Shroud of The Avatar

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Richard Garriot’s Shroud of the Avatar is having another pre alpha access weekend, and since I’m a backer I decided to take another look. So far I’ve only logged into this game a couple of times. It’s very unstable at the moment, and is very much in development. One of the reasons I backed the game in the first place was that development on it seems very reasonable. The development team set out their goals at the beginning of the month, and usually get pretty far with them by the end of the month, and the release of a new playable build. This combined with the old school look and ambitions of the game, is what drew me into backing.

However I’ve not had much fun with the game so far. As I mentioned, the game is understandably very rough. NPCs disappear, chat boxes disappear and sometimes the UI stops working. Crashes aren’t uncommon either. Combat feels really stilted, but that’s something implemented very recently, and the skills system behind it has only just been introduced. One thing I love is the option to  have the old Ultima style inventory with literal bags that open, and you drag around small pictures representing items. OK, I actually only love this in theory, as it looks immersive but is practically unusable. Thankfully there is the option for more traditional list style inventories.

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You can’t help but notice the sheer quantity of player housing and decorations all over towns. In fact that’s pretty much all I’ve figured out how to find in the game, except for a few caves and bandits. Currently the game doesn’t do a very good job of telling you where to go. I’m all for that “stranger in a strange land” feel, but I’ve never even found one hint of where to go to get started.

Obviously the game is very early on in its development, but truth be there isn’t a lot to see right now. The genesis of some of their ideas about sandbox gameplay are there, and that’s encouraging at least. I was looking for something which captured the spirit of old school RPGs and MMOs, but it is just too early to tell if this games is going to be that. It’s very obvious that it’s their intention to recreate an Ultima type experience though. In truth, I think I should just come back in six months or a year and see where the game is at then. There’s enough about it that interests me that I feel content with my purchase, and I’m willing to wait a while to see the end product.

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