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«ALfheim Online» (アルヴヘイム・オンライン, Aruvuheimu onrain?, abbreviated as ALO) is a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG) in the Sword Art Online series that was released a year after the beginning of the «Sword Art Online» incident. It is compatible with any FullDive device. The game features nine races of fairies, whose goal is to reach the top of the giant World Tree, in order to meet the Fairy King Oberon. It was said that Oberon would turn the first starting race to reach the top of the World Tree into the legendary race of ALFs, with the ability to fly for unlimited time, but this later proved to be a lie. Once ALO was acquired by Ymir, unlimited flight, except in dungeons, was granted to all fairy races.
It is the setting for the Fairy Dance Arc of the series as well as the setting for the Mother's Rosario and Calibur side stories, as well as Calibur's alternate ending, Calibur SS. Instead of the level system that Sword Art Online emphasized, ALfheim Online pursues skill development and encourages killing other players. This kind of system attempts to eliminate the enormous gap between new and old players that exists in level-based games.
After Argus went bankrupt due to the Sword Art Online incident, its servers and data were acquired by RECT Progress Inc. and used to create the VRMMORPG ALfheim Online. ALO is loosely based on both fairy lore and Norse mythology, drawing elements from other legends for its setting as well.
The system makes the player choose one of nine races of fairies for their avatar, each with different abilities and affinities toward magic. Unlike Sword Art Online's system, the player has their game avatar created randomly and only have the freedom to choose their avatar name and select the race of the character. However, for an extra fee, players can reconstruct their characters to their liking. The sex of the player's avatar will match the player's sex in real life by default, and the player cannot change it by any means.
Skills are developed by the player's own abilities and by repeating them over and over, so a new player with good skills can match a veteran player almost evenly in battle.
- Main article: Flight System
The game is famous for being the first game to allow the player to fly for real. It uses a flight engine to enable the player to fly. The flight system also focuses on the player's own ability. It has a "controlled flight" mode, in which the players make use of a controller to fly, at the cost of being able to use only one hand to fight, but, with enough experience and ability, the player is able to learn «Voluntary Flight» and, with it, can use both hands while flying and gains more maneuverability and speed.
Virtual Reality Experience
As ALO is based on the core programming of SAO as a complete virtual reality MMORPG, the ALO system is capable of rendering the entire ALfheim environment with incredible realism, extremely similarly to the level of SAO. By stimulating nerves in the brain, it is possible to taste food, feel the wind and weather, move one's body, and live in ALO as if it were an alternate reality. However, there are several major differences that set the ALO environment apart from the real-world experience.
First, no pain is actually felt in any situation due to a feature called «Pain Absorption». As a result, gamers can undergo severe injuries and still only feel a tingling sensation. Though certain stimulation, such as magical explosions, can result in negative feedback, like headaches and dizziness that last for several hours. Second, there is no blood; in its place are orange virtual gashes that are seen in the place of damage. Third, magic is implemented to produce a variety of effects, with the incantations being based on strings of words.
While playing ALfheim Online, gamers still feel fatigue and hunger (even if their real bodies are not hungry), yet they can also eat in-game to dispel hunger in the real world, which has developed into a form of dieting for some people as a result.
Death or deletion in the game is visualized by fragmentation into thousands of polygon shards. All monsters and items go through such a process. However, players go through a different death scenario: they are engulfed in flames and then leave a Remain Light which lingers for a set amount of time, during which the player can still observe his or her surroundings and be revived with magic or special items.
ALfheim Online has a «Moral Code» feature similar to that of SAO, however they are not exactly the same and ALO's cannot be disabled.
According to Yui, the environmental data is much like SAO in its code, but the only primary differences are the overlay of changing appearances of creatures, character data, and altered programming of AI's as navis (navigation pixies).
The original ALfheim Online was set in the continent of Alfheim, which was divided into territories, the main ones consisting of racial territories and the minor or smaller ones being controlled by neutral players. At the center of the land was the neutral city of Alne, which was at the base of the World Tree.
Upon the release of New ALO after the scandal generated by Sugou Nobuyuki, a patch was later included to introduce New Aincrad, the floating castle, to ALfheim.
The original basis of ALO is that of a land of faeries, which seek an audience with the king, Oberon. ALO draws material for its setting from a wide range of mythologies, including the Arthurian Excalibur and Norse mythology. Instances of Norse mythology references include the naming of the nine worlds of Alfheim, such as Jötunheimr, the presence of Aesir deities from the Norse forum, such as Thor, Urðr, Verdandi, and Skuld, as well as quests based on Norse mythology, such as The Holy Sword of the Ice Palace.
Initiation and Character Creation
Upon first signing in to ALO, a player must first select a race, each of which has special attributes and skills unique to their race; however, the appearance of the selected character is randomized. Customization of the visual aspects of the character are allowed later on, but every change requires an additional fee. After the race is selected, they will be spawned in the race's hometown.
- Cait Sith (ケットシー?): Skilled beast tamers with improved eyesight. They are recognizable through their cat ears and tails.
- Gnome (ノーム?): Largest fairy race and users of the earth. They are styled in brown.
- Imp (インプ?): Masters of night, great night vision. They are styled in purple.
- Leprechaun (レプラコーン?): Blacksmith race, their wings have a mechanical appearance.
- Pooka (プーカ?): Users of music which is used to confuse, attack, or support.
- Salamander (サラマンダー?): Considered the strongest race in terms of attack, they have superior fire spells and are styled in red.
