Why you should try Shadowbane (and some reasons not to)

You’ve probably heard of Shadowbane; it’s one of those MMORPGs that had some great ideas, but started out horribly and never really recovered. The game has improved tremendously in the last two years, and is now at a point where I can safely recommend it to anyone who feels like trying something different. I’ll just list what I consider to be the major points, along with their ups and downs.

Character creation is one of the game’s biggest strengths. Unlike most MMOGs where a warrior is a warrior and race is a mostly cosmetic thing, you have to make many important choices when building a toon. For example, the centaur race can outrun almost anything, while the minotaur is far stronger, tougher and dumber than anything else. There are even two races that can fly, something I haven’t seen in any other game so far.

Many characters will have at least twice as many skills and abilities as they can ever train, so you have to think hard about investing your points. On top of all that, you can apply so-called Discipline runes to give a toon additional abilities (e.g. a werewolf transformation or a particular style of swordfighting).

An open system like this will always lead to a limited number of templates that players tend to stick to. But even so, it’s possible to custom build a character that noone else has; and even though the game is over two years old, people are still coming up with new and interesting combinations.

The game engine is one of the reasons Shadowbane failed early on. People quit because of heavy lag, client crashes and gameplay bugs. These issues are mostly gone now; lag can still occur when a large number of people are on screen, but is mostly bearable. Crashes and bugs are nearly non-existant, at least in my experience.

The engine itself performs admirably well. You will only see a loading screen if you teleport a large distance, and if you keep in mind that it has to display player built structures and dozens of avatars at the same time, it’s pretty impressive. The graphics aren’t that great, but they’re functional and have a distinct style that I happen to like.

Player versus player combat is of course the main selling point of the game. If you’re happy killing mobs and doing quests to gain levels, Shadowbane isn’t really for you. Unless you’re in one of the few safeholds, you are open to be attacked by anyone, anytime. If you’re killed by a player, your equipment takes some damage, everything in your inventory is dropped in a grave that can be looted, and you are sent to your bind point. Of course the reverse is also true; if someone annoys you, you can gank them. And rob their corpses. Send them a tell informing them that they have been kerpwned. And then camp their city until they cry.

This design is the exact opposite of a general trend I’ve seen in MMOGs lately; the tendency to make each player’s experience independent of other people. While Shadowbane’s model can be frustrating at times, I also think it’s far more rewarding; the day I slaughtered an assassin and a thief who teamed up and jumped me in the woods was the day I fell in love with the game.

PvP isn’t all random. There are a number of resource mines on the world map that are open to attack two hours each day. The guild that controls them gets the resources; so every day, there are set locations where you are guaranteed to get a fight against a prepared opponent.

Player built cities are another big selling point. Each world starts as a blank slate, with a couple of NPC towns that offer the bare necessities. A guild can plant a tree of life, which acts as a respawning point and as the center of a player city. These cities can have vendors, trainers, guards, everything you need in the game. And they can be burned down.

A siege is perhaps the most interesting event you can experience in Shadowbane. If you fail to defend a city, it will either be destroyed or taken over by the enemy. If you’ve ever asked for player run events and politics, here you have them; nations rise and fall, alliances are made and broken, and all this is decided by the people who play the game.

The player base is perhaps the biggest problem in Shadowbane. There are the usual idiots, and it’s inevitable that the open PvP model would attract a fair share of assholes. But what annoys me most is the aloof elitism of many old school players who refuse to help or recruit new people. If you start playing the game these days, you’ll probably get stuck between retards and assholes who won’t give you the time of day. This is devastating in a game that depends so heavily on player guilds and nations. The game might do well if it could get a sudden, large influx of new blood, but that isn’t likely to happen anymore.

The new lore server launches on the 19th of September. Apart from offering a clean slate - no high level toons, no player cities - it runs under the new lore ruleset. Instead of allowing all races and classes into all guilds, you will only be able to have dwarves in a dwarf guild, confessors in the church and so on. This should make for some very interesting conflicts, and may even encourage roleplay in some places.

And finally, the game has a free trial. There’s no need to buy any boxes; if you decide to start a subscription after the trial, you automatically get the game and both expansions for ten bucks.

Sorry about the length, but I didn’t want to sell the game short, on either the good or bad parts. If you’re interested in trying it, I’ll help out; I can answer questions, help you decide on a first character and meet you in-game if playtimes coincide.

A lot of that actually sounds pretty neat.

I liked SB well enough because of the limitless pvp (I loved my little thief) and our guild is going back to play again on their new Lore server. The only thing is it sounds like some folks are still getting the dreaded sb.exe exception error. If that is the case, after all these years, then I will pass. There is ZERO fun in dying in a massive pvp battle because that pops up. You ended up logging in and finding yourself at the tree of life.

Oh, and the process in porting folks around is a pain too. I can appreciate the necessity to do so so gankers don’t ‘make the rounds’ too easily, but it makes it a hassle for those who CAN port and getting groups together for experience.

Just Say No.

I loved SB and played it for quite some time, but I don’t think I could go back.

The client doesn’t crash on me, period. I have seen other people crash out occasionally, but I’d say it isn’t a serious problem anymore. Lag can be a killer though; there’s a distinct stutter when you close in on a group of 20 to 30 people.

Getting around the world can be difficult, but I think the system works fine. You have the runegates to get you places, and a good guild will be able to get a large force to almost any location in a few minutes.

