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I was attracted to Albion Online for two reasons. The first was the full-loot mechanic where every decision leading to an action has a consequence

Albion is wonderful

I was attracted to Albion Online for two reasons. The first was the full-loot mechanic where every decision leading to an action has a consequence, and each player is rewarded for the correct choice and punished for the wrong one. I've played several theme-park MMOs where gear and money quickly become irrelevant as death penalties are minimal or temporary. I quickly got bored of those and tried sandbox MMOs like Shadowbane and EVE Online and appreciated how game knowledge and experience mattered, and also how anyone anywhere could lose anything at any time. I've seen people lose months, even years of time invested to one mistake, and become highly emotional on voice comms as the realization hits them. I've seen guilds rally behind those players with support so that they could stand back up and recover, and in the process become better at the game. That sense of community, of family was always strongest in a sandbox environment, where true consequences force you to become a better player, a better gamer, and a better person.

 

And so when I learned Albion Online was being advertised as following in the footsteps of UO and other horrifyingly brutal sandbox games, I did not hesitate to sign up. Almost a month into Beta 2, here are a few thoughts:

 

Gear

 

I've read through so many complaints about how most gear has no value. As soon as you unlock a new tier, you find someone already beat you to it and is selling those items on the marketplace at such low prices that you wonder why you bothered. You walk around for hours searching for untapped nodes of enchanted resources but return to town hours later with scraps, unable to craft anything of note. While this may be disheartening for some people, believe it or not this is good for the game.

 

Albion is wonderful

 

At any one time, the vast majority of available gear is completely irrelevant. Only the max available tier (currently Tier 6, soon Tier 7) with .3 and .4 enchantment level are of worth. The rest (.1 and .2) are so common and worthless in the greater scheme of things that full loot is merely an inconvenience to even the average player.

 

More accessible gear -> less valuable -> more risks taken -> more PvP -> more content -> more gear destroyed -> more opportunities for profit -> everyone wins -> why complain???

 

Balancing

 

Many PvP games balance right before release and focus on re-balancing throughout the game's lifespan. Others ignore the initial skill-set after release and add new skills which are then carefully integrated into the existing game. Both systems mean changes in the PvP meta over time and cause players to shift from one "class" or "play-style" to another depending on what is most efficient or fun. What many people don't realize is that true balance is impossible.

 

Open-world PvP will never see any form of balance. No game to my knowledge has ever achieved it. Yet judging from the number of complaints on the forums, you'd think Albion Online was dropping the ball on this. Sorry to break this to you but balance can not, does not, and will never work when you have x players in your party and the enemy brings x+2 or x+5 etc. Nor does is PvP balanced when encounters occur in varying map locations in the game. Any variable which changes during a PvP encounter directly affects the percentages governing balancing, making it an impossible.

 

Albion Online's best and perhaps only hope for any form of PvP balance is GvG. Same maps, same number of players, same connecting server, no reinforcements, success depends equally on preparation beforehand and performance during the fight. Does GvG favor rich guilds? Of course it does. Does GvG favor specific classes and shun others? It does indeed. Does GvG actually reward skillful plays? Smart tactics? Specific combinations of weapons and armor to hard counter your opponent's favorite setup? Damn right! Should people be whining that they are too poor to compete with Zerg guilds who funnel resources to their GvG teams or blame pay2win for their inability to prepare? ...I'll let you think about that yourself!

 

Another common topic is how some items are overpowered compared to the rest. It goes back and forth without much thought or understanding, and fingers end up being pointed at the developers for letting such travesties into the game. Why take up arms against the developers? You are only making your game experiences worse off. Let me explain:

 

Warbow OP? -> complain on forums -> warbow nerfed -> claymore OP? -> complain on forums -> claymore nerfed -> repeat for pike -> then greathammer -> then claws -> etc...

 

Who wins and who loses here? Most people would say players win because we paid money for this game and should control the PvP meta, and that developers lose because they have to cater to every whim of their player base in return for their monthly salaries. I would agree except campaigning for change actually screws the player base over.

 

Forum whine -> constantly evolving meta -> constant fame grinding to keep up with meta -> insane fame requirements at high tiers -> more fame grinding means less PvP -> most obvious solution is additional accounts + premium status to speed-grind specific builds -> more money for Sandbox Interactive -> developers giggle to themselves that players are so short-sighted...

 

Learning Points

 

As in EVE Online, players are encouraged to specialize their characters rather than become a jack-of-all-trades. This type system has in the past greatly rewarded those playing the long-game. Those players who do their homework, optimize their grind, who save each and every learning point for their skill plan. After Tier 5 the fame requirements jump significantly and T7 -> T8 fame makes most casuals want to curl up in a corner and cry. Those with the patience and discipline to resist wasting points truly get ahead in the game. They unlock Tiers 6-8 faster and can become unbelievably rich as a reward. Believe it or not, this is excellent game design.

 

A problem quickly arises when you feel yourself wanting to adapt to a recent game change or meta shift. You've invested a ton of learning points into the Claymore branch which can not be moved to the Pike. You committed yourself and through no fault of your own, you feel screwed over. This is the downside to constant balancing and has plagued many many games over the years. After 13 years in a similar system, EVE Online finally woke up and allowed players to completely redesign their characters in response to the current meta though not without a cost. Should SI add this feature to EVE Online? Perhaps, but personally I find I enjoy myself more in an unforgiving game. My interest in EVE Online has slowly eroded to the point where everything feels easier than it did before, and that's no way for a hardcore sandbox MMO to plan for the future.

 

Finally, if I could request one change from the developers, I would ask that nefarious players not be locked out of red-zone cities. Thanks for reading!

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