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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ;)