Alternate Title: Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues
Model: Buy to Play (Free Trial)
PvP: Open world PvP
PvE: Player-generated instances
Shroud of the Avatar Review - Is It Worth Playing?
Shroud of the Avatar is an interesting take on the MMORPG genre.
It is described as being the “spiritual successor” to the Ultima series – however, from the reviews I’ve gathered, although it looks and feels like the Ultima franchise, it lacks the.. depth that Ultima brought players.
Don’t burn me at the stake here, but, I’ve never actually had the opportunity to experience the Ultima series. So this was my first time exploring an Ultima-like.. Ultima-esque? Game world.
Alright, now that we’re all caught up on what the game is, what inspired the game, and how lacking my knowledge on the genre is, let’s hop on in and check the game out.
Interestingly, Shroud of the Avatar.. Okay, we need to abbreviate that. Let’s call it.. SotA.. no, that sounds ludicrous. Let’s just call it Shroud.
Interestingly, you don’t begin Shroud with character creation, unlike most games. Instead, the game begins with you as some.. bizarre, ethereal being.
You’re then greeted with a questing system I’ve not seen employed before: To continue the conversation, you can reply with actual text responses.
The game mentions being able to “type whatever you would like to say”, so, naturally, I got creative..
Okay, so maybe my imagination and creativity leaves a little to be desired.
Instead of being given your quest and having a single window of text to explain your overall objective, Shroud has a selection of informational choices to choose between.
These add depth to each character you encounter and, generally, provide exposition – amongst other things.
After finishing up my conversation, I was greeted with the character creation. At last, the make-or-break it feature of any game.
I was taken aback a little, admittedly, as the character creator wasn’t bad at all, offering height sliders, skin colors, hair colors, various hair styles, facial hair, and a surprising selection of sliders with which to craft your avatar.
I mean when you can model yourself after a villain out of a three musketeers skit then the game is clearly doing something right. Right? Right.
One thing I did find a little irksome was the questing system. It got progressively more puzzling the further I got through the game. I mean, don’t tell anyone but I was stumped on the very first quest – “Take and read the book”.
Like, what book? And where the fuck is the lectern? I’m on a goddamn floating island in the middle of space with some weird, hovering.. magical.. mirror thing, telling me I’m not pretty enough and that I need cosmetic surgery.
After talking to the Wizard of Oz I was given the option of choosing my class. If you’ve ever watched a video of mine you’d know that naturally I’d choose Mage.
Unfortunately though, the game didn’t care that I chose Mage, instead, opting to have me run around dual wielding swords. Iunno why. I didn’t ask any questions. I just did as I was told by Zordon.
The view from the beginner area was beautiful though. I could see.. Earth? We’ll say Earth, since it looks like Earth, from atop.. King Kai’s planet? I guess.
.. and no, you cannot freefall down to Earth from here. I tried.
The game offers quite a diverse amount of features that I haven’t found present in an MMORPG prior to this – I mean, getting NPC companions that not only have personalities, but talk to you and help you in combat? Hell yeah.
Having the ability to run into buildings and loot everything inside? Thank you game for allowing me to embrace my inner kleptomaniac. Confusing, ill-defined quests? Oh, wait, they’re actually a commonly reoccuring theme in quite a few MMOs.
I will point out that monsters aren’t the main threat to players in this game. Neither are other players.
From the 4-5 hours I experienced, many player deaths occurred not due to combat, rather, from falling 2 feet off of any form of platform.
I’m not kidding, I came across countless dead bodies atop small rocks, buildings, and cliff sides.
The game is still quite buggy. At one point I thought I’d drown due to a negligible difference in terrain forcing me into the water against my will and preventing me from leaving.
I had a few other laugh out loud moments like this but this was by far the most memorable.
Upon leaving what I will refer to henceforth as “newbie village”, I came across my first sign of life: Other players.
Granted, they weren’t very sociable, but that’s alright. Neither am I. I’m a bit of an introvert.
I also made it to what I believe was my very first real town – outside of the newbie area.
I finally saw a larger group of players, NPCs that sold items and gear, and.. well, honestly, I played for a solid 2 hours beyond this but couldn’t figure out how to progress beyond my current quest.
So instead of continuing with the main storyline, I instead chose to take the time to look around the world and experience the game for what it had to offer.
Which was.. a lot.. of forests. And Vigilantes. And MP issues. Man I forgot how hard it was to play MMOs when you ran out of Mana after a few short attacks.
I’ve taken things for granted for far too long and shall remember how difficult mages of yesteryear used to have it for the rest of my life.
One note I would like to make is that NPCs take the time to engage enemy NPCs in combat which makes for some epic showdowns,.
Combat in Shroud of the Avatar is tab-target, meaning that unless you have a valid enemy nearby, you’re unable to use your skills.
I did find the combat to be a little dated-feeling and on the slow side, and the limited use of mana due to my MP depleting so rapidly made things very difficult for me.
Which isn’t a bad thing in all honesty. I enjoyed it – it definitely adds an additional layer of depth to combat, having to actually micromanage your HP and MP respectively.
I can see how the combat would be a negative point for most players though as this generation isn’t awfully fond of slower more tactical combat.
Exploring the world in Shroud was actually one of the coolest parts of the game. I’m a huge fan of the Tales of and Final Fantasy JRPGs so over-world maps have always been of immense fun for me to spend time on.
Navigating the world through a large over-world like this is just so, so satisfying and takes me back to when I would play those JRPGs trying to explore every little nook and cranny.
Which lead me to what is perhaps one of the other features I enjoyed – player created, player maintained, and player driven towns and cities.
Players were capable of setting up towns or settlements throughout the game world for players to interact with.
Although every one I ran into was dead, the feature itself is very curious to me. It’s a feature I’ve always been cautious of, as if players stop playing, the towns and up dead and unmaintained, which is prevalent and very represented in this game.
This does leave me a little iffy on how games like Ashes of Creation and even Peria Chronicles will perform given that they’re more or less going to employ the same system.
Regardless, all we can do is hope they take note of this and have something in place to prevent this from happening down the line.
So, overall, Shroud of the Avatar is a slow, slightly dated looking tab-target MMORPG that attemps to, in the words of other people, take you on a trip down memory lane, reminiscing about the days you used to sit at home playing the Ultima series.
I can’t say it deserves all the nagativity it’s gotten, as it’s definitely a unique looking, unique feeling game, but at the same time the problems I had – bugs, poorly explained quests, and slow combat definitely left me not particularly enjoying the game.
The player driven economy however was a nice touch, and the character creator was fun to mess around in, even if I couldn’t create a huge, burly woman or a cute Kpop guy.
Operating System: Windows 7 64 bit or newer
CPU: Intel Core 2 DUO 2.4 GHz / AMD Athlon X2 2.7 GHz
Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 3870 / NVIDIA 8800 GT / Intel HD 3000 Integrated Graphics
RAM: 6 GB
Hard Disk Space: 7 GB
Operating System: Windows 7 64 bit or newer
CPU: Quad Core Processor 2.4GHz or faster
Video Card: DirectX10 Compatible AMD Radeon HD 6850 / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550
RAM: 8 GB
Hard Disk Space: 7 GB