Shroud of the Avatar: Choosing Fate

Outside of space, outside of time
Outside of space, outside of time

Peaked into Shroud of the Avatar again yesterday. This is Richard “Lord British” Garriott’s MMO-in-development that brings the morality-based gameplay of his Ultima RPG into a more modern incarnation. I backed this on Kickstarter about two and a half years ago, and have been checking into the alpha and beta releases on a regular basis since they started becoming available. Not EVERY one… but often enough.

The last time I played, they didn’t have any of the single-player options active. There’s two ways to play this MMO alone. You can play offline for the true solitary experience. You will be able to decorate homes and so on to your tastes; you will be the lone Avatar wandering the world. Or, you can choose an online, single-player mode where everyone except for you, or you and your friends, is merely removed from your sight. You’ll still see them by their traces. They’ll have already bought up every single home, city, palace and everything else before you even logged in. But you’ll still be able to take advantage of their ephemera, such as crafted goods. If you feel up to interacting with the wider player population, you can bring them back into phase.

I would have LOVED THIS in EverQuest. I chose the single player, online mode just to see what adventure in a world of ghosts might bring.

Choosing my path
Choosing my path

Before I could be set upon my destined path, I would have to have my morality checked. I answered as honestly as I could. The game decided that I would be an Avatar of Truth, an arcane mage. A firestarter. Not what I would have chosen, but…

Combat has changed quite a lot since the last time I played, OR, I may have just chosen the wrong options this time around. Last time seemed to be a Spellborn-like roulette of abilities that would pop up and be used or discarded. This time, the game gave me a more standard interface. Certain spells took material components. That was definitely unusual. EverQuest required material components for some spells of real power, but here, seemingly workaday spells like Fireball and Ignite Weapon drew from a fairly limited starting pool of spell components.

The initial tutorial warned that looting bodies would reflect poorly on your clean spiritual record, but then encouraged you to go ahead and loot. The gods would surely turn a blind eye to such behavior after this calamity, where a band of humans swept through and destroyed an elven village for no reason anyone could remember. All that were left alive were a ghoulish Thenardier-like corpse looter and an aloof bard who guarded passage beyond until a dagger was brought to him, a dagger in the possession of the looter, who would only trade it for a certain treasure which (spoiler alert) is NOT on any of the bodies. So no need to loot them unless you are short of salmon, worms, scrap wood, or gold.

On the other side of the gate is a short introduction to combat, some exploration, and a boat to the Real World, where quest givers will assign you quests, chief of which was to find an unclaimed plot of land on which to build the home I got via the Kickstarter.

Hah. That ain’t happening.

(Note: I double checked, and the Kickstarter tier I backed did not include a home. Not sure why I thought I had one.)

In town! Finally.
In town! Finally.

It had taken me longer than I’d hoped to find the single item in the ruined village to give to the looter, and longer than I expected to explore the far side of the gate and find the boat that would sail me out of the tutorial. I’d run out of time for the night and had no time left to actually play the game. I had wanted to see if the overworld random encounters were still around; those were a lot of fun, the last time I played.

I look forward to playing it again. I’m not incredibly sure how much time I will put into the game when it goes live. It really wears its niche appeal proudly. Those who are looking for a setting in which to set their own stories for themselves and their friends will likely find a home here. Those looking for curated and scripted dungeons and raids will likely find it too slow for their liking.

Traipsing about in Shroud of the Avatar.

Traipsing about in Shroud of the Avatar. It's working. I didn't see any other players, but every available housing plot I came across was all bought up. Ye shall know them by their claims….

This is definitely an explorer's game. Though, I did like their "Deck"-based combat — instead of having all your skills available (which is an option), you can opt to have your skills randomly chosen from a deck of skills that is automatically made or made by you. That was pretty cool.

Still not feeling a lot of "pull" to the game. I find any game has a real responsibility to add a little excitement early in the game to set the hook so it can reel the player in. Not yet feeling that with SotA — but, as they reminded me from the very start, this is a far from complete game, and these finishing touches have their time, but that time is "not yet".

I was reminded to log into the alpha again by the impending start of a new "Ultima" Kickstarter, "Raise the Underworld", which looks to reboot the Ultima: Underworld games.

I only ever played Ultima III, so I don't have that wellspring of nostalgia for the series that so many others do. But, I want to learn!

#shroudoftheavatar   #portalarium   #ultima