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The Veridan Seer

An ongoing indepth review series, focusing on a single game over an extended period.

Author: Vesavius

Rebirth of a blog and the love of co-op social PvE gaming

Posted by Vesavius Friday August 28 2009 at 7:32PM
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 Well, here I am again, looking for another post to nail my flag to, like so many others.

The truth is that after the implosion of The Chronicles of Spellborn I really felt that i had had enough of the MMORPG industry for a while. Not the games themselves, but the industry. Yes Acclaim, amongst others, I am talking to you

Despite myself, I am still in love with this genre. I love classic fantasy, I love traditional PvE MMORPGs, and I love co-op social play.

I will be honest though.. I got sick of the Devs, I got sick of the forums and their bickering, and I got sick of the MMORPG culture in general. I was sick that we had ended up where we were... I was sick that so much potentiol had been wasted.

I just got the feeling that I was talking to games developers that were always three years behind the reality of demand, or were just confused by the fallacy of those same false, but loudly vocal, squeeky wheels on gaming forums. They didnt just seem to get what actually makes a good MMORPG. They obviously were, and are, listening to the wrong people, because what they are doing just isnt working.

You see, Devs have allowed the loudest minority of the forum posters to decide what their games were going to be, without any thought to the sheeple effect or the lazy zeitgiest thinking of these posters.

These though, without doubt, were the worst people to entrust the future of our hobby to. What happened to Devs knowing what they wanted and designing accordingly? Designing by commitee, let alone public commitee, obviously dosent work. We can see the results of this all around us in the state of the genre.

Why don't Devs learn to be true themselves?

The irony is that the Devs took this route to chase the golden eggs that WoW had shown were possible to grab, but without realising that by following that path of EZ mode PvP solo play that they were not in fact not harvesting eggs, but in reality killing the goose that laid them. 'Throwing out the baby with the bath water' was never so true a saying.

Something is broken, and listening to the general MMO public obviously isnt ever gonna fix it. Most of the people I read won't ever know what is good for them until they are given it. Sure, they think they do, they think their ideas would make the perfect game, but they simply don't. I make no apologies as to how this sounds.

The bottom line is that I am of the personal opinion that the MMO market 'that exists today' is pretty crap. I honestly think that something is missing and what we are being offered isnt what a LOT of people want. We only play it because thats all there is. I have simply had enough of this.

So, I hear you ask, why am I back? Why am I bothered?

Well, to be honest it's really only to try and call for some sanity, truth, and a clear signal amongst the hyperbole, trolls, fans, and shills. To maybe plant the seeds of rational thought that looks at the origins of this hobby and sees what once made it great.

There was once a time that me and my friends, in '90/ '91, sat in the pub and marvelled at the potentiol future of online RPGs and where they could take us. Needless to say, we have fallen somewhat short. I wonder what happened to those days of wonder and optimism.

Did we really have to end up where we are?

Well, I say no, no we didnt. But what do I, as a born again poster, stand for then? Well...

  • Community.
  • Challenge, including consequence for failure (DP).
  • Play to Achieve gaming- no 'F2P' pay to achieve bollox. Ever.
  • Player Creativity and player created content.
  • Shared public instancing only... never any private zones.
  • Non Linear gameplay with dynamic worlds.
  • Story and Lore.
  • Game controlled markets.

               --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As a first (again) post I am going to try to deal with the prevailing fashionable thinking that all modern MMORPGs MUST have PvP.

Why is this? Lets look at it by taking a peek at the game I measure all others by; classic EverQuest.

Classic EQ was built on socialisers, achievers, explorers... Not PvPers, and many still hold the game dear in their hearts. A lot still play till this day because of the social networks that have been formed. 

Sure, PvP servers existed, I played on Vallon myself, but they wernt the body of the game. After 10 years, people still talk about classic EQ and the play experience it gave. People still want it, and it's not just about nostalgia... A lot of people want what it offered, because they arnt being offered it in modern MMORPGs, and they miss it.

There is a huge section of gamers that don't want to deal with the grief and general culture that comes with PvP games and I have no idea where this myth has come from that all MMORPG players want PvP... I can't even think of many MMORPGs that do PvP well even... I don't get the attraction personally. I would rather play a FPS for my PvP and a MMORPG for PvE, but thats just me.

The only reason, IMO, that a challenging co-op non-linear PvE MMORPG isnt huge is simply probably because noone is actually making them beacuse of this lazy fasion led thinking of PvP being required in all games.

The market for PvE exists, it just isnt being catered for.

So, if PvE is so good, and the potentiol market so big, why did it fall in the face of the PvP enabled WoW?

Well, obviously, the competition was, at the time between EQ2 and WoW, and that would prove an important battle for the hobby for sure. If EQ2 won, PvE was the future, and if WoW won then PvP now had a defining hold on the genre. We all know which way it went and how the market has seen MMORPGs since then... A MMORPG without PvP cannot succeed right? WoW had it, and that was massive, so it must be the only way, right? 

Well, yes, a lot of people like PvP and there should be PvP games made, no doubt. But the only way? No.

The other truth is that a lot don't want PvP. A lot of people play WoW and never PvP, my sister and her small family guild included. My point isnt that people don't like PvP, because obviously a lot do. My point is asking is PvP in MMORPGs the only road to travel? Is PvP essential for a modern game to be competitive?

