The basic A.I. for most of your opponents in Spellborn is really what makes combat exciting. Animals will juke around to try and avoid your hits, and will even spread out to avoid AoEs at times. Humanoid NPCs though are a real treat to fight. They often fight as a pack, with the melee units trying to get and keep you in their face while the ranged units will, and this is the best part, try to kite you. I’ve heard of players kiting mobs, but I’ve never heard of mobs attempting to kite players. If you decimate most of an enemy group the remnants will attempt to flee once they realize the endeavor is no longer in their favor.
There are some caveats though, a big stand out is the Rune Mage. The fire spells which make up most of the Rune Mages arsenal inflict their target with a Burning DoT. This DoT will spread to melee attackers, and this includes team mates. This makes teaming with Rune Mages a risky notion. Exploring the issue, I found that the developers feel this is an intended effect and have at least no short term plans to make changes on this front.
This brings us to Player vs. Player combat, which is another area the combat system falls short. The most basic issue here is simply a network issue. The game has synchronization issues. This means that often times a player is not where you actually see him on screen. This sort of thing is rampant even when simply playing with other people cooperatively; as they will report seeing you in places you are not. I can think of many occasions where I’ve asked my friend what he was doing “over there” only to be told he was standing right next to me, and vice-versa. This issue has, as you can imagine, a serious implications for PvP combat. While it doesn’t always occur, you can never really say when it is. Did I miss that shot because I actually missed? Or it because the server thinks the player is actually somewhere else?
Another issue is simply one of balance. Ranged combat dominates Spellborn PvP. Everyone has ranged abilities, even the warrior types, and most melee types I fought didn’t even bother trying to get into melee with me, choosing to simply ran around kiting with their bow.
Bugs also plague Spellborn combat. While I did not experience many general bugs playing Spellborn, I would say a majority of the bugs experienced involved improperly functioning, or entirely non-functional skills.
It’s also unfortunate that most of Spellborn’s PvP experience is not quite implemented yet. There isn’t much reason to fight anyone; you don’t even lose PeP levels in PvP.
Crafting is a simple endeavor in Spellborn. Recipes for items drop from mobs, or are awarded from quests. Once you have a recipe you then simply gather the resources required from creatures or resource nodes and create the item at a forge. Crafting guilds will not find much to look forward to here.
On the other hand, players who abhor crafting, like myself, will find themselves annoyed. Many quests will give you a recipe for an item as a reward instead of the item itself. I would rather have a choice. Especially since many resources seem to be either rare or unavailable. It’s truly disappointing completing a long quest chain only to be rewarded with a recipe for a really neat item that you must go on a wild goose chase to assemble. It’s like many of the quest rewards are “assembly required.”
The community of Spellborn was generally quite helpful. As many will surely say, once you leave the “Freemium” area you will experience a sort of culture-shock when you return to it. I naturally had many questions when playing the game and many players were eager to indulge me.
The community features of the game are pretty sparse, though. I did join a guild, but I found the guild options to be underwhelming. Outside of choosing a logo for your guild, there aren’t many things you can do with it. Also, I feel the ability to recruit players from different Houses will be ultimately detrimental to the games faction warfare. You cannot attack players within your own guild, but you also cannot aid guild members against players of the same house.
The most innovative community feature Spellborn provides its players is the conduction of a live weekly webinar with the developers. Players who attend these webinars get to directly ask questions of the developers. These webinars are recorded for the community, but the best stuff comes out when the tape is turned off, as many of the developers will stick around and chat about the game with the players. Also, the software used allows for the developers to show players things alongside the discussion. For example, the webinar I attended had a developer show the game being played live in order to give us a look at a new armor set to be featured in an upcoming patch. The developers definitely deserve a big kudos for being so in touch with their community.
The customer service options are curious. There is absolutely no in game support UI. The only way to get help in game from a GM is to simply solicit help from them in zone chat. If they are listening, they will lend a hand. Who’s to say the person I’m talking to isn’t impersonating a GM? I found the system a bit amateurish. It did work, there was almost always a GM on hand to answer my questions, they were all kind, courteous, and informative. The system is simply not intuitive though.
UI / Performance
Since Spellborn runs on a pretty old engine, the performance is mostly stellar on modern machines, and I imagine scales well for lower ones.
The UI on the other hand, is one of the worst aspects of Spellborn. I would go as far as to describe it as rudimentary at best. You cannot move or drag much around, you cannot resize most windows, the most you can hope to do is simply collapse different areas of it. There are also issues with fonts. Quest text fonts require you squint to read them at higher resolutions, and there is no way to adjust this. This goes for chat as well, you can set the font to Large, but it is not very large at all. The developers at Spellborn International definitely have much room for improvement with the UI.
Some basic UI elements found in more recent MMOG releases are also curiously absent from Spellborn. There is no quest tracker for example, forcing you to read through the quest text for hints. Most of the time the quest text is pretty sufficient, but of course, it was also a torturous experience due to the tiny fonts.
All in all, I would say Spellborn is a must-try MMOG, if just to experience the combat and skill mechanics. The game is clearly incomplete, more so than most MMOG launches, but has content sufficient enough to take you to the level cap, and developers paying great attention to their players’ concerns. You won’t find the most engaging PvP experience, or even a fully realized endgame PvE experience, but the barrier to entry is also quite low. There is no box to purchase, you simply download the game, and should you be curious to see how far the rabbit hole goes you’re only out 15 bucks.
The Chronicles of Spellborn is a true-blue themepark MMOG, and I have no reservations recommending anyone to try out the rides at least once.