After seeing a number of those World of Warcraft commercials featuring prominent stars such as Mr. T, William Shatner, Verne Troyer, and Jean Claude Van Damme, I was left wondering if Stephen Colbert played any MMO's himself. I know he mentioned he used to be some sort of Dungeons and Dragons nerd in his youth, so it wouldn't be surprising, but I did play a MMO today that I know Colbert never would.
It's called The Chronicles of Spellborn.
You may be thinking why, probably not, but maybe. Why wouldn't Stephen Colbert play this game? I mean, it looks somewhat decent, right? Truth is, after seeing all those WoW commercials, I'm thoroughly convinced that Hollywood's top talent just wouldn't give a “freemium” (sub-if-you-REALLY-want-to) MMO a chance. Nay, these big names are too...big for that. That wasn't the reason why Stephen Colbert wouldn't play TCOS though...
The Chronicles of Spellborn also has bears...lots of bears.
Confused? Perplexed? Somewhat interested in the rest of this article? Read on about my first few hours in Acclaims next attempt in the MMO market as I lace up my boots, put on some camo, and knife me some four footed omnivorous grizzlies in my own The Chronicles of the Bear Slayer.
Creating my Bear Slayer took a little longer than expected; TCOS surprised me by having a somewhat deep-ish character creator. I've been playing quite a few of these free2play MMO's over the last few weeks, and this is the first time I was presented with more than two options for hair, three options for faces, and eyes ranging from absurdly big to looking like my toon was long overdue for his next “fix”. Don't get too excited though, this isn't City of Heroes. TCOS may have more than what you're used to, but it's nothing worthy of an award. Not that it matters much, as in most loot driven games, as you're initial look will only last until you find that next shiny piece of armor or helm.
Bears, bears, bears, bears, WHEEEEE!!
Interestingly enough, TCOS isn't a loot driven game. At least by standard comparisons; you choose your armor and weapons right from the get go.
Weapons and armor have absolutely no impact on your stats at all. Instead, you're to slot Sigils in them, almost like the materia system from Final Fantasy 7, only without the angst driven, spiky haired hero to wield them. These Sigils can be moved to other pieces of equipment any time you'd like, so you won't find yourself debating over whether or not you should take your new, crappy looking, but much more uber shiny over your cooler, more badassy, but shittier current equipment. This feature will at least ensure that while everyone will be running around with the same epic tier Sigils by end game, they at least won't all look the same.
As far as my weapons load out, prior experiences told me that not only is a knife the best tool for killing bears, it's also the manliest. Presented with the choice of becoming a Warrior, Spellcaster, or Rogue, I decided that Rogue would best fit my bear stalking nature. My eagerness to hop right into the bush and start my unadulterated massacre of the local bear population was waylaid by the token tutorial phase. To prove that I was strong enough, and a bit crazy enough, to kill bears with only a knife, I was tasked with aerating straw dummies and crates. After dispatching these inanimate objects with extreme prejudice only a Rogue can exhibit, I was told to meet the captain. After waiving off my roguish wit and charm, the kind female captain reminded me that the ship we were traveling through time and space with was currently under attack by some weird looking creatures. I passed her my digits and deftly leaped to the deck.
Showing off my combat skills, and almost getting killed in the process, I made quick work of these assailants. By chance, or fate if that's your thing, we arrived at our destination shortly after. The captain smiled and told me that we were not meant to be, and I should hurry ashore to get on with the damn game.
Calystix the Bear Slayer had made his arrival, and he was hungry...for blood.
Turning down quest requests left and right, I finally met the person I had been looking for. This man had a problem, a bear problem, and was looking for someone to help out. I gave him a curt nod and, grasping my blade, leaped into the woods to track down these godless killing machines to make things just a little bit more right in this world.
The hibernating bear sleeps. I'll make him sleep...FOREVER!
Combat in TCOS, much like fighting bears in real life, is not a lazy mans game; you're without the option to simply click an enemy then grab a sandwich while your character happily swings away at whatever target you gave him. Combat in TCOS is more akin to First Person Shooters, or your somewhat average action game. You're given a reticule, to hit something your target must be in, or around, the reticule. Clever! An attempt to make all those hours of grinding a little bit more exciting! Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. My usual battles with bears usually started with me trotting up to a bear, alerting him to my presence (real men don't back stab their quarry, no matter how dangerous), closing the gap so we where more or less standing toe to paw, then exchanging blows how one normally would in most other MMO's.