Of course, I say no, no it's not... A lot of people obviously also like PvE and that market, because of the false reality that PvP is responsible for WoW's success, isnt being served.

WoW was obviously a massive success for numerous reasons, besides the technical side of things.

These include; having a hugely popular IP, a refined gameplay blueprint based on what existing games had already been using, a dedicated existing fanbase that dwarfed EQs (and 99% of other games at that time), the massive growth in internet connectivity around the same time, SOE rushing their game to market and screwing up basic game design, general growing public awarness of the MMO market, and excellent timing (by luck or design) to pick up a lot of burned out refugees from other games that had been around for a while. These, amongst other factors, all played a part.

Then of course the sheeple effect kicked in and the snowball started.

To give the existance of PvP all the credit isnt really sensible. If it was then other PvP games would have been as big way before.... If PvP was the main driver of WoW's success why didnt other existing PvP games, which could equally run on old machines, ever get the subs? Why did EQ, powered by PvE gameplay, outsell so many PvP games in it's heyday? There was obviously other factors for WoW's very obvious success.

Yes, EQ2 and WoW had a showdown, and EQ2 lost for many reasons. The sad thing is that loss has falsely flavoured market perceptions about PvP since, but, please, bear in mind that perceptions are rarely the true reality.

Time for a new social Play to Achieve PvE group focused MMORPG?

Yes please.

The Chronicles of Spellborn: L30 Review... Still loving the game?

Posted by Vesavius Sunday May 3 2009 at 11:35AM
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Welcome to the third review I am writing for this game. I hope if your new here you can take something away that isnt confused by the usual white noise of shills and trolls that accompany the launch of any new MMORPG and use this as a base to decide whether to try Spellborn or not.

 

I will say agian, I AM a fan, most regular posters here will know that. I don't hide it, nor am I ashamed of it. This isnt a stick haters can hit me with, it dosent hurt me.

That being said, in this case this dosent make me unobjective or uncritical. I don't feel threatened by other people not liking it, and I don't feel the need to convert those that have played it and don't 'get it'.

Again, this is being written for those that are 'should I, shouldnt I?'.

This review has taken a little longer then usual to get out then the others, not because of any dwindling of enjoyment or interest in this game, but rather the fact I chose to ditch my Wrathguard at L27 and start a Runemage, but here it is finally. I cannot say that repeating the content has been the same rush, but what this re-run through the same content twice has been good for though is giving me what I think is a balanced view of Spellborn (SB).

 

What Spellborn is;

 

A co-op soclal play themepark mmo that is suprisingly 'hardcore' in it's features for the modern genre, but one that can be played casually. Note that I personally do not agree with the common view that 'casual' has to mean 'easy'.

This is a niche game, designed for a smaller crowd taste-wise then, say, WoW and it's visuals and core systems won't be liked by everyone. Nothing unique ever is.

 

My views at Level 30 as a Runemage;

 

GRAPHICS

Ok, well, of course the graphics are the same quality that I have always personally found appealing. This dosent change.

I love the art style, I love the way the characters look, and I love the way everything is just on the right side of 'ugly weird' without stepping to far over (for me personally anyhow). The game continues to have a general other wordly beauty to it that to me dosent exist in more pedestrian looking games.

But has anything changed in the last 10 levels? Well, I would say yes, but maybe but not enough.

Though the art direction is still me favourite of any fantasy mmorpg I have played, the variety isnt what I had been expecting recently. I have now left Hearth behind (more or less) and travelled through the Green District (stunning visually), Brightvale (a bland continuation of AV really), and Gravesbow (a pretty forgettable moor like zone) and found the game visually falling into a bit of a rut. There hasnt been enough WOW (not WoW...) moments delivered from the environments imo.

Both the instances of Aile and Exarchyon deserve special mentions for art style I think. Both are simply beautiful and are, with the GD, the only things that are stopping me marking the art down at this down a little. They are good enough to rescue the mediocre Brightvale and Gravesbow for me.

 

8/10

 

QUESTS

 

Well, the quests remain the same pretty much.

Spellborn still includes a variety of story driven FedX, Kill X, and Runaround quests, with a smattering of instances thrown in to break it up. Nothing unusual for a quest driven themepark MMO, though the humour and quality of the lore definitly manages to set it above other games I have played.

Has SB delivered a brand new quest driven exprience? No.

Do I need it to personally? No.

I am not going to defend SiL's use of standard quest formats in this game, because personally I do not think there is anything wrong with it. It is what it is. For me, the quests remain well written and, usually, enetertaining, and that is good enough for me right now.

Low points personally have been Gravesbow and Brightvale, which really do not seem to want to deliver a unique feeling of progression through the world, but rather settle for more of the same we say in Aldenvault. This is a shame.

The two vault quests, though potentiolly brilliant experiences, have been marred for me by buggs. there really just isnt any excuse for this in my mind. These are core event quests and should be a flawless experience for the player. The next patach promises to fix these though, so lets see.

High points for me have been Exarchyon (even with it's bugged ending) and the Citadel of Aile, both of which I got a massive kick out of initially and have a great time revisiting since.

The Green District's quests were fun as long as they lasted, but the area felt under utilised considering the quality of the zone in general.