The new lore set should have been there from the get-go. SB had great potential for RP, with it’s rich history and PvP mechanics, and plenty of folks ready to play (and RP) but now it’s probably too late. I followed SB development for YEARS and there were many rabid RP fans with some fantastic guild ideas (I was in one of them called The Orphans) but things seemed to fall apart once the game was released.

Anyway, I may take a peek again. I think I still have the game and even the strategy guide. :roll:

Foom, you’re a hell of a salesman and you’ve got me quite interested in this game again. I played SB for a few months back when it was released, and while I thought it had an insane amount of potential, in the end the implementation was lacking. And then after quitting I never really perceived much of a buzz about the game actually improving all that much… But if it has improved, I’d be willing to give it another shot. Only problem is that right now I’m so addicted to WoW that I just don’t know where I’d find the time.

I tried it a couple of years and I wandered around a bit and found some homes that I guess were player placed. IIRC, the homes were placed on atop a small hill and where the hill started to descend the player homes remained flat extended over a ledge. You could walk under and fucking look up into part of the home! Please tell they fixed that.

I played Shadowbane back in beta and I had a blast. Two things kept me from getting it, though.

  1. I hate the point and click movement system.

  2. Matt didn’t want to play with me.

But heck, I might give the free trial a go. I played in an amazon guild that at least made an attempt at role play and keeping to the lore way back when and it was a lot of fun. I remember doing a raid on a city on an island, everyone walking across the bottom of the ocean and having to time it just right so no one died. Amazing fun.

Shadowbane is a ghost town of a game that looks like shit and plays like shit. Furthermore, the monster spawns occur only every quarter mile and are quite obviously packed together for mindless aoe’ing. I hate it more than I hate the free online Korean game, Knight II.

Nevertheless, I was excited about this game back in 1999. The classes/subclasses are cool, there are lots of races, and the story is great.

This game is like the opposite of a polished turd. I think that makes it turd of pearl.

Thanks :P

Go on playing WoW if you’re enjoying it. But if you ever get bored with that kind of gameplay, I recommend trying SB. If it’s still around by then.

JMR, the area around a tree of life is automatically flattened now, so what you described is no longer possible.

Angie, I found a surprising number of guilds planning to roleplay [1] [2] [3].
I’m afraid the point and click system is still in there however, and I can’t help with Matt.

Flowers, yeah, the game isn’t made for player versus environment questing and monster killing. But you can get a character ready for PvP in under a week, and SB offers an experience you won’t get anywhere else. I also suspect your opinion is tainted by the horrible launch; it really has improved since then.

Yep, I was in ShadowClan day one of release. For the most part the first month was great RP+PVP action. But it soon became clear that despite the “intentions” of the developers, ARAC Powergamers ruled with a “Play to Crush” attitude. It soon became clear that the clan couldn’t RP effectively and still compete with the pKi11a l33ts out there. After 3 months, the most effective PvP tactic was “stacking” your entire guild directly on top of each other (no collision code) in order to lag the enemy to death. Between the “camping the enemy’s base at 4am” and the dreaded sb.exe error during real sieges, it became clear that the engine simply could not handle the huge battles dictated by the game design, and the game design couldn’t resist the exploiter powergamers.

I simply don’t see the game being much better at this point, despite the new “lore” server. Maybe when SB2 comes out, I will give another shot.

So after a week or so, I won’t have to play keep-up-with-the-Joneses? If so, then I’m even more intrigued.

Is there any information about a sequel?

So after a week or so, I won’t have to play keep-up-with-the-Joneses? If so, then I’m even more intrigued.[/quote]
It’s a different kind of keep up. From what I remember, you needed a guild (or allies) with a large city in order to access the highest level trainers and the best items. Since the goal is not just building characters but building cities, a lone wolf running around won’t be able to impact the game at all except as a noob ganker. And if you want to build a large city, you better have alot of friends with alot of spare time to farm for the gold to build it with. Of course, as soon as you build a slightly respectable town and start to feel a little pride about your accomplishment, a mindless zerg army will come destroy everything and have sex with your corpse.

So no, you won’t have to play keep-up-with-the-Joneses, because unless you are somehow adopted or marry into the Jones family, you will never come close to keeping up.

Is there any information about a sequel?[/quote]
Only in vague statements seen on other forums, it seems possible but unlikely…

Yes. It’s being planned.

(There’s also another post he wrote but that I didn’t have the time to find and link)

About the flying races, how high can they fly?

TrodKnee - I dunno, it seems to me that the lore ruleset does exactly what you want; it evens the field between RP guilds and the powergamers. Also, there is a general tendency to go for more melee and less casters these days, so stack fights are a thing of the past.

Concerning your second post, while everything you say is true, that’s just an overly pessimistic way of saying “you need a good guild”. A lone wolf is in a difficult situation, but if you join a capable nation you don’t have to worry about city building at all. Maybe I’m weird, but I think defensive sieges are tremendous fun, precisely because there is so much to lose.

Shadari - There’s definitely less of a grind than in other games. About the sequel, Wolfpack is working on a new project but is neither confirming nor denying that it is SB2.

Euri - There are something like six tiers of flight. At the second you’re safe from melees, at the fourth tier you are out of throwing weapon range and at the fifth or so you can fly over city walls. The downside is that flying uses a lot of stamina, so you can’t stay up there forever.

The most tempting thing for me is the player-run cities. I really like that idea, and I also really like the idea of a new server starting up in a few weeks as a clean slate, so new players can actually take advantage of it.

When the game first came out, the flying race was something you had to unlock by playing a couple months. Think the same with Minotaurs. Is this still the case? Because the bird people are the only race I am interested in.