I’d heard Beau rave about The Chronicles of Spellborn, but wasn’t really interested in trying it until I watched his video tour. The animation of the character didn’t thrill me, but the atmosphere was so intriguing, I decided I’d give it a go. I have to say, it impressed me. It’s well worth checking out. In fact, I’ve played more of Spellborn during the last week than WoW. (I know! I’m surprised, too!)
The flexibility in character creation is quite fun. You start by picking the archetype for your character: warrior, spellcaster, or rogue. After a bit of leveling, you’ll be able to specialize to become one of three more distinct subclasses available. I chose a caster, for example, who has the potential to become a rune mage (powerful damage dealer), a void seer (with healing capabilities), or an ancestral mage (caster with a pet).
There are two races, humans and daevi, which are mysterious hooved humanoids. You can choose from a couple different body types to come up with some very different-looking characters. The really fun part, however, is customizing your character’s clothing and armor. All of this is purely aesthetic apparently — if you don’t like the shoulder armor models, you don’t have to give your character shoulder armor. In the end, it really doesn’t matter. There are matching sets of clothing and gear, or you can mix and match all you like. Coloring of the items can be chosen individually or for the entire set. Here are some views of a character I made, showing some of the options for clothes and gear styling. Click each for a larger view!
Some of the armor pieces have sockets where you can add sigils to boost your abilities. If your current items don’t have slots, you may find new items later during your adventures. It seems anything can be reforged to match the rest of your gear’s color, if you like, too. (I imagine this will be one of the paid options when the shop opens next year.)
Learning to move around effectively took some practice. My characters still stagger around somewhat drunkenly at times because the super-quick about-face mouse turns that I do in WoW don’t quite work here. It’s pretty funny to watch people arrive at the docks just after the tutorial, too. Good to know I’m not the only one that didn’t get the hang of it immediately.
Combat is quite interactive. I’d heard that you had to aim your weapon, which made me nervous given my history with FPS’s. (I stink at them.) This is much more forgiving than I imagined, though you still have to pay attention to what you’re doing. You have a rotating action bar that offers you different sets of skills that you can rearrange to your liking. This screenshot is a little dark, but you’ll get the jist of it:
Here, it’s between casts. When the cylinder completes its rotation to the spells on row 2, it will remain there until you cast one of the spells on it. It took me a while to figure out the best way to actually cast. I aim using the mouse and then click the number of the spell twice, the first time to select it, the second time to cast it. There may be better ways (they suggest the mousewheel to select the spells), but using the numbers on my keyboard worked pretty well for me. Also, while there’s no mana/rage/energy bar for you to consider, there are a few different bars below your HP bar that will impact how effective your attacks are.
I worried a little about being a squishy caster in a game I’d never played, but I’ve been impressed with my survivability. I can take on several waves of multiple mobs thanks to some self-healing abilities. I need the survivability, too. In some of the wooded areas, it’s easy to become surrounded very quickly and respawn timers seem to be short, as well. I’ve seen some people complain about it in the public chat (“that’s not fair — in wow I just get attacked by one thing at a time”), but it’s made for some really close, exciting fights.
The questing is fairly standard, though I’m finding it quite engaging. I’m reading all the quest text (shocking!) and following along with the stories. Sometimes, you are presented with more than one option of how to respond to the NPC’s, as well. I plan to go through and answer a few of their queries differently on my next run through, just to see if it changes the outcomes. Even if it doesn’t, I like that it allows my character a little more personality. Makes it feel more like an RPG.
The NPC’s have personality, as well. There was something very bland about all the questing in Runes of Magic. Even when they were clearly trying to be funny, they weren’t. There was a strange disconnect there, maybe a language/translation thing. Spellborn has made me smile several times and even laugh out loud. I wouldn’t say the wit rises to the level of some of the stuff in WoW, but I think that sort of stuff would be inconsistent with the mood. Spellborn isn’t a dark game, but it has a darker tone than WoW, for sure.
Quality of Light
I really love the look of this game. Much of it has to do with the quality of light. This is my character looking out at the landscape with a campfire to her right side. (Click to see the full view of the landscape.)
This is an empty vendor’s stall on the docks. I love the way the inside is lit by the lamp.
I keep happening upon scenes like this, where everything is so beautifully lit that I have to stop and take a screenshot (which is cumbersome — I didn’t notice an automatic feature for this in-game). You know there’s a little dude up in the watchtower there.
It’s a great-looking game. I’ll resist the temptation to post more screenshots so that when you discover things and see the cities for the first time, you’ll enjoy that same moment of “wooow” that I did. Ok, just one more:
Sound and Immersion
Another thing that has really impressed me is the ambient sound. When I’m running around in the wooded areas, the hum of the insects is amazing. I usually have the window next to my desk open this time of year and at first I thought it was noise from outside. I’ve been thinking about dimming the lights and playing while wearing headphones some night, though the game barely needs it.
The insect (and bird) sounds also remind me of my days of backpacking. These are wonderful memories of “epic” journeys on foot that I took in real life, so I’m sure this plays into the sense of adventure that I feel in this world. My awareness is heightened, too, because I know there could be danger lurking in the trees.
As I’ve begun to play these other MMO’s, my inner explorer has re-emerged. I love wandering into new areas and finding out they’re too dangerous for me. I creep up to the edges of the world and give myself vertigo by peering into the abyss. I encounter holes in the ground with ladders leading down and wonder… what’s down there? There’s only one way to find out…
I’m sure it helps that I’m making it a point not to look up quest help, read about things ahead of time, or study what classes and spell rotations are optimal. Even beyond that, there’s something about this world that invites me to explore it. I’m loving the process of discovering this game.
A fangirl is born.
Like I said, I’m playing this more than I’m playing WoW. The time that would have formerly gone to fishing, doing dailies, and leveling up alts has now been shifted to running around in the darkened woods, admiring the landscapes, and exploring the winding cities I’ve discovered so far. The game is currently free to play while it’s in redevelopment. I believe it’s going to remain free after its re-release next year, but it sounds like cash shops and stuff like that will likely be added. My only hope is that the game itself will not change too much. I think it’s marvelous as it is.