Only BV and GB as zones keep me from hiking the score here up another point, they drag Exarchyon and the other zones back imo.

To me to see a rise in the score that I have given I would need to see more OPTIONAL (non essential) group based content the quality of an (unbuggy) Exarch. SB still hasnt imo got enough guild/ group content to bring us together and play. I am not asking for raids (small group content always please), but grouping is an essential building block in a healthy mmorpg community and should be supported. Like I say, do not make it obligatory, but please do defiinitly give us more. As a co-op social play gamer I want to group with my guild and friends and i want to share my ingame experience.

More group content please.

 

6/10

 

SCORE

 

I havent been partcularly awed or newely inspired by the environmentals or music over the last few levels, apart from Exarch, but it remians a high quality.

As ever, the music is beautiful. atmospheric, understated, but epic.

 

8/10

 

CHARACTER CREATION/ DEVELOPMENT

 

A lot of this is carried over from Pt. 2 of theis review, so please forgive me;

The character class/ skill/ skilldeck progression system is still my favourite of any fantasy mmorpg I have played. Easy to learn, harder to master, SB has found a holy grail that other games have been searching for. The problem with this, of course, is that to achieve it it has to invent something new and that has thrown a lot of people off.

I feel like my character is developing ability wise at an ideal rate, not too fast and not too slow, and the sigil drops I am getting to enhance that are what I would expect.

Gear is another thing though, and it's something I am starting to get a little jaded with. What there is is great, but there just isnt enough of it. While I was very much impressed with the intitial character customisation system, SiL need to get some depth into the itemisation.

The shops need to be stocked. The quests need to be giving non buyable rewards more then they are. Nameds need to be given better loot tables. At L10+ people want to be seeing more and more options to change how they look. I see already gear being worn by NPCs that I seemingly can't get, and facial hair, tats, and hairstyles I am not being offered... Why not?

I am also getting tired of seeing everyone now wearing the same items, variations on a theme, in a game that touts customisation as a feature. The basic character customisation system is brilliant, I love it and think it's the best one I have ever personally seen in a mmorpg, but giving me the same items as quest rewards that I can buy in the shops is... confusing.

Sure, keep a lot of armour/ weapons/ clothes as quest only rewards, that how it should be but please let us buy entire collections of visible gear that we can swop out and mix and match. Give us a 'Wardrobe' tab on our BP that attuned visible gear can be stored seperatly.


For the future, I would also like to see a tattooist and barbar NPC ingame to allow us to purchase new brightly coloured tats, and change hair/ facial hair. I won't ask for cloaks and robes, because I know they are already on the Dev radar.


7/10


COMMUNITY

The P2P community is still overall excellent. the more people I meet the more I am impressed. While the server has it's vocal whingers (you know who your are!), the vast bulk of people are what I would call 'cynical optimists'.

The less you have to visit Hawksmouth, the more of a culture shock it becomes when you return though lol.

What this game does need though, imo, are Shard wide chat channels. Drop the zone wide one please and let us talk to each other wherever we are on a shard? (be sure, if you do this, though to plz restrict the freemium players to their own trial channel that we can turn off if we want ;) ).

The game also needs more robust community management tools, from deeper guild options and monitors to a LFG mechanic with appropiate filters. Integrated chat would also be excellent. It is early days yet though, so i am willing to wait for this kind of thing.


9/10

 

BUGS, STABILITY AND PERFORMANCE

 

These are a real, but fixable, set of problems right now. A lot of the optional and required quests are bugged at some point, though there are often workarounds, and the Vault quests as said before are doable but not the pleasure they should be. The last big patch didnt nail nearly as much as I had hoped, despite the delay, and we still have a raft of very obvious problems that affect overall play quality.

A few of the quests are buggy and a few seem to be broken, and people are crashing a lot. Nothing gamebreaking, mostly, but it all needs fixing asap. A LOT of these shouldnt still be in the game.

I am hoping that they address the majority of issues in the patch coming very soon. It looks big enough to.

I have faith in SiL to be aware and working to make things better, but for now it's all somewhat frustrating.

 

5/10

 

LORE

 

Original, engaging, wel written.

It is obvious that SiL are all about the story and every quest NPC takes it into consideration.

I would happily read books and play a PnP RPG set in thsi world, and thats something I have never said about an original IP MMORPG before.

 

10/10

 

GAMEPLAY

 

If anything, the lore of this game is getting more and compelling and immersive as I find out about it through quests.

I purposefully don't read spoilers online, and the world being unveiled to me as I play is excellent.

I fully recomend others to play this way as well. SB is very much about the journey and not the destination. Unlike other games, which seem to treat levels 1-49 as just time fillers before the real game starts at L50 (*cough* AoC *cough*), Spellborn is fun all the way through, and in a big way it's the way the lore has been handled that has achieved this.

 

8/10

 

CRAFTING

 

Crafting is a system of collecting recipies and ingredients and combining at a forge to create. There arnt any craft skills, anyone can have anything made by the smith if they have the components.

I personally love it. No grinding x1000 arrows to level, no byzantine rules set.

I said before, in review 1, that this wasnt a game for full time crafters. I am actually starting to thing I was wrong for saying that... it is becoming clear to me that to be an effective crafter you need to invest a massive amount of time. Sure, you are approaching that crafing in a different way then, say, EQ2 but it is imo nonetheless as demanding.

