Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues


#353

Day 2 and I’m still enjoying the game. I think I’m becoming slightly accustomed to the clunky animations and movement, as it’s not bothering me nearly as much as it did the first day.

With the jank bothering me less and having got the basics out of the way, I’ve been able to dig a little deeper in the game systems and I like what I see. I played around with Free Attack mode on Day 1, but for Day 2 I dived into deck building, which I’ve been enjoying.

So here’s how it works, and how they mix up the standard push-a-button-on-a-hotbar MMO combat. By default, you certainly can play in the typical MMO manner. You drag skills onto your hotbar and they start out Locked (more on that in a second). What that means is that you use your ability, and it goes on cooldown. Some abilities it seems like you can use again immediately, but if you do so the Focus (read: Mana) cost increases. This is the standard MMO gameplay and what the game starts you off with by default.

Once you locate a skill trainer in a city, you can unlock Deck building, and I think this is a much more interesting approach. You can still choose to Lock abilities to specific hotbar slots (like putting your heal on the 5 key, for instance). That way the ability is always available and follows all the rules above.

Consider each ability a card in a deck. As your character progresses, your deck can hold more cards. As you get more skilled in a particular ability, you can assign more cards for that ability to your deck. For instance, if I just barely know Stone Fist, I might be able to add one card of it to my deck. If I’m much more skilled in Fire Arrow, I might be able to add 4 cards of it to my deck. Consumables also work in this way, with healing potions, explosives, etc also being cards you add to your Deck.

Now that your deck is built, you enter combat. Any Locked hotbar slots are already available but there’s a catch: Locked abilities cost double the Focus to use and are restricted by cooldowns. Meanwhile, any empty “Unlocked” slots you have on your hotbar draws cards from your Deck. These cards are available for a period of time, but eventually decay and are replaced with other cards. So if you have multiple Fire Arrow cards, you might fire one off and immediately draw another one from your deck which allows you to cast it again immediately (ignoring cooldown) and for significantly less Focus.

There are other skills you can learn to interact with Decks as well. One skill allows you to completely discard your hand, drawing a fresh one. This costs you 10% of your maximum focus, so it’s not something you can spam. It’s saved my butt on a few occasions, though, when my hand wasn’t suited for what I needed (i.e. I desperately needed access to my Heal spell or a healing potion, and my current hand didn’t have any).

Another ability allows you to swap your Deck with another one (sorry, I forgot to mention that you can create multiple decks). This can be useful for a number of reasons, but one major one is that not only do you assign skills and consumables to a deck, you assign equipment to a deck. This means that I might be playing an archer with light armor and a lot of ranged abilities, but if I get cornered I might swap to a more close-range oriented deck with a sword and shield. In theory, anyway, I haven’t tried Deck swapping yet, but that’s what the description reads. :)

Anyway, I’m quite liking this deck mechanic thus far. I have no idea why the developers have worked so hard to hide and obfuscate all of the interesting aspects of the game. Until you find all this stuff, the game just seems like a really janky generic MMO in the worst way. It’s baffling to me, because if I wasn’t a masochist I would have never pushed through all the garbage to get to the good stuff underneath.


#354

That deck system sounds super interesting. I had thought about building something like that after playing Guild Wars 1 years ago but I ended up not making that game. Now I want to get in there if for no other reason than to see if it really works.


#355

I like it, myself. It makes combat feel much more dynamic, because I’m analyzing the situation while simultaneously looking through my hand and figuring out what to play and when. That’s much more interesting than following a “rotation” or something of the like, and I love the planning aspect of it. How many slots do I tie up with Locked abilities vs rely on drawing from my deck? My mage right now always has Root locked, because I like to open a fight with locking an enemy down. I’ve gone back and forth on whether I want Heal to be locked or just add enough cards to my deck that I reliably get it (and can cast it for much less Focus!).


#356

You can also stack multiples of the same abilities by dragging one onto the other (and stack up to the number you have in your deck) and then fire them off in a more powerful version. Another thing is you can combine two different abilities by stacking them in real time (if they show up) to create a hybrid combo that usually adds an extra effect when fired off (if there is a combo created for it by design).

It has been a year for me since I played, but the deck stuff is indeed pretty cool and I am pretty sure this stuff is still in there.


#357

I didn’t know that, that’s cool! Thanks for the info.


#358

I played again and am planning to play some more. In fact, if I get a few skills to 50 (limit for free accounts) and I want to keep playing I might actually pay $45 to buy the full game. I am also interested to interact with the player economy, like buying from player merchants, which is something else the free account can not do.