- Spriggan (スプリガン?): Masters of illusion and treasure seeking. They are styled in black.
- Sylph (シルフ?): Considered the fastest race and users of wind, they are denoted by the color green regularly.
- Undine (ウンディーネ?): Healers and masters of water. They are styled in blue.
- Navigation Pixie (ナビゲーション・ピクシー?): A non-playable race controlled by AI that players can obtain by paying additional fees, or winning a raffle.
- ALFs: The rumored legendary race with unlimited flight. It was believed that the first of the available starting races in ALfheim Online to reach the top of the World Tree and gain an audience with Fairy King Oberon would be elevated to ALFs and granted the joys of unlimited height and no time limit of flying. Many players were disappointed to find out that this race did not exist at all.
Basic Game Interface
In a player's display, without accessing any skills, one can see several interfaces.
The health bar is located on the upper left corner of one's field of vision. It displays the health of the player, name, numerical HP (e.g. 400/400) and MP (80/80). It also shows the health and names of all other members in the player's party in a smaller bar.
The main menu is based on Sword Art Online's original interface but with minor key differences, such as the status of the player no longer incorporating experience, but rather skill mastery instead. However, the main menu is called out using the left hand instead of how SAO's menu was opened with the right hand.
- Inventory/equipment: The icon for the category is a character icon. This is the default screen when opening the Menu interface. The left screen is an image of the body, with multiple points that allow the gamer to equip items or clothes. The right screen has three sub-menus:
- Equipment: Selecting this sub-menu will open another three sub-menus:
- Weapons: The icon for this category is a sword like the one used in Equipment.
- Equipped: The icon for this category is an armor.
- Accessory: The icon for this category is a necklace.
- Items: Selecting this sub-menu will open an additional scrolling screen on the left that lists all items. When an item is selected, it materializes in front of the player. The inventory turns red when a player has too many items.
- Equipment: Selecting this sub-menu will open another three sub-menus:
- Friends/Guild: The icon for the category is two character icons together. The right screen has three sub-menus:
- Party: Selecting this sub-menu will open three additional options. The first is "Create", the second is "Invite", and the third is "Dissolve".
- Friend: Selecting this sub-menu will reveal a list of a player's friends. Selecting a single friend will produce three additional options: "Message Box", "Position Check", and "Profile".
- Communications: The icon for this category is two chat box icons together. The icon flashes automatically whenever a player receives a message.
- Befriend: This option allows the player to send a friend request to another player. The other player is added to the Friend List if the request is accepted.
- Trade: This option opens a trade window with another player. Trading can be used just to show another player items, or complete a trade after both parties accept the offers put forth.
- Duel: This option allows the player to send a Duel request. The player being challenged has the privilege of selecting one of the available duel modes.
- Maps/Quest: The icon for the category is a balloon location icon. The right screen has three sub-menus:
- Field Map: Selecting this sub-menu will reveal a map showing the player's location on the field.
- Dungeon Map: Selecting this sub-menu will reveal a map of the dungeon that the player has explored.
- Quest: Selecting this sub-menu will open the player's quest window, displaying all the quests that the player has accepted and their description.
- Settings/Main-menu: The icon for the category is a gear. The right screen has three sub-menus:
- Help: Selecting "Help" will call a GM (Game Master) in the left screen.
- Logout: The logout button is available with a quick log-out in safe area and a 15-minute logout in a soulless state, in which the player can be attacked, if the player attempts to log out in the field.
Combat in ALO contains multiple elements and strategies. With the introduction of flight, it allows for duels to take place in aerial battles or on the ground. In the original incarnation of ALfheim Online combat was either between players or monsters, and, since there were no Sword Skills, combat consisted of either sword swings or magical attacks. It was noted that general combat involved just the trading of strikes and that high-speed battles, like the one observed between General Eugene and Kirito, were uncommon.
In the newer version of ALfheim Online, the introduction of features such as sword skills and the creation of the Original Sword Skill system allowed for combat to diversify, and duels could be set to be either flying or ground duels. Duels, like in Sword Art Online, are of three types: first strike, half-life, or total victory. Total victory being the kind where one player loses all his life to the other player or if one of the players resign.
When a player dies, they will become a Remain Light and lose some of their stat progress. The attacker will also receive some of the killed player's items and currency. If a player dies due to a self destruct magic, they will suffer a much greater death penalty than for normal deaths.
Monster Battle Mechanics
Monster battles are the same as those in Sword Art Online, with the difference of including magic and the absence of Sword Skills in the original incarnation.
- ALfheim Online is loosely based on Norse Mythology. For example, Yggdrasil (The World Tree), supported the entire cosmos in the actual myth. Another example is Jötunheimr, which was the icy home of the Frost Giants. "ALfheim" itself is a reference to "Álfheimr", the land of fairies/light elves, in Norse mythology. In the alternate ending of the Calibur story, Calibur SS, it is also speculated that, lore-wise, the castle of Aincrad, which was implemented into ALO at the end of the Fairy Dance arc, is designated as Midgard, the world of humans in Norse mythology, by the NPCs of the game, as all characters in Sword Art Online were humans.
- Aside from references to Norse mythology, ALfheim Online also references various other myths or stories. For example, the Cait Sith, Pookas, and Leprechauns originate from Celtic folklore.
- ALfheim Online, unlike Sword Art Online, does not have a marriage system, though former SAO players who have kept their SAO avatars and had married in SAO do retain a hidden "married" status, though this does not have an effect on gameplay generally.