I tried the free version of Shroud of the Avatar. Anyone can grab the client and play for free, with some limitations on max skill, trading with players, etc.
I played for about three hours. I finished the tutorial, explored the world map, entered a player town, checked out some random adventure zones, ran some initial quests, and got into some fights.
Overall my impression is mixed. Best part? Seems like a big world to explore, and skills etc seem deep. Its detailed and challenging. Worst part? As stated above, the animations, walking and combat are decidedly old school and it doesn’t run great. I am a bit surprised to hear they are releasing chapter one in late March. It feels like a game from 2009.
I enjoyed the old school aspects. I was expecting somewhere between Wurm Unlimited and Elder Scrolls Online, and its way closer to Wurm. Text-based NPC chats with a text parser with highlights. NPCs names are unknown to you until you ask them their name. ;-) No quest or NPC markers on the map, although it does show quest directions in the compass. You can get confused and lost and have no clue where to go, unless you are paying attention. Its entirely possible to wander into an adventure zone that is over your level and die quickly. All of this means you need to pay attention.
What are “adventure zones”? Well, in the strangest design decision its a split over-world / local map. The over-world shows strategic locations like mountains, NPC cities, player towns, river crossings and places to explore and gather and fight. But you need to enter the local zones to actually do anything like interact with NPCs, chop trees, kill stuff, run quests, etc. The local zones are pretty big so it doesn’t feel constrained - but this is not “one big world” its a bunch of separate, unconnected zones.
The inventory, gear, loot, and merchants are all detailed and old-schooly. Its got item decay, repair, resting, mana and health management, etc. This is either fun in a nostalgic way or maddening that they are skipping twenty years of MMO refinement.
I was OK with the walking. Most combat is OK. The fact that differently-aligned NPCs will fight opens up some tactical options, like waiting until the spiders have wounded the evil elf mages enough do you can finish them all off. I ran into a main quest town that was under siege alongside the town guards who did most of the fighting. I looted corpses the NPC guards killed.
But there are positioning, teleportation and animation issues. It feels a little stilted. I don’t know for sure, but it feels like they do all location tracking server-side, which means lagging players will jerk jerk jerk across the map. NPCs slide past you. Enemies will warp in close.
The apparent depth, player economy, detail, difficulty and pedigree are all appealing. I may put some more time in. Or I might look at the calendar, remember its 2018 and play something that fits with my limited adult schedule.
I will report back if things change.