But there are other ways to spend my free time. I like ESO, although it still feels too much on rails, a lovely vision of a theme-park. I put a lot of time into Albion Online, which is very open but not very deep. I haven’t tried BDO yet, which looks maybe “too Korean”? There are other MMOs that I could play.

So, why am I playing SotA? I am trying to figure it out:

  • I like the openness. I can go anywhere at anytime. However, that doesn’t make it easy to get there, which leads me to
  • I like the size of the world and the slow travel. After 10-15 hours I have barely left the small area around where I started. There seems to be many many places to go, and it would take a long time and be hard to get there.
  • I like the depth of the skill and combat system. The manual is 33,000 words long (link ). The skill tree is large, but different skills seem accessible. The combat log has a lot going on in it, I don’t understand most of it (yet?). Other posts online talk about a lot of synergies and complexities that are not obvious to me yet.
  • I like the danger. I don’t know much tough mobs are, and some of the “intro quest” fights have been very tough. (Too tough, they are apparently toning the intro areas down next patch.) I can wander right into a zone that is way over my head and the game will punish me for it. This is somewhat tempered by them labeling adventure zones with 1 - 5 skulls, so its not a surprise that 5 skulls would be fatal. Maybe I really do want a Piranha Bytes MMO!
  • I like the player economy. Even if buying equipment from a player versus an NPC doesn’t really impact my personal experience that much at the moment, knowing it is out there means different players are encouraged to do different things.
  • I will admit, I like the obtuseness. :-)
  • Its in active development. The monthly patch notes are enormous, for example release 50 ( link ). They are making progress.
  • I can play with anyone in the game at any time, unlike some MMOs with level-based zone or quest restrictions.

The downsides of SotA seem pretty obvious:

  • The graphics and performance … suck. I just went from one starter zone that ran at 60 FPS to another one that ran at 25 FPS. I submitted a bug report about any shadows moving the load from my GPU to my CPU, which seems like Unity Programming 101. This is going to turn a lot of players off.
  • Its been in development for a very long time and still has some major holes. Some supporters have been deluding themselves that “80% of the polish takes place in the last 20% of development” but the clock is ticking until their release date of late March.
  • The original vision was enormous, and they are still creating what they designed in 2013 based on the inspiration from the 1980s. Its not a focused game, its sprawling.
  • Loading 20 seconds into a world map to walk around and then load 20 seconds into a zone map, to then zone 20 seconds to go back to a world map is silly in 2018. Wurm Unlimited does this better, and its got a fraction of the budget.
  • It seems like the attempt to build an offline single player game with the same codebase as the online MMO is causing some balance issues, for example you want solo characters to be skilled in everything (no skill caps) in the SP game but maybe have to work together (hard caps) in the MMO.

I want to keep getting to know this game.

However, if anyone else has any other suggestions of another well-designed, open-world, skill-based, tough MMO I am all ears. :-) Has anyone successfully remade UO or SWG yet? :-) :-)


#359

Nope. This is the closest in feel, even if it is very different. It’s why I’m enjoying it as much as I am, despite it being downright awful in some areas… hey, that was my take on UO and SWG at the time too! :)


#360

I got your pm, @milspec. I will try to log in tonight and confirm my character name and see where I am.


#361

Thank you for your detailed impressions @milspec, I appreciate you providing such detail. Keep it up!

I only have one slight quibble with what you said. You said ESO was on rails but I believe they changed it recently so that mbs autolevel so you can, as far as I understand it, go anywhere and try any quests. That may not be true for the storyline quests but that’s a small percentage of the game. So I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about there.


#362

This is true. In that sense it’s less on rails in terms of zone progression, but it’s still a quest-driven follow-the-breadcrumbs themepark approach that WoW popularized (although I think ESO does it the best and retains much more feel of a “world” with things to explore than any of its contemporaries).

I can’t speak for @milspec, but I agree with him that this game is much less on rails. I’m probably going to do very poorly in describing what I mean, but Shroud feels much more open in design. While you can go into any zone in ESO now, there’s still more structure there. You follow the ^ on your compass to grab the quests, go to the ^ to complete them. You look for skyshards. Then you move on to the next zone and repeat. This is probably a good thing for a lot of people’s tastes!

Shroud feels wide open. You wander the world map, enter adventure zones, and just kind of explore. Most of the areas that I’ve seen don’t have quests directing you, it’s just exploring and figuring out what might be at the bottom of that cave: maybe nothing, maybe a treasure chest, maybe a locked door you don’t know how to open.

