Shadowbane is different. It's also impossible to outline exactly what Shadowbane really is without filling ten pages. Having teamed up with The Gathering Of Developers, Wolfpack Studios, who is producing it, can't define what it is either - and that's great because it means that at last there's an online game with lots of potential. Or at least we think so.
Shadowbane is an online fantasy world, but that's where any real resemblance to EverQuest, Ultima Online otAsheron's Call ends. With a lot of MUD creation history behind them the producers are trying to create a world with some really cool options and "lots of social interactions". Sounds a bit prissy? Well the interactions they are looking for are from those who want power, those who want to lie, cheat, connive and murder their way to the top.
Players will enter Shadowbane and join a guild - either player - or GM-nin - simply because it's dangerous to be alone (it's the quickest path to power, basically). Apart from mutual defence, guilds can claim entire cities in the game and allow their members to buy weapons, armour and train there.
But there will always be fewer cities than there are guilds so you'll always have to keep a beady one out for other guilds who want to oust you. Adding blood to the carnage is the fact that the longer you hold on to a town, the more developed your workers there will become, so you get access to better armour, weapons and training. This in turn makes you an even bigger target for conquest. A siege of a big town could take days in real time, so guilds spread over time zones will be at an advantage (that's nice for us Brits). Good isn't it?
So it's a player killers (PK) dream? Well Shadowbane isn't PK, it's player-vs-player (PvP), and, yes, there's a difference. High-level players killing lots of newbies just doesn't pay off in Shadowbane: the killer gets absolutely nothing and the newbie gets almost nothing. Your enemies are other players, Y be they one of the normal races or If some of the very untypical 'bad' races or monsters... oh and also NPC varieties. There's a huge array of combinations for race, religion, guild and skills - and we do mean huge. You're not even limited to just one 'option' for your characters life.
So far it sounds like a big fantasy frag-fest, but there's a lot of strategy to the game in both the fighting and the social side of things. Towns may have a controlling guild but that doesn't stop other guilds operating there - allegiances can be formed, as will allegiance trees of guilds.
A source of comedy for many, a lifestyle for others, the fantasy genre is if nothing else incredibly resistant to change. If you accredit this to the richness of the subject matter rather than a lack of imagination among goblin-lovers, you'll be pleased to hear that there's a new pretender to the EverQuest throne on its way -WolfPack Studios' forthcoming MMORPG Shadowbane. Currently in the early stages of beta testing, Shadowbane takes place in the dark world of Aerynth, and looks set to trot out all the usual fantasy conventions. However, it does attempt to distinguish itself from the competition by tossing some elements of strategy and wargaming into the cauldron, offering advanced players the ability to form guilds, engage in political intrigue, build fortifications and cities, lay siege to enemy strongholds, conquer territories and eventually rule entire kingdoms. A greater depth of player interaction is thus encouraged, taking the genre beyond traditional RPG questing and item-swapping. If going to war isn't your thing, you can treat the game as a standard character-based RPG, though with its newbie-friendly level-upping system, Shadowbane is unlikely to be the most hardcore of its ilk.
Possibly the most progressive element of the game though, is the way its servers are being set up. Instead of having many identical "mirrored" game environments hosted around the world, each of Shadowbane's server-clusters will represent one fragment of the world of Aerynth, tom asunder in some ancient calamity. Each portion will offer a unique feel and flavour; one may be largely forested, another an Arctic wasteland, and so on. Your character will be able to travel freely between the different world fragments through magical portals. If Shadowbane can capitalise on innovations such as this it could make its mark, though whether the already well-serviced market can support another fantasy-themed persistent world waits to be seen.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
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