Albion Online Guide: Adventuring Danger
Like many fantasy games, the world of Albion Online is littered with dungeons, ruins, encampments, and other dangerous locales. In fact, pretty much anywhere outside a city will have some variety of danger, which escalates as you travel out from the early areas of the game.
The rewards for facing these perils come in a few forms: resources, silver, and fame (experience). Much like the asteroid belts of EVE, most zones in Albion Online include a combination of resource nodes (asteroids), and aggressive NPCs (belt rats) which can be murdered for fun and profit.
On top of that, each slice of the map is colour-coded by danger, with green, yellow, red, and black zones offering escalating risks and rewards. More on that later, but it would not be inaccurate to say that they are roughly equivalent to the various security levels in EVE.
THE CLOTHES MAKETH THE HERO
Every hero needs equipment. Albion's gear works a bit like fitting a ship: your chest armour determines where you sit on the sliding scale of DPS and tank, and your weapon gives you your basic attack. Even within the lower-level gear. there is a fair amount of variety and players have the freedom to pick and choose as they see fit.
If you are like Arrendis, you can wear armour plate while equipping both a wizard's staff and a shield. While we found that the "dual-tanked blaster fit" wasn't terribly effective - shocker - equipment diverges pretty sharply after a point; for instance, melee weapons open up from plain old swords to spears, maces, axes, and more. There are certainly more viable combinations than the old cliches of sword and platemail, bows and leathers, staffs and robes, etc.
Without any equipment, an Albion character is effectively helpless. Your equipment determines everything about your character, providing a suite of basic stats, bonuses, and abilities. The range of passive abilities, termed ‘spells', make up the core of combat in Albion Online.
Spells are a combination of active and passive abilities tied to bits of equipment when they are created. If you think of a complete outfit as being like a MOBA character, who has a basic attack and some activatable activities, you won't be too far off the mark.
So you've escaped the padded confines of the tutorial zone. You have wrested a full set of equipment from the virtual earth, stocked up from your local market hub, or got a friend to deck you out in fine gear. You're armed to the teeth - as much as any newbie can be - and itching for a fight. Where do you go from there?
Everywhere in Albion Online, short of city zones and major highways, has something roaming about that wants you dead. These entities come in two flavours: animals, which encompasses everything from bunnies to dire bears, and NPCs/monsters.
PvE combat is core to the Albion economy. Besides combat being a source of fame, animals are the only way to get hides and monsters drop silver. Leather is used in a lot of goods and, after the earliest tiers of equipment, all steps of the crafting process require a bit of silver to complete.
NPCs won't sit idly by while you beat them up for their economic lifeblood. Like players, NPCs have spells that make them a far more challenging opponent than if they were to rely on their basic attack. NPCs have access to self-healing abilities (reps), magical shields (hardeners), and a variety of stronger attacks that inflict lasting effects.
Luckily, the more powerful spells can be countered during their chargeup time and just about every weapon comes with a spell that dishes out an interrupt. It is still practical to brute-force your way through combat encounters by mashing your high damage spell of choice, but the game rewards paying attention to what your opponent is doing and conserving some abilities. In this way, the PvE combat offers a decent look at how to fight other players, on top of being fundamental to the economy.
Short of the level cap, the challenge offered by NPCs followed a pretty reasonable formula: if you're fighting enemies at the same tier as your gear, you can usually expect to take on two to three of them at a time and narrowly win. Likewise, lower-tier enemies are far less of a challenge, but there is little reason to pick fights with weaker enemies. On the flipside, teamwork will let you face tougher enemies that are appropriately tough and gratifying to overcome.
Like any other resource node, the hides and silver drops from NPCs only refresh over time; grinding and overharvesting is not as productive as moving on to another area. To get the most out of PvE combat, you need to go a little bit off the beaten path, which brings us to...
That staple of the fantasy adventurer, Albion's dungeons are the greatest source of PvE risk and reward in the game. While they are linear affairs with a convenient exit out on the other side, a bit like Skyrim, there is at least enough visual variation that we didn't feel as though we were retreading the same ground.
The denizens of dungeons tend to have more silver on them, as a reward for players going out of their way to enter them. There is usually a boss monster or two as well, which have a far greater reward payout to go with their larger health bars. Unfortunately, their placement in dungeons is static, which contributes to a sense of grind if you keep hitting the same locations repeatedly.
There's also a special kind of dungeon called a ‘Hellgate', which a party can enter by killing a gatekeeper NPC. Besides the telegraphed hell theme, their gimmick is that you may encounter another group of up to five players, who are perfectly entitled to murder you, competing to claim the dungeon's rewards for themselves.
Albion Online has another similarity to EVE in that it has several colour-coded zones of increasing risk, reward, and PvP potential. These are roughly analogous to system security, though ganking people in green zones (highsec) isn't possible.
Yellow zones feature the first bit of non-consensual overworld PvP, but with a twist. People wishing to attack others first have to set themselves as aggressors, which takes time, while people without that flag get a slight buff when dealing with their attackers. If you die in a yellow zone, you get the option to keep your stuff, though you lose a bit of silver and your equipment wears out far faster.
There is now someone out there who got to loot a unique horse that comes with a $100 pre-order. I can only assume it was all the backed-up karma from swindling Arrendis out of his gold just minutes beforehand.
All that is a moot point in the red zones, though, which feature full loot rules by default. You can still try to run back and pick your gear up off your corpse (wreck), but it isn't guaranteed to stay there. You still have to set a PvP flag to attack first and large groups of players will show up on your minimap, but don't wear what you can't afford to lose.
Lastly, the far reaches of the game, the black zones, don't care about PvP flags. Go hog wild.
There are also guild-vs-guild battles, which allow 5v5 or 20v20 battles for control over a contested territory. These battles take place during a time window set by the defender. Yes, Albion Online has sov, and no, we haven't been able to take part in it ourselves. Still, this is a pretty promising feature and one that I'm looking forward to participate in when the game releases to the general public.
Overall, the core combat, equipment, and economic systems of Albion Online are solid. Many of our commenters dismissed the game for its simplistic visuals in our first articles, but I never found myself noticing them during my time playing; I was too engrossed in countering the boss monster's attacks and in getting that one last piece of ore before the horde of monsters came in.
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