In Spellborn crafting requires you to have a broken item, normally a drop. If you don't get it randomly, then you have to go out and kill the correct types of mobs for it. This takes time, research, and usually personal/ community knowledge.

Then you have to have it converted at a forge into a recipe at a pre-set cost. This will detail what materials you need to remake the item.

Then, and THIS is the fun bit... You have to hope you have the mats required in your backpack. If you havent, expect a long trip out to get them from harvest nodes or mobs.

Is crafting in SB grinding over a hot forge for 5 days? No. Is it straightforward? Yes. Is it easy? No.

The time and effort required to remake some of the broken drops is astonishing, and noone can compleyetly understand that value of the mob loot they get given until they understand crafting. People who complain that the loot in this game is rubbish just havent understood it.

These days I get as excited over 'heavy iron plate' dropping as I ever did a magic sword in EQ.... tragic but true heh. And thats ONE mat required for an item... Crafting is SB is a very under estimated facet of the game that looks simplisitic to the point of idiocy, to the outsider or newcomer but definitily really isnt.

Saying all this though, they DO need to give us banks and shared guild banks. The new Market Place will also be a massive help and allow us to all start trading mats to get what we need. I normally hate AHs tbh, but SB is definitly, with it's 100s of resources and waste items, a game that requires it.

The game also needs item linking.

 

8/10

 

DIFFICULTY

 

Spellborn is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It really isnt what it pretends to be on first glance. It can be brutal, it can make you rage, but it also can take you to a place of excitement and woot yeahs that I havent felt for years in a game. Thats it's beauty. It realises that to have highs, you have to have lows. In a world where we are all 'special', noone is.

PeP is an ingenious sysyem for making you care about success and failiure (a death penalty that does that without impeeding progrees? Brilliant) and SB plays on that all the while, bringing you to the edge of your seat without you even realising it.

It really is the most nerve wracking mmorpg I have played since classic EQ, and for that I love it.

 

10/10

 

OVERALL

 

SB continues to really please me.

It is still proving to be an engaging and involving game that I am still enthusiastic over playing. I want to see L50 not becaue of some silly 'endgame' but rather becuase I want to play more of the game itself.

I must say though, this is a themepark mmorpg and in a themepark mmorpg content is king. Right now, I am loving SB and what it offers, but easily within 3 months I, and many many others, will be L50. SiL has to think about that.

With things standing as they are now I never want to level another alt through HM, AV etc. Twice is enough because there is only 1 path of content to play and I found even the second time to be a lot less. I have now done that story. This in effect means that once I reach L50 and have seen everything in the game, I will be done with no reason to carry on playing.

I am not the kind of guy that can do the arena for a year with no word in the hope they get more content in.

What am i asking for then?

One of my suggestions to get more value out of the existing zones would be to drop in at least one whole new quest chain (with new stories, nameds, items) designed to take me from L1 (allowing me to skip the tutorial) to L50. This will allow me to start levelling an alt and carry on enjoying the game in that way while I wait for shard conquest and more L50 PvE with my main. Do this every 3 motnhs and we are golden.

This would even go a LONG way to solving the simplisitic and maybe too straight forward quest problem in Hawksmouth, making the game's 'shop window' much more attractive to the trial people. Right now, it's a mediocre display and could be a LOT better.

I want to carry on playing, but SiL have to give me the reason to. This isnt a sandbox game, and it will need constant updating and implementing of new rides. If these can't be done now, which I accept given the nature of SiL as an indie Dev, then I want clear timetables, projections, and communications of when they will be. They know their game and resources enough now to make this possible.

Sure, SB has it's problems (mob balancing, bugs, and broken quests and character abilities all need looking at sooner rather then later), but I find myself finding this game worthy enough to ride out the rough early days and looking towards finer weather.

This is the ONLY game that I would pay a sub for even if I was taking a break (while they stick new content in), feeling that it is important to support indie devs who are trying to bring new approaches to a stale genre. In my mind, if we arnt part of the solution, we are part of the problem. If mmorpgs are going to get better, it's only our dollar that will make it happen and if we havent got that maybe just not hating for the sake of hating will be enough. If we keep throwing money at deriviative uninspired games with no community or longevity, then thats what we will get.

If anyone supports the evolution of the hobby, IMO, they should be supporting this game in spirit at least. Even if you hate the look/ mechanic of the game, fine, but everyone should support the sales model at least. It is the most open, honest, and generous one I have ever seen. SB dosent threaten anyone's pet game and dosent need to be trolled... It is a niche game for a smaller audience, and thats fine. Noone who plays it thinks it will be a WoW killer or anything. We know it isnt

This isnt about giving SiL 'leeway' but rather understanding that if they succeed, we all succeed, even if you never play the game itself.

 

8/10

 

The Chronicles of Spellborn: What I need to be seeing to be re-subbing 3 months from now

Posted by Vesavius Thursday April 16 2009 at 10:24AM
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Ok, most here will know that I am a self confessed fanboy for this game. I have no issues with that. It's not a stick you can hurt me with, so it's not even worth trying. Saying that, I feel I can be objective and critical.

