Friday, June 19, 2009

Chronicles of Spellborn Review

Spellborn came completely out of left field, never noticed it, never heard of it.

Screen shots really do not do the art in this game any justice, here's a Youtube video I found.

Much like World of Warcraft the game runs on a fairly unimpressive graphic engine, however what the artists did with said engine rivals even the artistry used in Northrend.
That's what first caught my attention, but what interested me even more was the gameplay, something very hard to describe in a condensed fashion; but I'll try.

battle is a hybrid of first person shooter, third person action, and a card game.

To clarify, there is no traditional MMO targeting system in place; instead you actually have to manually aim at a target, likewise if a mob attacks, and you move out of the way, it misses, no dice rolls, no stat checks, it just misses.
The pseudo card game aspects come in the form of how you set abilities in a tiered "deck" and how most abilities have double edged effects, like a fireball that does a crap ton of direct damage, and a damage over time effect to a target, but drops the same DoT on the caster if the conflagrated target is struck in the next 8 seconds with a physical attack.
Another departure from traditional MMOs is the games complete disregard for gear.

In Spellborn all weapons and armor have no inherent stats on them, and no class limitations. anyone can wear or wield anything they want.
Instead of gear with preset stats, players can either find, make, or quest for items that can be inserted into these blank pieces of clothing, and kit them out to have whatever stats the player wants.

What makes the game even more appealing is the price point.


Well actually thats partially a lie.

While you can download and play for an unlimited time for no money, you can only level up to a maximum of level 8, and you only have access to 2 of the games some odd 24 zones.

There is no 50 dollar box to buy to go beyond that, but the game does have the usual $14.99 a month subscription fee. This was during my time with the game, enough of a deterrent for the legions of cheap bastards that never intend to pay for anything on the net to stay behind.

There is a jarring disparity between the numbers of those that are under level 8 choking up the first two zones and those that actually shelled out the dough to press on, the world beyond is hauntingly beautiful and begging to be explored, but the most massive hurdle I have encountered with the game is after the first couple of zones, (which are very solo friendly) the game focuses more on group oriented quests, which would be fine of course except 80% of all the players are still dicking around in free land making the task of gathering a group together for a quest past that point from the pool of the ridiculously few people in any given area a frustrating and often fruitless endeavor.

Other complaints I have with the game are the frequent and loooooooooong load times both for logging in, and moving between zones. Serious, I literally went, and made a sandwich once and made it back to the computer in the time it took to load in to the game world from the menu. No real means of fast travel implemented at all at this point, no mounts, or checkpoints; everything on foot. Vague useless tool tips on abilities make selecting skills when you level up a gamble. Also lag spikes seem to happen every now and then that render you helpless, and at the mercy of whatever is beating the crap out of you at the time.

Most of these things can be considered minor complaints however, as the game is still very new, and I imagine most of it will eventually get smoothed over.

As is, the game is a surprisingly polished product giving how young it is, and both it's gameplay and European art style make the game a unique fish in a sea of “Me Too” MMORPGs.

Chronicles of Spellborn is a game definitely worth checking out.

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