In short, while the combat tries to be a bit different and intuitive, it ends up breaking down to the same old same old. Keep in mind I was playing the game for a relatively short amount of time, so end game bears might prove a bit more crafty and mobile. I think this system could really get the most out of itself if epic bosses actually moved around the combat area, instead of sauntering up like the big bags of hit points that they are and exchanging blows. I look forward to exploring this combat system a little bit more, and hope to find some hectic battles later on.
After getting my ass handed to me by a pack of wild bears a few times, I decided it was time to look over my Skill Deck and make some adjust-
Oh, right. Instead of the commonplace skill bar you find in a lot of MMORPG's today, you're given one WITH AN AXIS! This bar rotates every time you use a skill, and is somewhat confusing and unwieldy at first. All skills are grouped into tiers and have to go to a corresponding “face” on your Skill Deck. This basically means that while you may have 300 skills at your disposal, you're limited to bringing only so many into combat. Using a skill rotates the Deck to the next face, presenting you with your next choices. You're free to configure your Skill Deck any time you wish, out of combat.
Ohgod ohgod ohgod ohgod!
The unwieldy part comes from the fact that left clicking will execute whatever skill you have highlighted. You have to use the number keys or the mouse wheel to change which attack you'll execute with the left mouse button. This takes some getting used to, and I found myself staring down at my Skill Deck 90% of the time during a fight. This would probably “fix itself” later on as you got used to your Deck's setup; eventually memorizing what skills you had where.
A quick reconfiguring of my Skill Deck and a short sprint later, I was destroying bears with a renewed fervor. It didn't look like I was alone; before I died it seemed that the bear population was somewhat scarce, as it took me almost ten minutes to kill five of them. After my respawn, I couldn't walk more than three feet without tripping over some bloody and still warm bear carcass. How wasteful! I suppose the low population of bears is reasonable; they don't exactly roam around in packs, especially when they know I'm on the prowl and have a quota to meet. For a largely non-loot driven game, I did seem to find lots of loot boxes popping up after downing a bear asking me if I wanted to take a “bear vertebrae” off the corpse. This lead me to believe that not only had I just killed this thing, I had LIQUIFIED it with my knife. A few pocket fulls of paws, spines, and other assorted bear parts later, I was stinking up the forest so damn bad that I was suddenly ambushed by a pack of boars that gored me but good. They would not have my bear parts, however. I cackled after looking back into my loot back after respawning, again, finding that the boars were the ones to come up short
You will find me to be a sour meal, BEAR!
I decided ten bears were enough for the day, no need to cull the population too much and rob others of the satisfaction one can only get by slaughtering bears, and had a short talk with the man who gave me the task of killing these interlopers in the first place. He smiled, handed me some potions that would increase my maximum hit points for a while (would have come in useful while actually fighting the bears), and slipped some nasty looking coins into my pocket. Irked, I quickly looked around to see if anyone was looking and silently slit his throat and relived him of some money he was no doubt giving to other up and coming bear slayers, and quickly logged out.
Overall, The Chronicles of Spellborn is a decent looking game. It has some newfangled mechanics and controls which will appeal to some, but will probably drive off most. The targeting system, while interesting, didn't really do anything to make the game more exciting. I would say it would make PVP a bit more interesting, but I'm left to believe that most duals would quickly degenerate to your common knife duel, as seen in Counter-Strike:Source. The game is also psuedo-free: you're allowed to download the game at no charge and mess around in the world as you see fit until level seven. After you hit this lucky number, you won't gain anymore experience, and you'll have to pay for a subscription using Acclaims badly implemented “Coins Subscription”. Basically, you get a monthly subscription like any other pay to play, only every month you'll have to buy more coins instead of just the game automatically billing you. Bear slaying aside, a bear hunter has a lot of worries from day to day, and whether or not I have enough of these Acclaim Coins to keep playing should not be one of them. But hey, go ahead and give it whirl. You might like it...and you get to kill bears!
What dueling in The Chronicles of Spellborn probably looks like.