THE CHRONICLES OF SPELLBORN – Initial thoughts
In light of the fact I am becoming increasingly tired with my current list of games (still enjoying LotRO but I need some PvP in my life). I decided to download the trial for The Chronicles of Spellborn. I never expected to do this as I am not a fan of the artwork in the screenshots and I read that the EU server would be separate from the UK one (however this is not the case) but for those who are interested here are my thoughts after 2 hours of game time.
September 13th - FINAL SUMMARY (high teens, several hours)
I felt like I have left this blog hanging a bit and I wanted to wrap it up, even if nobody reads this, at least its closure for me. I played Spellborn to high teens and my thoughts had not dramatically changed from my initial views. However I did stop my sub after approxmiately 2 months. Mostly due to real life and not having the time to learn another game. Spellborn may not be for everyone but it has brought in a lot of new concepts and ideas, this however may be its downfall. Have they stretched the boundaries too far from the typical model? Who knows but I feel with the lack of publicity and mass marketing (unfortunately not everyone has a budget the size of AoC or WAR) the game may end up becoming a very niche game or fall over like TR did. Either way it would be unfortunate as I saw some real potential in the game and it seems that indy titles either need mass viral marketing like Darkfall or get picked up by SoE for a buck after they completely crash. In all honesty I have been offline for 3 months so I should check if the game is still running or not but if its still downloadable and gives 10+ day trial period then its a no brainer, try the game and at the very least you had a chance to experience a new combat system and view some pretty freaked out worlds...that somehow grow on you.
April 26th - UPDATE
First of all thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on this game and making comments. I have decided to give another update on my experiences in the past 2 days and focus on community, combat and performance.
It's hard to comment on a community in any game as it's so subjective and on most occasions it comes down to pure luck who you bump into on your MMO travels. However if you see a constant level of maturity in the channels with people willing to discuss the game and help others, then I believe it's fair to make judgement. In TCOS I have been pleasantly surprised with the community as a whole. Taking into account I am playing on a PvP server I was expecting to see the usual slanging matches on global chat and the usual, 'STFU!', 'F.....g NOOB!' etc. Although amusing it reduces the RPG and the overall lore feel of the game and unfortunately this is something I have just come to accept in other titles such as AoC and EVE. Yesterday I was invited to a guild, which I accepted and on a purely functional level the interface is completely intuitive just like the chat channels. I still can't believe how many companies get this wrong when it really should be this easy, so well done to them for getting this right at least. Yesterday I took the time to interview a few high level guild members about the game and their overall thoughts are:
Major areas they liked
- Loving the game and the PvP especially at later stages is incredible
- The lore and storyline is excellent but does require a lot of reading
- Unique features are excellent (especially PeP and combat style) and there are several others
- Community is mature and they all thought it was due to the game having manual combat, different lore and not the usual WOW clone
- Combat is by far the best feature and they all raved on about this.
- Patches are small but punchy (their words). Fix a lot of issues
- Art style
Major areas they didn't like:
- Travel can be cumbersome and there is too much running around for missions. This has been offset by PeP buffs but apparently they are bringing in changes to help this
- Game needs more people to really make it a rich experience, although it's far from empty. However I have played on US and EU servers and the US server was very full when I was on.
- Some balancing still needed and a few exploits such as killing creatures from an untouchable location, e.g. rock ledge etc.
I still need to play this game a lot more to really gauge the culture but if I was asked to make a comparison then I would say it is like LotRO.
After two days I am now starting to understand how the combat in this game shines. They have managed to pull off a system that requires skill but is not cumbersome or takes a PhD to understand. It really is like Oblivion where it's all about positioning and timing. Before you start thinking this is a hack and slash game let me add that you also learn skills and can arrange them how you want. What this means is that you could face off against another player and you really have no clue what they are using or how they fight. I am holding myself back from saying this is one of the most exciting combat engines I have seen, but it's certainly looking that way. I have enjoyed AoC a fair bit but the combat does require a lot of button pushing and sometimes I feel like I am losing the experience of combat because I am concentrating too much on hitting 10 keys at once. TCOS feels like I still have the same amount of freedom during combat but the awkward key pushing has been removed. I still stand by my initial thoughts that this game feels like Tabula Rasa in movement and fluidity, yet it requires a lot of skill. Unfortunately I have only had 30 minutes in a group so its hard to judge group combat but I have to say I am almost tempted to sign up jus so I can experience this later on. Large PvP combat must be insane.
This is where I now have an issue. I accidentally downloaded the US client and played on that for the first day and even though the morning was very stable I started to have disconnects every two minutes in the afternoon. I decided to install the EU client since I am based in the EU and the issue has remained and even worsened. In fact I could only manage 2 minutes of game time in a sitting last night. Before this turns you off I have spoken at length with players in game and on a whole most have had very few discos. There were a few others that had the same problem as me but this morning I logged on for about 1-2 hours and had no issues. I believe it may have something to do with the security or my firewall but you can imagine my frustration when I am starting to enjoy the game and I crash mid combat.