The fact is I am on my 2nd character right now (only L21) after deciding my L26 WG wasnt for me, and this means that I have spent a fair amount of time in game and certain things have become clear to me.

To Paraphrase; Something isnt right in the state of the Enclave.

I have paid for 3 months of game time right now, and though I hugely enjoy the core game and think the community is great, there are issues I need to see fixed and need to hear some feedback on if I am going to re-sub after that point. This isnt a QQ or a whinge or even a threat, it's just a fact.

Things that I personally need to see or hear within 3 months to gain my re-sub;

House Faction based play

I need to have official clear communication that House factions will continue to be the under pinning motivation behind the game play of SB.

Houses, to me, are core to this game and the continuing muddying of the water to allow mongrol multi-house guilds (further accentuated by the recent comments on the last webinar that in Shard PvP they would like to have multi-house guilds 'possible' in Shard PvP) will destroy another essential element as to what promises to make SB special.

If multi-house guilds are going to be supported, even though there is going to be a House change quest put in apparently that would allow each guild become single House at a later date, then why are we even bothering with House icons on our characters? Or a House channel? or even being tied to one House?

If what High House we choose dosent have any impact on anything, then why am I even locked out of the extra content that the other House quests give?

On one hand, we are being told that our House is our 'super guild' that we should be investing in, and one the other we are being told that House alignment won't matter in the future as the Devs would like to see the same House fighting against it's self. Fighting just for their guild rather then the High House itself.

Which one is it?

High Houses are feeling increasingly marginalised and pointless. I saw the same thing happen in the 'competitive PvE' in EQ2 between Qeynos and Freeport, and I saw how that betrayel of the original game concept in a effort to appease the 'masses' was the first step it took towards becoming another failed vanilla WoW wannabe. If SiL buckle here in the same way i don't want to stay and watch this game fall into a bland pointless chasm.

This is becoming about 'Guild Wars', not the 'House Wars' as I saw when I originally subbed. The vision of what a House means, and will continue to mean with regards to PvP etc in the future, on the part of the Devs is unclear and messy and needs a open and clear statement of direction and vision from SiL.

Content

This is a themepark mmorpg. In a themepark mmorpg, content is king.

Right now, I am loving SB and what it offers, but easily within 3 months I, and many many others, will be L50.

With things standing as they are now I never want to level another alt through HM, AV etc. Twice is enough because there is only 1 path of content to play and I found even the second time to be crushingly dull. I have now done that story. This in effect means that once I reach L50 and have seen everything in the game, I will be done with no reason to carry on playing.

I am not the kind of guy that can do the arena for a year with no word in the hope they get more content in.

What am i asking for then?

One of my suggestions to get more value out of the existing zones would be to drop in at least one whole new quest chain (with new stories, nameds, items) designed to take me from L1 (allowing me to skip the tutorial) to L50. This will allow me to start levelling an alt and carry on enjoying the game in that way while I wait for shard conquest and more L50 PvE with my main. Do this every 3 motnhs and we are golden.

This would even go a LONG way to solving the bland and repetitive quest problem in Hawksmouth, making the game's 'shop window' much more attractive to the trial people. Right now, it's a pretty poor display and I am getting tired of explaining to people 'carry on playing! they get better!'.

I want to carry on playing, but SiL have to give me the reason to. This isnt a sandbox game, and it will need constant updating and implementing of new rides. If these can't be done now, which I accept given the nature of SiL as an indie Dev, then I want clear timetables, projections, and communications of when they will be. They know their game and resources enough now to make this possible.

'We are working on it' will not be enough to make me re-sub.

Bugs

This is a short one.

Fix them.

Vault 2, Becoming Clear, Exarch, whatever.

If we are still in the same place by the time my 3 months are up, then I am not going to re-sub.

Itemisation

Ok, like I say, loving the game, but man SiL need to get some depth into the itemisation.

The shops need to be stocked. The quests need to be giving non buyable rewards more then they are. Nameds need to be given better loot tables.

This game needs a money sink, and vanity items are that, so use them. At L10+ people want to be seeing more and more options to change how they look. I see already gear being worn by NPCs that I seemingly can't get, and facial hair, tats, and hairstyles I am not being offered... Why not?

I am also getting tired of seeing everyone wearing the same items, variations on a theme, in a game that touts customisation as a feature. The basic character customisation system is brilliant, I love it and think it's the best one I have ever personally seen in a mmorpg, but giving me the same items as Q rewards that I can buy in the shops is... confusing.

I was hoping that when the Auction House opened I would see a flood of new personally undiscovered visible gear flood into my world. I didn't.

Let us buy entire collections of visible gear that we can swop out and mix and match. Give us a 'Wardrobe' tab on our BP that attuned visible gear can be stored seperatly.

I understand that all this takes time to get in, but I need to hear firm commitments and realistic schedules for it all.

I love the core game. I want to re-sub. I want to give you my money. Give me reason to.
 

The Chronicles of Spellborn: Part 3 delayed

Posted by Vesavius Wednesday April 15 2009 at 8:56AM
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Following my falling out of love with my Wrathguard at around 26 (Dont hate me! it's a Personal thang!) I have started a new character (Rune Mage) who is getting all my attention right now.

