I bet you thought I'd run out of games to confess to. You might be thinking that it's a bit nuts to have played so many games yet stuck with only 2 out of the mix and yes, yes I do believe you're right. Between SWG and LOTRO I've got 6 years of dedicated play in MMO's trailing behind me like some sort of time sucking jet trail and while I'm not exactly proud of the number of games I've tried I also am aware that I did so because of the high bar that had been set by my first MMO. I've said it before but I am a very loyal player and once I invest in a game fully I stick with it until it's wrung dry of all that it has to offer me. My high points in gaming have been with SWG and LOTRO and I have subscriptions to both even though I don't really spend much time in either anymore. You never know when an old flame is going to suddenly flare up and thrill you again.
In the last few months as LOTRO has diminished (and faded into endless Moria instance runs to gear up people desparate for a healer) I've been looking for another main MMO. I've tried several and had a bit of fun and a bit of angst and without a doubt the most frustrating experience I have had has been with The Chronicles of Spellborn. Frustrating because the concept is fantastic, the gameplay mechanics are a blast, but the actual experience of playing was, well, tedious and very isolated.
Spellborn got my attention pretty fast with a fighting system based on a rotating skill set. You have a shifting cylinder with a number of slots with your specials on it and every time you use one the cylinder shifts. This means that progression through a set of skills when attacking is an intricate combination of setting up your cylinder correctly to start with as well as hitting the right skills in the right order within the framework of the cylinder rotation. Fun! Any fight turns into a very intricate dance between cylinder status, skill timers, skill progressions and random fighting odds. I remember thinking to myself that the folks at Acclaim had finally succeeded in making combat choices 3 dimensional as I pored over cylinder combinations.
On top of the really invigorating combat process there is the concept of the Spellborn world. Shard ships float through the now norm of a shattered reality and the artwork is truely unique and quite stunning. There are High Houses that act like huge guilds to guide and assist players as well as providing House specific skills and knowledge and crafting is a step above with repairing found/looted items tossed onto the top of basic recipe/combine loot systems. The classes are diverse and challenging with skills being presented by trainers with mystery and lore dripping from them so thickly that you need hip boots to wade into their buildings to upgrade your skills.
It's a beautiful game. For an idyllic month or so I thought I had found my new home and I happily played my heart out, helping to form a guild, getting into ridiculously intricate discussions on the forums and basically entrenching myself in a new and stunning reality. But I found myself very isolated in the game and the community was a bit iffy as far as the "spew random attacks on general chat vs. helpful, funny discussions" ratio went. While the combat system was great, there was no real excitement in relation to the quests at hand, which fell into gather/kill X number of things or escort or find X number of locations categories.
I think that the real reason for the apathetic ambiance in game is that there were not enough people playing to reach that critical mass of energy that an MMO needs to succeed. I'm sure that Acclaim did what they thought was best as far as pushing Spellborn into the public eye but for me I learned of it word of mouth and have yet to see any ad for it to this day. It's a shame because it's a beautiful game with a diverse and compelling structure.
I hear through the grapevine that the Chronicles of Spellborn has gone F2P and stopped all development. Not sure if it's true but if so then it's worth your time to check it out. I'd verify for you but I'm avoiding their site with a slight, uneasy twinge. I left Spellborn and have moved on after a brief fling, but like everyone else I always feel a bit guilty when I think of my ex's.