I am seriously considering signing up to this game because there are features I have not found in any other MMO. The unique feature PeP is in my opinion one of the best thought out bonus / death penalty mechanics. Basically you have two XP levels. One is the standard level 1,2,3,4 and so on but for each kill you also gain PeP XP, which then gives buffs like speed etc. Once you die you lose a whole PeP level. It is slightly left field but its a fabulous idea and although harsh in some ways, it works. From talking with high level players in my guild about the lore and the different houses you can join it seems there is a lot of potential for end content as there is mention of house vs house PvP over land etc. Yes I miss some of the finer elements in other MMO's such as voice overs on missions etc. But I have found myself missing these less or not at all since the game brings something new and fresh to the MMO genre. I will still reserve judgment until I have played to level 20 or so, which does imply I will be subbing but this unfortunately will be determined based on the disco issue.
APRIL 24TH - INITIAL THOUGHTS
• Amazingly it was so simple to download. Took around 2 hours, created account in 1 minute and boom I was in the game. Just a side note to those major companies out there who make this process so difficult, “Why can’t you make it this easy!”
• No credit details either
I am not sure if it’s the trial but there are only 2 races you can pick from and male or female. So that gives you a whopping 4 choices. Thereafter it’s the usual pick armour, face, body type etc. It’s extremely limited compared to other games but funny enough not everyone looks alike. If you are the type of player that loves to tweak eyebrows and ears etc, you will be disappointed as its all set options.
There is a handy little tutorial that runs you through the movements and basic combat. You get to fight very early on and to give you a taster for the games lore; you defend a flying ship against a massive looking puff fish creature that spews little puff like creatures that fly around attacking you. Strange hey!? Well yes…but stick with me.
ENTERING YOUR FIRST ZONE
Once you defend against the horde of flying puff fish you enter a land where you can pick up missions and gather your bearings. It seems the land is floating with flying ships moving around in the distance. I am not sure if I am more concerned about this or my complete acceptance of it! Either way I venture off and I am pleasantly surprised to see a multitude of players running around and global chat being very active, a good start. Better still chat is intuitive and quite easy to use, I can never understand how companies get this part so wrong but luckily it’s not the case here.
Within 10 minutes I am killing bears and picking turnips off the ground. The missions are the standard, kill this, pick that up, find that person or get to that place. However they have thankfully avoided the trap of making each poor gamer kill 20 bears and then get asked to collect 20 claws from 20 new bears! *sigh* the most I was asked to do is kill 5 creatures. I could sense a couple of digs at other MMO’s when upon completion of one mission the NPC stated that he could still hear creatures but then proceeded to tell me, “Don’t worry! I am not going to ask you to go and kill more for me!” Very funny indeed… I gather from the game they are focused on combat lasting longer than normal so it makes sense to reduce the number of kills. Jumping on to combat now…
I don’t want to turn this into a tutorial so I won’t go into specifics here. However I was quite surprised by the combat. It felt a lot like Tabula Rasa in movement and feel as in it was fluid and very easy to move about. To kill 1 bear it took about 1-2 minutes and this is quite a long time considering the time it takes to kill a bear in say, LotRO or even AoC. Combat was more like Oblivion since you swing to hit and you can move, jump out of the way and circle. At this point I started to notice the graphics less and began to enjoy the game. I know MMO’s can not compete with single player games but at least in this MMO they give the player the ability to win a fight based on how they actually fight, crazy idea I know! The other area that seems unique is how the skills are used. You get to select which ones you want to use on a bar that rotates on the bottom and for each kill you get something called PEP that increases and starts to give buffs. You lose this once you die.
I am sure people will have different experiences with this but I was slightly shocked at how stable it was. I played on 1680x1050, all settings on high and AA x2 to start with. I figure the FPS was around 30-40 and in a 2 hour game period I had 2 crashes to login screen but I was right back in 1 minute later. Take into account I am in a noob area with every other player and the game has just launched, this is pretty impressive. There was a tiny delay after hitting a key or attacking but it was hardly noticeable. Above all it didn’t feel like a Beta.
From the limited time I had in the game I was impressed with people I came across. As mentioned global chat was very chatty and a good sign is the lack of complaints. Someone jumped in and asked how the game was and a few responses came back, “amazing!” “Awesome!” “Best MMO ever!” now that may be taking it a little far but what was interesting is that no one jumped in to disagree. I was pleasantly surprised to see guilds already advertising for players and see groups forming and even a few jokes being thrown around. Thankfully there was a lack of foul language for the sake of it or juveniles trying to get noticed by screaming pointless crap. So thumbs up for the community.
I am still not a fan of the graphics or design of the game but then again I am not a fan of the style in WAR or WOW either. My initial reaction was to uninstall the game after the first 5 minutes but now it really has grabbed my attention enough to see it through the 10 day trial and I would like to level up to around 10th level to see how the game unravels, especially in the PvP area. I can actually see some great PvP moments and enough options in combat style to make things very interesting. I don’t know how the game evolves past the noob area but from the initial signs I think we have a dark horse here that could become a strong contender in its own right. Will it pull in 1 million subs? No…but then again WAR and AoC have proven that even with mass marketing and hype the subs are barely past 250k. What the Chronicles of Spellborn will do is give another option for gamers like me who are getting a little tired of the usual big 2-3 MMO’s and it could become a solid title.
• Stability / Polish
• Learning curve
Not impressed with:
• Overall art style
• I will be finishing the 10 day trial and after my limited time in-game I am 60% certain of trying it out past one month. The trial is up so every MMO fan should check it out, even for curiosity.