He is only level 20 right now though and I don't want to write a partial review, so I will hold off until I get there with Gorgon so I can give a complete picture.

I will probably throw out a few random thoughts and hopes over the next few days to bridge the gap :)

The Chronicles of Spellborn: A not-so-lowbies review (L10-20)

Posted by Vesavius Wednesday April 15 2009 at 8:48AM
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This game remains the single best mmorpg experience that I have had since classic Everquest (99-02).

Still playing and still having fun.  Heres part 2;

GRAPHICS

Well, the art direction continues to impress me.

Since L10 I have moved into other zones, namely Hoggsridge, Quarterstone, and Ringfell, (plus various quest instances etc) and they have all maintained (at least) the high quality of environment and NPC design that impressed me from the start.

As I get higher there just seems more and more that just makes me stop and look.

From the Deadspell, to the Oracle, to the jungles of Hearth, this game is full of inspired visual hooks. It's character and 'soul' just capture you and pull you in.

If they gfx are not to someone's taste I get that, and thats fine, but how anyone can say they are 'bad' is beyond me. The new landmarks, shardships, and zones that I have now seen I think deserve an extra point added to this sections score.

9/10

QUESTS

In my last review, I said;

"To me, so far, this is the weakest part of SB."

And this is still true, to a point. It must be said though at this point that SB's weakest element is stronger, or at least equal, to most other mmorpgs out there right now imo.

Have the quests changed as I have levelled? Absolutely.

The House quest lines are excellent. I have followed House Rune and so far have had to deal with missions ranging from fresher pranks on House Maul, to lost legendary shardships, to the countering of the malicious plans of a renegade member, to teleporting midget critters. They have all been very well written, with a backstory that ranges from 'ok' to 'excellent'. They have really helped me form a bond with my faction, and i would be lying to say that I wasnt now more loyal to Rune then when I started.

They arnt all mindblowing- the runaround Qs from Quarterstone can get a little labourious as they force you to visit the same NPC 5 times for updates for instance, but with ambushing mobs, the odd novely fun side trek, and often humourous dialogue they are definitely bearable, and often very enjoyable. they are also over pretty quickly ;)

Overall, the quests are getting better the deeper into the game I get. As I have levelled they have gotten more involving and more lore based, making me want to complete them to find out what happens next rather then how much Fame they give.

On a slight down side, I think this game needs more group based content through these levels.

While Hearth pretty much demands a group, which is a great thing, a L12-16ish group dungeon or similar would be great to help build teamwork and bond guilds. It would offer the group player an alternative to the solo runarounds of QS. So far, I feel it would be great if there was more 'epic' feeling guild content around this level. I'm not asking for raids, God forbid, but I do want to spend time with my guildies.

7/10

SCORE

The music is still beautiful. atmospheric, understated, but epic. Ambient scoring at it's best.

Hearth is particulary impressive. Love the layered synths and haunting vocal harmoics. Excellent.

9/10

CHARACTER CREATION/ DEVELOPMENT

While I was very much impressed with the intitial character customisation options, I would have like to see more clothing and weapon choices to have opened up to me by now. The NPC vendors dont sell a massive range though, and the gear drops/ rewards arnt common enough to allow much choice in your appearence.

I have a feeling that this is just down to there being no player trading going on right now, due to us on Acclaim's servers STILL having no patch and therefore no auction House, and therefor no economy.

With this in mind, I will hold the score at the same until I see the effects of the new AH on available clothing/ armour/ weapons/ shields as players start to trade recipies/ mats.

For the future, I would also like to see a tattooist and barbar NPC ingame to allow us to purchase new brightly coloured tats, and change hair/ facial hair. I won't ask for cloaks and robes, because I know they are already on the Dev radar.

8/10


COMMUNITY

The P2P community is still overall excellent. the more people I meet the more I am impressed. While the server has it's vocal whingers (you know who your are!), the vast bulk of people are what I would call 'cynical optimists'.

The less you have to visit Hawksmouth, the more of a culture shock it becomes when you return though lol.

What this game does need though, imo, are Shard wide chat channels. Drop the zone wide one please and let us talk to each other wherever we are on a shard? (be sure, if you do this, though to plz restrict the freemium players to their own trial channel that we can turn off if we want ;) ).

The game also needs more robust community management tools, from deeper guild options and monitors to a LFG mechanic with appropiate filters. Integrated chat would also be excellent. It is early days yet though, so i am willing to wait for this kind of thing.

8/10

BUGS, STABILITY AND PERFORMANCE

We still havent had our patch or the 2 hotfixes, so performance is still as it was, which is really dissapointing tbh.

I am getting very fed up with the crashes, and I want a new loot window now.

They are called HOTFIXES for a frikin reason Acclaim. They are needed, and now. Pull your thumb out and get a move on.

5/10

LORE

If anything, the lore of this game is getting more and compelling and immersive as I find out about it through quests.

I purposefully don't read spoilers online, and the world being unveiled to me as I play is excellent.

I fully recomend others to play this way as well. SB is very much about the journey and not the destination. Unlike other games, which seem to treat levels 1-49 as just time fillers before the real game starts at L50 (*cough* AoC *cough*), Spellborn is fun all the way through, and it's the way the lore has been handled that achieves this.

10/10

GAMEPLAY

The gameplay remains outstanding, with new skills being gained at a decent rate and the learning curve kept steady.

