules (you lose all the items on you upon death) and when your death is caused by the server lagging and making you unable to evade AoE attacks, well, things aren’t very pleasant. World PvP involving large groups of players has been literally impossible to do, in my experience, as the game kept freezing up for good chunks of time. The territory control aspect of the game is also linked to either World PvP or smaller GvG battles. While I did not get to participate in any of the latter up until this point, guildies were none too happy about the present lag. The developers have stated that this is an expected result of the DDoS attacks and that they are working towards remedying it. However, until they do, you’ll just have to hope the lag gods are asleep when you log on.

Albion Online certainly requires a specific mindset to be enjoyed. That mindset is, indeed, very different from those required in theme park MMOs, mostly because Albion doesn’t hold your hand, nor does it give you a guaranteed tree to chop, a quick way to get back home or a story to follow. It’s also not the best looking (or sounding game), by any stretch. It could do a bit better in relaying information regarding how its systems work, it’s true, but at the same time, the longer you play, the more you begin to understand. For the most part, I found myself coming back eager to set out into the world to gather resources and advance my progress on the Destiny Board. It simply provides a different experience from most MMOs, sandbox at the forefront, and it does so in a fairly satisfying manner. Those intrigued by primarily playing the role of a crafter, gatherer or farmer, selling goods over many markets, planning out voyages for profit or participating in guild versus guild territory battles will find their home in Albion Online. With a good guild and solved lag issues, they might even end up loving it.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Albion Online

70/100

Platform(s): PC, Mobile
Publisher(s): Sandbox Interactive
Developer(s): Sandbox Interactive
Genres: Sandbox, MMO
Themes: Medieval
Release Date: 2017-07-17

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