Here’s an example. I was wandering in a zone, mostly looking for a good place to chop pine trees for a carpenter/archer friend who is playing the game as well (he needs the pine for arrow shafts). While I was exploring, I came upon a fortified bandit camp which had guards fighting a bunch of undead that were coming up out of a ravine. This wasn’t a scripted set piece where they’d sit there and bash each other endlessly, this was just a situation where some undead spawned and wandered too close to the camp. Bandits hate undead, thus the fight. A bear even wandered by and tore a chunk of an archer’s butt off while I watched.

Anyway, I took that opportunity to break into the camp. It was hard fighting and I was in over my head, having to retreat a couple times. But I was eventually able to utilize undead and some aggressive fauna to force my way in and kill the bandit captain. On his corpse I found a key, but I had no idea what it was for. In ESO or other MMOs, this key would be marked “QUEST ITEM”. I would right-click it and get instructions. That, to me, is the more “on rails” part. Not the case here: I had a key, but no idea what it went to.

I left the camp and began exploring the woods, and I found a vault with treasure locked behind it. Ah-hah! I went to use my key and… nope. Hmmm. Maybe I missed something in the bandit camp?

I made my way back to the camp (I should mention that in solo/party areas, monsters don’t respawn. Things stay dead when you kill them, so you can work your way through a zone) and explored around some more. I went into the captain’s tent and took a closer look. On the table were a few various items, a candle… and a note. Nothing draws attention to the note, it’s just sitting there on the desk like any other item. But I read it, and it’s discussing the locked vault and how the bandits have each taken a key, so that they can only get into the vault when all three of them can open it.

So now I know how to get into the vault, I just need to find the other bandit captains. I can’t pull up a map to see a highlighted area where they are, I have to do some legwork on my own and find them. And while I was doing so, I found a cool cave that was full of amethyst and diamonds. Shiny! Unfortunately, as I stepped into the cave I realized these orb looking things on the ground weren’t just decoration, they were in fact spider eggs. And when I approached, they burst. Swarmed by spiders, I was doing okay until a giant wolf spider webbed me and made me its dinner. Before I died, I also noticed that the cave went further down… was there something more down there? Oh crap, now I’m completely sidetracked, I was supposed to be looking for bandit camps, but now I want to explore this spider cave!

That, to me, is what makes the game feel much less directed or “on rails”. It reminds me much more of something like UO where I’m discovering my own adventure. Some people (a lot?) might hate the lack of direction, outside the main quest, but I really enjoy that kind of experience.


#363

That sounds really neat, and definitely off the rails.


#364

I can’t remember who was mentioning the long travel distances, but there are at least a few methods to move from one part of the map to another. Granted you still have to walk through a number of zones to get to these longer travel alternatives, but you don’t have to walk each zone to get from one end of the map to another.

I don’t want to really list some of them as they may be considered spoilers in a way.


#365

Looks like tomorrow is when the January update drops? The patch notes are pretty hefty.

Glad to see that client performance and framerates are a top priority up through release, it needs it.

EDIT: This is kind of a big deal for free trial players:


#366

Thank you @milspec, @KevinC and others for sharing your detailed experiences with and thoughts about the game. It’s very interesting to read them. It sounds like there is still a lot of work to be done on SotA, but there are many interesting features you guys talked about that I wasn’t aware were part of the game, so maybe I will have to take a look at the free demo at some point in the next few months.

This quote : "Some supporters have been deluding themselves that ‘80% of the polish takes place in the last 20% of development’” rings so true. As someone who has been a part of MMORPGs since the very beginning (I beta tested Meridian 59!) that deluded belief has been the downfall of more projects than I can even begin to count. I’ve watched so many ambitious MMOs, some of them quite good, launch with only half (or less) of that expected “polish” applied, and the reaction from players/fans is always the same, immediate and negative, so much so that most games that launched that way never recovered.

I sincerely hope that does not happen with SotA. I’d love to see Lord British and the devs score a win with this one, but it seems like they have a long way to go yet.


#367

I don’t know, my feeling is it already has. It has been a super long time in development, and I think original non-whale backers are quite jaded on this based on the state of the game. While you see something free that might be cool to explore some more, some see something they spent $100 and 5+ years on and it does not come close to what they were looking for. Many of those jaded backers paid more money than it was worth, and yes one could pose the crowd-funding argument “it was to try and make it happen” but I think they do have legitimate beefs that will never be resolved and the customer care in this regard was almost nil. I do think the negative impact of this is reflected by the additional funding request last year, which included statements that they were ‘done’. And they just made the minimum and there was a good amount of outcry about it.

I don’t see this attracting a large base, but will it survive as a revenue vehicle? Possibly. But if a time comes where they are not making revenue this will fold faster than Superman on laundry day to steal a Seinfeld quote…

We sort of see the same thing with Star Citizen, but I think the potentially jaded have something a little more to hold onto still.


