Shadowbane impressions

We delve into this new massively multiplayer online RPG from Wolfpack Studios and Ubi Soft. New screenshots inside.



Wolfpack Studios' new online role-playing game, Shadowbane, shipped to stores earlier this week, and we've since gotten into the game and explored some of its features. Years in the making, Shadowbane is reminiscent of other 3D fantasy-themed online RPGs such as EverQuest, Asheron's Call, and Dark Age of Camelot, but it places more of an emphasis on player vs. player combat. Like most other online RPGs, Shadowbane lets you create a character by choosing from various combinations of fantasy races and classes and then take that character into a dangerous world to gain experience by defeating monsters, forge alliances with other players, and seek out new and better equipment.

Character creation in Shadowbane should be pretty straightforward for those familiar with other games of this type. The most unusual aspect of the game's character creation system is the fact that three of the character races--the minotaur, the centaur, and the aracoix--are not available by default. Players who preordered Shadowbane will have access to these races from the start, as will players who pay approximately $100 for a year's subscription. For everyone else, one of these races will be unlocked per month as an incentive for players who continue to pay the game's monthly service fee of about $13. At any rate, the differences between Shadowbane's character races seem to be mostly cosmetic and will not be readily obvious during gameplay. When creating your character, you may adjust the character's gender, hairstyle, hair color, and starting equipment, but there are no options to otherwise change the look of his or her face.

Like some other online RPGs, Shadowbane has a rather complicated interface that makes for a fairly steep learning curve. Some text-based tutorials are included to help you get acclimated to the game, but you'll need to wander around and experiment for a while before you'll get a good grasp of things. Regardless of which area of the gameworld you start in, an enemy-infested "newbie zone" shouldn't be far off. Here you can immediately begin fighting monsters and leveling your character. The combat is similar to that of other online RPGs, and it's initially very passive--you'll just toggle on the combat mode and sit back and watch. It won't be long before you reach the second experience level, but beyond that, you'll apparently need to make a considerable time investment to get your Shadowbane character to a high level. We saw a number of human players already having at it, trying to level up, although the game's world is not densely populated yet.

Shadowbane has spent several years in development, and this is evident both from the large size of the gameworld and from the game's less-than-state-of-the-art production values. The game looks and plays similar to previous online RPGs, but it does have its own set of characters, rules, and gameplay features. We'll have a full review of Shadowbane soon.

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