Shroud of the Avatar – Release 1 Review

This past week, around 25,000 of my closest online friends got a chance to play around in the new world created by Ultima creator Richard Garriott.  Shroud of the Avatar is a new RPG that can be played in both single-player and online multiplayer modes.

Garriott’s new company, Portalarium, is the design studio behind Shroud of the Avatar, and after a successful Kickstarter campaign, they gave us all a taste of the game with some in-game footage right around the 30-day mark. Then recently, a 6-month progress video came out, and really showcased the game’s crafting and housing aspects. Around that time, the guys at Portalarium decided to give us their “release schedule”, a series of 3-day play tests designed to help test and showcase the various aspects within the game, giving backers a chance to play the game early on and help shape how the game is released.

Portalarium has done an outstanding job so far in getting the input of it’s fan base by plugging into their interests and giving them a forum to say what they want in the game. They’ve also made it possible to continue giving to the project, allowing you to increase your original Kickstarter campaign gift to unlock more and more goodies within the game.

This test was to showcase the town of Owl’s Head, one of the larger towns in the game, and give players a chance to claim whatever kind of house they wanted to and begin house decorating. The conversation feature was also enabled, giving players a chance to speak to the various NPCs in the town and test out the call/response format they’ve set up in the game. The point of the conversation feature is to make receiving and turning in quests much more organic (i.e. no more pushing an “Accept” or “Yes” button).

First off, I ran into the town and was met by an Owl’s Head guard who wanted to know my business in the Vale. He has been tasked with keeping all rough looking sorts out of the town, but after a few minutes of conversing with him, it seemed he was satisfied (for now) with my story. So into the town I went. I wasn’t aware of it right away, but the devs decided to place chests of loot, both housing stuff and armor and weapons, in various places throughout Owl’s Head.

Once I figured that out, it was quite fun to run around and treasure hunt in the various open public buildings in the town for the chests. I found a bunch of armor and weapons and a ton of housing things, including furniture, crafting stations, paintings and more (even the coveted Throne of Bones!)

The most expensive house in the game (to date) is the Lord of the Manor house, and it was in the Owl’s Head for claiming, so of course I went and claimed ownership of the property. The only downside to this property is that (at least in this set up) there wasn’t a ton of outdoor space to work with. But this is overcome by having nearly endless space on the inside.

A few of the locks inside were buggy but I worked my way around that. There is so much space in this house, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to be comfortable in something smaller!

There were so many little things that reminded me of Ultima Online, the Ultima game I remember and cherish most. Things like the paperdoll character screen to the animals roaming the town, the text of speech being above the characters head and more. You got a sense that this game not only pays homage to the past but is trying to innovate it and bring it forward into the new style of gaming choices.

This game is only 8 months into an 18-month development schedule, and there are many bugs (mostly small ones) but from what I’ve seen, I couldn’t be happier that I’ve contributed to the development of this game and look forward to Release 2 coming in late January when the crafting system is released! More on that in January! Here are a bunch of screenshots I took in the game.

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