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Pantheon: Rise of The Fallen Seasonal Testing Plan - Good, Bad, Or Does It Matter?

Kevin Chick Posted:
Editorials 0

I joined the Kickstarter for Pantheon: Rise Of The Fallen ten years ago, fully understanding that my money might be a write-off. Watching as the end date came and went without the project being successfully funded was disappointing. But I was happy to sign up shortly after that on the official website as a Champion-level pledge when Visionary Realms decided that they would move ahead with development anyway. A decade later, those outside of the VIP pledges have started having limited hands-on time testing the game.

But, as Season 1: Into The Pass gets underway, how has the community responded to this idea compared to the plan of an extraction-style minigame running 24/7 suggested during the last quarter of 2023? Are Seasons the best path forward for Pantheon: Rise Of The Fallen?           

My partner and I both have Champion pledges. We have fond memories of our first MMORPG, EverQuest, which made it easy to form communities with people worldwide who had the same hobby. EverQuest was a cooperative experience that punished you for diving headlong into fights without at least some mindfulness on managing the extra enemies when taking on packs. While combat initially felt slower-paced, EverQuest encouraged tactics during the lengthy fights and required players to use their chosen class toolkit fully. It also allowed players to go it alone if they preferred that route. But you had to gauge what you could handle more carefully, even when it came to more minor encounters. About 30 percent of the content needed a group to complete it unless you substantially over-leveled the enemies or got creative. 

First, ten years of development is a long time. While it is disappointing that Pantheon’s development has taken so long, I understand how difficult it can be to get a project of this size and complexity off the ground. Luckily, I told myself early on that my only hardline for maintaining interest in the game was that it stayed true to being a spiritual successor of EverQuest.

That hardline was why it was so disappointing when the idea of an extraction game was presented during the last quarter of 2023. While I could see why it would help accelerate development, it felt like the core of what Pantheon: Rise Of The Fallen was meant to be was being abandoned or, at the very least, put on the back burner.

The mention of such a game mode potentially appealing to more people and the possibility of further monetizing it also didn’t help. I wondered if what was meant to be a niche game was suddenly shifting direction and that the money already secured was no longer enough to continue development. If that plan had moved forward, I would have tried Pantheon’s extraction game mode to help with testing. But, In reality had little to no interest. I was highly disappointed at that point, and my wife’s interest in the game shifted from mild to nil.

Enter 2024 and Pantheon: Rise Of The Fallen Seasons. Seasons allow those who have pledged to the game a longer time-limited window to experience Pantheon as new content is added. Each Season is to last six weeks. VIPs (Pre-Alpha Testers) will have full access, while Champions (Alpha Testers) can play during the last two weeks, and Supporters (Beta Testers) can play during the final week.

Season 1: Into the Pass started on February 17th, and now that I have had time to think about it, I like this new development direction/initiative. My initial reaction was of mild concern and hesitation because of all the modern-day connotations around the term “Seasons.” For most modern games, it immediately suggests that I am about to get gouged for content that should be included in a game by default. But putting my kneejerk visceral preconceptions aside at the sound of a single word, if the gap between Seasons is not overly long and each shows meaningful development progress, it could help restore confidence in Pantheon’s development. 

Those who have already invested in the game will have a chance to try large chunks of new content and the implementation of systems with each Season. Visionary Realms will also have the opportunity to roll out patches during each Season, giving players a better idea of how the team responds to needed changes and the speed at which new elements are being implemented.

The Pantheon community is also responding more favorably to Seasons than the previously suggested extraction gameplay mode. Many on the official forums and the Pantheon Reddit have voiced their support of the announced plans, and it seems to have even perked up a few community members who had moved away from following the game’s development over the years. 

Pantheon Forums

But some who were waiting for full Alpha/Beta access feel like this is another betrayal. After waiting so long for Alpha/Beta to start, I can understand their point of view since, in some ways, it feels like you are only being told that you will have limited access to Seasons unless you pay more. There is also the question of how much engagement Pantheon is currently generating from the community. How many people have left permanently due to losing interest and/or confidence? Also, the hefty price tag just to test a game doesn’t look good to those sitting on the outside.

For myself, with the drop of the verbal NDA at the end of 2023, I can say that I did have the chance to try the last two stress tests, and while very bare bones, the core gameplay felt like EverQuest, and at this point in development, that is what I was hoping for. Make no mistake, this game is in a Pre-Alpha state, and I wish Visionary Realms was further along in the development process of getting the game to release. It still feels like it has a long way to go. 

Even with a potentially accelerated rate of adding content and building out the world now that many core systems are coming online, I could see a full release being another two to three years from now. But I am looking forward to playtesting the game more as these content/systems are added and lighting and texture passes take place. I may be wrong about my estimate of the release, and if so, I will be pleasantly surprised.

Seasons could help revitalize interest in Pantheon: Rise Of The Fallen if Visionary Realms can keep up with the pace of development that this might demand while keeping the gaps between seasons limited in size. It also gives at least some time-limited access to many who have supported the game for years. Eventually, as the game transitions to what would have been Alpha and Beta, those who would have had full access to those phases depending on their pledge tier should also gain full access to later Seasons if they continue. But I am not sure how many new pledges it will bring in.

On the flip side, my partner is still done with Pantheon: Rise Of The Fallen. Her interest level in Pantheon: Rise Of The Fallen is still nil due to the past decisions by Visionary Realms during earlier development and the change made last year in the art style. But since she already has a Champion pledge, she is willing to take another look as the game approaches release. 

While I am currently not a fan of the art style change. With more refinement, texture adjustments, and lighting passes, I hope it will grow into something I can enjoy, and that will bring Terminus to full realization. I am cautiously looking forward to playing Pantheon: Rise Of The Fallen in March for two weeks during the Pre-Alpha Season 1: Into the Pass and sharing my first-hand experience. Hopefully, the visual NDA will be lifted soon as well.


Kevin Chick

Kevin "Xevrin" is an avid gamer having started playing video games on an Apple III with the Wizardry Series and Questron before the age of 10. In junior high, he branched out into tabletop gaming with the release of D&D 2nd Edition. During his first year of university, Everquest was released combining both of his favorite activities.