Grouping feels natural in this game, though definitely sometimes on the chaotic out of control side. SB is thinking man's action game, but it isnt, past setting up your skill bar, an overly tactical one. At least not in the same sense EQ2 or whatever is.

Overall, I am having more fun with my character the higher he goes and am continously tweaking and refining my playstyle with him. Now and again I will hear a piece of advice that will revolutionise what I was doing, and thats great.

At L20 it seems SB still has things to teach me.

9/10

CRAFTING

This remains the same as before- accessable, meaningful, non-grind.

I marked it high not because it was an amazingly in depth simulation of basket weaving that requires hours of levelling and reams of knowledge to make the best player gear in the game, but precisly because it wasnt.

I agree the SB's has more of a 'collection' system then Vanguards full on crafting, for example.

I have played games like EQ2, and I have been a crafter in those games, and I have enjoyed them for it. Right now though I am in very a dynamic adventure state of mind and I want a system that rewards my play time with a fast, lore based, meaningful mechanic that allows me to make useful gear that my character can use without me having to stare at a forge for weeks on end.

You throw in sigils on top of that (which basically allow you to make your own magic items tailored to your needs, looking like you choose), and I feel a high mark for versitilty and personal satisfaction is warranted.

I have recently stopped playing Darkfall, and I have to say any game that forces me to macro for hours and hours and hours to harvest any meaningful amount of mats to allow me to level my craft skill to the 'good stuff' in it turns me off at this time. I have enough of that.


8/10

DIFFICULTY

Well, the difficulty level in QS was about the same as Hawksmouth had been, with the odd tricky objective in and no PeP being given.

And then we hit Hearth.

One word; brutal.

Don't get emotionally attached to all the PeP you have squirreled away :)

SB remains pleasingly challenging.

10/10

OVERALL

SB continues to please me.

It is proving to be an engaging and involving game that I am still enthusiastic over playing. It has it's problems (mob balancing, bugs, and broken quests and character abilities all need looking at sooner rather then later), but I find myself finding this game worthy enough to ride out the rough early days and looking towards finer weather.

The game though, which is what this review is about after all, maintains it's orignal score. I would give it higher, because the game HAS gotten more and more fun, but I have a feeling it still more to give so i wanna leave some room ;)

9/10

 

 

The Chronicles of Spellborn: A lowbies review (L1-10)

Posted by Vesavius Wednesday April 15 2009 at 8:37AM
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Ok, so L10 isnt that high, but it has given me a few hours in game, taken me to a few zones and taken my first steps into the deeper House story lines.

First I want to say that I unashamedly love this game. I am a fanboy. That, in this case, dosent make me unobjective or uncritical. I don't feel threatened by other people not liking it, and I don't feel the need to convert those that have played it and don't 'get it'.

This is being written for those that are 'should I, shouldnt I?'.

To be clear, I didnt start off loving SB. In fact, prelaunch I was jaded and somewhat upset by how Acclaim handled things and I thought the game would be a solo ez mode shell of a game. I was wrong. There. I'm a big boy, I can say it... I was wrong.

This game is the single best mmorpg experience that I have had since classic Everquest (99-02).

What Spellborn is;

A co-op soclal play themepark mmo that is suprisingly 'hardcore' in it's features for the modern genre, but one that can be played casually. Note that I personally do not agree with the common view that 'casual' has to mean 'easy'. .

My views;

GRAPHICS

Spellborn graphics are going to be a problem for some people.

I mean, the game runs very well on lower end PCs, without losing the immersion or awe of the gameworld, but the art style is new to most and will jarr their sense of 'WTF am I lookin at?'

The game looks 'Fablesque', as has been said before by me and others, and is somewhat cartoony, but in a good way. Fable II being so popular will have prepaprea lot of people for the art direction in this game, and thats great, but there will be a lot of manga and WoW fans that expect a ame to look like something else. All I ask of these guys is to open your minds a little and look around.

Anything stylised and with it's own character will divide opinion. Not everyone will like it, and thats fine, but personally I love it.

To me, the game world is stunning, the mobs are scary, characters look cool, and the hoppys are cute.

There are so many things in this world graphically that make me stop and say 'brilliant'.

8/10

QUESTS

To me, so far, this is the weakest part of SB.

It's not that they are 'hard' or I want a quest objective pointer, I don't, but they are somewhat generic for thw most part. A few to many 'Kill 10 X' and 'FedX' quests for my taste tbh. The only thing that keeps me going through these is the game lore and the well written NPCs who somehowm manage to make you care enough to go out and kill their 10 bears. Again.

Saying that, there are also a lot of fun, humorous and engaging questing out there, but more would always be good. Quest content is king in a 'themepark' mmo like this one. The rides have to be as good as the funpark is pretty.

6/10

SCORE

The music is beautiful. atmospheric, understated, but epic. Ambient scoring at it's best.

9/10

CHARACTER CREATION/ DEVELOPMENT

Just excellent.

Yes, you can look 'cool' from the very start. The variety of characters I have created using the set of tools provided is amazing.

The fact that you choose how your character looks at all times is great, and the character generation screens would be comparable to the rightly famous CoH if it had more options. It even beats that game for character design for me though because the look you set isnt static (as was CoH originally) and can be changed via gameplay.

