The Chronicles of Spellborn First Look

We get a look at the upcoming online role-playing game from Europe's Spellborn.

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The online role-playing game market has obviously garnered a good deal of attention in the past few years with the release of a number of high-profile games that have brought the genre to the public eye. One of the next wave of games slated to entice players into its unique world is The Chronicles of Spellborn, from European developer Spellborn. This original title aims to offer a unique experience that draws on tried-and-true gameplay elements that are integral to an online role-playing game while doing away with the tedious bits that tend to drive players off. We recently had the chance to get a look at a work-in-progress version of the game to see how it's shaping up.

The Chronicles of Spellborn features combat that's fast-paced; there's no locking on to targets in this game.
The Chronicles of Spellborn features combat that's fast-paced; there's no locking on to targets in this game.

The game's premise finds you eking out an existence on massive free-floating shards that reside within an expanse known as the Deadspell Storm. The large rocky masses that make up the remnants of a planet known as the Ancestor World contain a population of humans and supernatural creatures, who have become strange bedfellows in the wake of the supernatural apocalypse that resulted in the world shattering. Still, in the wake of the planet's destruction, order has slowly started to creep back. Settlements, which continue to search for other shards that make up pieces of the shattered world, have begun banding together. A new civilization known as the Enclave of the Five Sacrifices has formed from the remnants. You'll play as one of three classes, warrior, mage, or rogue, and set out to explore the remnants of the Ancestor World, eventually discovering more shards.

While this may all sound like a variation on your standard online role-playing game, Chronicles of Spellborn is aiming to offer an experience that hits all the required bullet points but steers clear of the elements that drive players to distraction. The leveling system, grinding, and crafting have all been given a different spin to offer an alternative experience. Leveling will happen as you earn experience from completing quests (not killing X number of fodder), but won't work quite the same as in other online role-playing games. The three classes will level up with roughly the same attributes for the early levels but, after you've hit level 6, you'll find three different specializations for each class. For example, rogues will be able to branch out into trickster, poisoner, or phase dancer. Each specialty will have its own unique set of skills that will differentiate them from each other, even within the same class. Grinding is essentially gone, for both leveling and crafting. The quest-experience system eliminates the basic grinding of role-playing games, while crafting is kept simple by requiring you to bring materials to non-player characters that'll make items for you. Items are the other aspect of the game that's radically different from your typical online role-playing game in that they will be more cosmetic than functional during battle, as skills will determine success in combat.

Your adventuring will alternate between the past and present of the shard worlds as you take on a variety of quests, some of which will be tied in to your character's faction and will help you conquer or discover new shards. Over the course of your exploration, you'll encounter enemies that require some death dealing on your part. However, combat differs quite a bit from the traditional online role-playing game in that there is no lock-on combat. Rather, you'll need to keep your foe in your sights while you cycle through different skills during battle, which gives it a decidedly twitchier approach than the average online role-playing game. You'll gain more skills as you go and can customize your skill deck, which determines what skills will be available to you during combat. As you progress through the game you'll be able to increase the size of your deck, allowing you to access more skills in combat. The interesting twist to combat is that you'll earn buffs as you succeed in battle that will last until you're killed. Though you'll find plenty of cannon fodder on your explorations, you'll really want to worry about the large boss characters that you'll encounter. Besides being suitably menacing, the bosses are a unique, permanent part of the environment that will stay dead after you've killed them. Wiping out the bosses ties in to your faction's attempts to open up new shards which, if you're the first to do it, will yield some bonuses for the effort.

The game is set on floating shards, but it still looks very fantasy-esque.
The game is set on floating shards, but it still looks very fantasy-esque.

The visuals in the game will rely on the Unreal 2.5 engine, which is churning out some unique MC Escher-esque visuals that represent the twisted landscape of the shards. As far as the character models go, you'll find a fairly detailed character editor that you can log some time with to create a custom character, or you can simply choose to go with a randomly generated one if you want to dive right in. The nice bit on the creation side is that the character types aren't limited by their class as they are in other games, meaning you can have a frail-looking stick be a mighty warrior, or have a burly type serve as your caster.

Based on what we've seen, The Chronicles of the Spellborn is charting a very unique path in the online role-playing genre. While it uses the basic online role-playing framework, the game's unique systems set it apart from the pack. The shard system seems ripe for expansion and the faction mechanics have some decidedly cool elements to them. There's obviously a ways to go before the game ships; a limited beta is currently under way with something more expansive hitting in the near future, but the game is looking like it will be a unique alternative that just might stand as a viable alternative for players hankering for something different in their online role playing.

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