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Spellborn International
MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 04/23/09)  | Pub:Frogster Interactive / Mindscape / Acclaim
PVP:Yes | Distribution:Download | Retail Price:Free | Pay Type:Free | Monthly Fee:Free
System Req: PC | Out of date info? Let us know!

A Beta Look at Spellborn

MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood recently took part in a hands-on experience with the Chronicles of Spellborn beta. Today, he reports back with what he experienced and a few opinions as well.

Last week, I wrote about character customization in The Chronicales of Spellborn. Today, I’m going to give some of my impressions from the rather limited gameplay that I recently experienced.

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Overall Look

First, I should say that the game looks great. While it’s not at the forefront of graphics technology, The Chronicles of Spellborn does a great job of capturing you and bringing you into the game world with their art direction. I don’t really know how to describe the general visual style of the game other than to tell you that it reminded me a little bit of a toned down Tim Burton style with its slightly curved buildings and exaggerated characters.

Still, you didn’t click on this article to read me waxing poetic about something that you can see for yourself in a screenshot, you wanted to read a little something about the game mechanics:

Quests

Well, first, it’s important to note that if you’re one of those players who has been complaining that modern MMOs like to hand you everything on a silver platter, then you’re probably going to be impressed with a lot of what Spellborn has to offer:

The first thing that I noticed when I entered the game world and started playing through my first few quests was that there was no tracker at the side of my screen. This has become more or less a staple in the MMOs that I’ve been playing as of late. I’m used to being able to just glance over and see what it is I have to do. Don’t worry though, you’re not operating entirely on memory, you can always activate your journal, which will let you know who it was that asked you to do what.

As long as we’re talking about quests, this is also probably a good time to mention that there are no handy-dandy quest pointers on your mini-map either. There are no small arrows pointing the way to quests like we saw in Age of Conan and there are no big red splotches smeared over your quest locations like you see in Warhammer Online. Instead, you just have a map and whatever directions the NPC you spoke with happened to give you.

Now, while I think that this might have some appeal for hardcore games and those in the aforementioned “I hate having a silver platter crowd”, I have to say that I am a little bit concerned that this may be a deal breaker for some more casually oriented folks who could become frustrated rather quickly.

Finally, before we leave the subject of quests, I wanted to take a second to talk about the way that dialogue is handled in the game. Generally, there are two schools of thought in MMO design about NPC interactions. Either a) you don’t have any real responses at all and just listen to them blathering, or, b) you have a few options in terms of what your character says but in the end, that choice doesn’t really mean anything. In Spellborn, however, players are given dialogue choices and those choices can effect NPC reactions. For example, maybe you choose the rudest responses to an NPC who has information that you need in order to advance or complete a quest. Well, that NPC could simply refuse to help you on the grounds of your rudeness and you’re left having to find an alternate solution.

Combat

As almost everyone who has looked into this game even for a moment can tell you, Spellborn makes use of a rather unique combat system. Not only is the combat twitch-based, but it also makes use of a rather unique spinning UI that gives players access to new tiers of powers (pre-set by the player themselves) with every attack.

I found that jumping into the game took a little bit more practice than it would for your average, run-of-the-mill MMO. The twitch combat wasn’t too bad. You just had to get used to making sure that you were standing where you needed to be standing and swinging when you needed to be swinging. The spinning UI bar on the other hand, takes a bit more getting used to. I think it’s going to be a warm-up period for players. It’s one of those, once you get the hang of it, it’s fine, but you’ll have to spend some time learning.

On that note, I’m a little bit concerned that the game doesn’t really seem to ease you in to its little idiosyncrasies they way that you might like. I may have missed it, or it may not be in the beta version yet, but a solid and detailed tutorial on how to use these systems is going to be needed if the game is going to appeal to “the masses”. Hardcore players, on the other hand, are probably going to enjoy the challenge and the fact that between the learning and the execution, the combat really is a skill-based experience.

PvP

I did have the chance to get involved in a little bit of PvP during my play session and I have to admit, it does have a certain addictive quality to it. There’s just something about twitch-based fighting that really gets your heart pumping when it comes to fighting another player. You’re constantly trying to find the best position to make your attacks, and hoping to take the other player off-guard. It’s head and shoulders above standard numbered attack PvP fighting.

Free Play Zone

During my introduction to the game, I was given the rundown once again on exactly how this particular feature of the game is going to work. Instead of fooling around with free trial accounts and buddy keys, the folks at Acclaim and Spellborn have decided to open up the first 7.9 levels of the game to players, allowing them access to three rather large zones: a city, a forest and a mini-PvP zone.

We have also learned that the free trial area will provide about 20 hours of content for players to evaluate before they part with their hard earned dollars and that you won’t have to provide any of your billing details to get access, you’ll just download, register and play (until you sign up for the paid game, of course).

Overall First Impressions

Overall, I think that TCoS is going to be a solid game that will certainly appeal to the many people who have been asking for a game based more on intelligence, tactics and skill than dice rolls and button-pushing. It has a good look and a good feel with enough customization to engage the “dress up” play style. Numerous times in this preview, I’ve mentioned what I see as barriers to entry for more casual style players, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and truth be told that may not even be the market that Spellborn is looking to attract. The developers have taken a great deal of time and care to create a deep game with engaging and meaningful content.

My recommendation? When it launches, give the trial a whirl… why not? It’s free!

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