I guess they want to leave some stuff in game for you to find

Oh, and too many ninja hoods!

8/10


COMMUNITY

Simply, once you are out of the 'freemium' zones, the best community so far in any game that I have played.

Friendly, helpful, funny. There are a lot of old school gamers around it seems, and the P2P membership seems pretty mature and together.

I guess it's because SB isnt even on a lot of the ubr guilds radar that it isnt getting the bad attittudes of most new mmo that they come into to abuse and dominate, and isnt the hip shiny new thing to attract the IP led kiddies, that SB has attracted the type of playerbase you would usually see in a game like Saga of Ryzom or similar.

This may change as the masses wake up to the game but lets hope the culture has now been set.

8/10

BUGS, STABILITY AND PERFORMANCE

These are a real, but fixable, set of problems right now.

A few of the quests are buggy and a few seem to be broken, and people are crashing a lot. Nothing gamebreaking, but it all needs fixing

I am hoping that they address the majority of issues in the patch coming today. It looks big enough to

I have faith in SiL to be aware and working to make things better, but for now it's all somewhat frustrating.

5/10

LORE

Original, engaging, wel written.

It is obvious that SiL are all about the story and every quest NPC takes it into consideration.

I would happily read books and play a PnP RPG set in thsi world, and thats something I have never said about an original IP MMORPG before.

10/10

GAMEPLAY

This is a strong group game, somewhat similar in feel to launch CoH in terms of combat. The system design choices seem to make sense and come very naturally once you have learned to let go what you thought you knew and retrained yourself to a better way.

No, you don't need a set roster of classes, so you can pick your friends based on who you like and not if they have Rezz , but every class brings unique and interesting abilities to a group. No 'holy trinity' can make grouping somehwhat chaotic and messy at times, but it also does mean that 'tanks' can swop roles constantly to keep the action flowing. Overall, the combat is interesting, fun, and challenging.

8/10

CRAFTING

Crafting is a system of collecting recipies and ingredients and combining at a forge to create. There arnt any craft skills, anyone can have anything made by the smith if they have the components.

I personally love it. No x3656578 hours collecting mats, no grinding x1000 arrows to level, no byzantine rules set.

For full time crafters though, this prolly isnt the game for you, but for everyone else it's great.

They DO need to give us banks and shared guild banks though. The new Market Place will also be a massive help and allow us to all start trading mats to get what we need. I normally hate AHs tbh, but SB is definitly, with it's 100s of resources and waste items, a game that requires it.

The game also needs item linking.

8/10

DIFFICULTY

Spellborn is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It really isnt what it pretends to be on first glance.

For a game that is all dressed up on the surface as casual ez mode solo lite, it really has some what most of the current gen of WoWified mmorpg gamers would consider 'hardcore' elements, and I love it for that!

Death penalty? Check! Losing PeP hurts as a death penalty way more then any system in any game I have played since EQ (99-02). It is the best reason to not die I have seen in a long long time, especially considering how slowly it builds. It brings perfect levels of fear and tension to the game. Brilliant.

Slow-medium levelling? Check! The levelling rate is perfect and spits in the face of the current trends of instant gratification. It dosent throw me up through the zones at a retarded speed before my quests have been done and it allows me to see the environment and 'bond' with a zone and it's NPCs before I move on.

Skill based combat? Check! Sure, you can spam, but the holy grail of 'easy to learn, hard to master' has been found here. Learning to play is just gonna get more and more imprtant as you level. No letting the character do the fighting for you here.

PvP zones that have unique rewards, if you can survive to get 'em? Check! If you want the best, you have to fight for the best. Shard conquest? Can't wait.

Grouping and co-op play required? Check! Though it looks like a solo quest grinder, SB isnt. It requires co-operation and social interaction to get the best out of. Thank God.

No arrows pointing to quest objectives? Check! Though the concession has been made to mark quests and updates on the map, which I woudlnt have done myself, there are no arrows or glowing trails here. You have to actually look around, reads the quest text, and look at npc names. In short, learn the zone. It's a perfect mix of GPS map support and player driven exploration. You think that quest text is vague? Ask the community if they know! This is how communities are built, by cooperation, communication, and mutual aid. Well done.

High aggro range tough mobs? Check! This game makes you consider the environment all the time before you start to fight that mob. It demands thought, add control, and awareness of roamers. You thought you could fight in the middle of that spawn ground? Death. Single mobs are properly difficult, multiples are deadly. See 'grouping' above.

Trains? Check!! Think you just have to handle your own situation? Think again. make sure you are also aware of who is fighting around you and how they are doing. Situational awareness is essential. A train can ruin your day. EQ would be proud of some of the trains I have seen.

Underneath it's friendly exterior, this is a skillful and challanging game, yet remains accessible to those willing to learn to play.

One day, I will give you my views on why SB is more hardcore then Darkfall

10/10

OVERALL

Spellborn is a triumph and the love put into making it seeps out of every pore.

It is a game made by gamers for gamers.

'Nuff said.

9/10

If you get this far, well done btw, and decide to pay to play, give me a shout in game and ask any questions. I play as Iceberg, Gorgon, and Vesavius with the guild Radiance on the Acclaim PvE server.
 

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