#368

Appreciate the detailed reports, guys. You’ve made me hopeful - I was particularly concerned about the deck mechanic for combat since I don’t like deck games like Heartstone, but your more detailed descriptions make it sound both malleable and cool.

How do I get my house from the kickstarter if I log in?


#369

It is my understanding that the plot is the problem, not the house itself. I haven’t played in a while, but was there when the first ones were snatched up. They then ran some very large plot lotteries where many more plots were awarded.

Right now your best chance is to probably hook up with someone that owns their own private town/zone with plots available. The guild I was in had people like this and they could set a plot for you wherever they wanted, I believe, within some guidelines I am sure.

I would guess once you had a properly sized plot, you could then place your rent free? house on the plot. I am mostly going from old memory, though, so someone closer and more recent to the situation should probably comment, and I am afraid I am not sure how you exactly acquire your house deed?


#370

That’s a fair question. :-) @KevinC answered pretty well, but here is my experience. I love ESO. I was in late beta, got a bunch of friends hooked and we all played after release for a while. My only major issue was that it was hard to play with people who wanted to explore other realms or were higher level. That eventually splintered our group and people lost interest.

One Tamriel was genius. The scale of the change to allow anyone to go anywhere, with level no longer mattering, was exactly what I wanted. I picked ESO back up and took my Redguard immediately across into the eleven lands and rode until I found a zone that looked interesting.

I was really surprised to find out that I had a negative reaction to One Tamriel. There were minor issues, like questing in zone “4” of a realm assumed you had already completed zones 1-3 and continued you on a plot you had not started.

But my largest reaction was discovering that a) nothing (normal) was too challenging and it was impossible to wander into a regular zone and be in over your head because everything was the same level and b) it felt like the whole world was managed into mini-theme parks, one per realm and split into rides that continued from one zone into another. That wasn’t an intellectual surprise but my emotional reaction to it turned me off from ESO.

It’s an awesome game, I “should” play it instead of Shrouds, but ESO feels too managed and controlled to me. It’s an illusion of freedom over a very specific quest chain progression. With a great combat system, amazingly beautiful zones, a world design that gets your head away from the HUD and into the game, and polished text quests and audio.


#371

Here is another Shrouds update that continues to summarize my mixed experience. (I am still trying to be vague to not spoil anything.)

I decided to put the “travel anywhere” and “do anything” philosophies to the test, looked at the map for somewhere that seemed remote, and picked a quest from my log that sent me on a long trip in that direction. (Your quest log can get pretty long!)

I still have hesitations about the split overworld map, but it does capture the feeling of a long journey quite nicely. I spent about 10 - 15 minutes total on the trip one-way.

There was a mountain pass where I had to cross a 5 skull zone, which was way above my level. Luckily my quest included a soldier that was waiting to escort me safely across the zone - by teleporting me to the far side exit.

I arrived at the port city and had a wander around. The cities look nice but my frame rate always sucks in them (25 FPS on a GTX 980, non-cities sometimes run at 60 FPS) and I’m still free tier I cannot interact with any of the player vendors.

I took a boat (aka zoned) to a large island. There the quest picked up in a new direction and encouraged me to save a knight. I exited into the world map and found the correct close-by adventure zone.

I entered the zone (which said “solo” so I think they instance these based on group size to make it challenging?) and it was a large and well done camp of normally aggressive enemies that allowed me through. I spoke to their leader and he said I had to fight one of them in single combat in order to progress.

I walked down to their arena and the fight began. Ha ha ha too bad for me. I quickly found out I had no chance. I did sort of OK on managing my skills and mana, and remembered my food and spell buffs, and drank some health and mana potions during the fight, but when I was down to 10% health the enemy was still at 50%. I didn’t see anyway to do better, died, and resurrected close by.

So … I had spent 40 minutes crossing the map, exploring, and questing in order to hit a hard stop. Did I have fun exploring? Yes. Did it tell a story I will remember? Yes. Do I appreciate the design philosophy and the game’s dedication to a certain feel? Yes.

Would I have liked some basic indication of the quest level before I set off so I didn’t “waste” 30+ minutes and had the chance to decide to do something more “fun”? Maybe. :-)

A friend and I spoke. We are both sufficiently intrigued and will continue. These final patches in Jan, Feb and March has better be amazing. :-) If they improve the frame rates and optimize most zones and cities so they run smoothly, then I will stay for a while.


#372

I plan to start back up this weekend. I just logged in to grab a few screenshots of the equipment I am wearing that I at least used to be able to craft. If they are good for people, I will see if I can figure out how to make them again, or at least similar gear.

Details of armor in Summary:

Summary

GlovesHelmLeggingsBootsChest

Character sheet and Sword: