Legends of Aria, formally Shards Online, is a sprawling sandbox MMO which really lets players decide how they want to interact with the world. The main thing arriving with the name change is the world map just got much larger.
The original play space is now just a small space in the new maps. Not only does this give players more room to explore and spread out but there’s also now a central area where if a player attacks another player guards will be right there to put down the ruffian, a fringe area where if you can make it to a guard tower you can find some help, and an outer wild area where anything goes. All of this will give players a lot more area to be able to play how they want to where they want to.
While at PAX East I got to play part of a dungeon in game and got a feel for how combat works in Legends of Aria. It felt intuitive though it is also more tactical and skill oriented than most MMOs I have played. Going through the dungeon felt similar to dungeons in Divinity: Original Sin. I needed to pay attention to what I was doing and there was no autopiloting through the combat, but at the same time I also was focused on the game and not staring at the abilities bars which is a nice change from other MMOs. Additionally, the traps were no joke and really need to be avoided if you can’t disarm them.
Another interesting thing Legends of Aria is doing is messing with how character progression happens. Most of the time players pick a class and gain levels through doing various things in game; in Legends of Aria everything a player can learn to do is a skill and you level those up by doing those things. Here’s an example of a few skill options available: Bashing, Melee, Necromancy, Piercing, Slashing, Rouge, Magic Affinity, Fishing, Cooking, Woodsmith, and Fabrication. This is just a small list of some options but as you can see they cover a wide variety of areas. As a character gains proficiency in skills they will also learn new abilities which make use of that skill.
There is a limit of how many skills a character can have active at any one time, so players do have to be a bit choosy. However, if you pick a skill and later you want to learn something else you can just set the current skill to inactive to be able to learn the new one. This gives a lot of flexibility to how characters are built and removes some of the frustration of finding out you don’t enjoy something you previously picked.
Another interesting aspect to Legends of Aria is in addition to the officially run servers players can create their own servers to play on and they have a ton of freedom to decide how things work. From small changes like just changing the rules set to completely recreating other games on their servers there are very few limits on what can be done. Also, player created servers are clearly marked as such so anyone not interesting in playing on them will be able to easily tell the two apart.
Right now, Legends of Aria is still in Alpha but they plan to move into Beta testing soon and will be available for PC on Steam later this year. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of this MMO in the near future.