User Rating: 7.5 | Shadowbane PC
When I first heard of Shadowbane I thought the idea sounded fairly uninteresting, and I only got it because my interest in AC2 had worn out, Star Wars Galaxies was delayed, and I wanted something to keep me occupied until it was released. I?ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I?ve enjoyed playing this game since then. The makers of SB have stripped away much of what most people expect in modern MMPORPGs: no quests, NPCs serving as vendors only, no dungeons, no crafting and it has an absolute minimum of character appearance variations. What they HAVE concentrated on is a simple but effective way to build and design your own cities, a rich character class-based development system that seems deceptively simple at first, and a well-thought out set of rules to support a PvP environment. While the Gamespot review is correct in saying the tutorial is minimal, I found the interface itself easy-to-use and very customizable. It is a non-standard interface, ignoring lots of typical conventions, but once you get used to a few of its odder quirks, it is quite efficient and, in its own way, well thought out. The gameplay itself starts out as a very typical level-treadmill, but the levels come fast and furious and, after the first 10 levels, you have lots of choices and options for shaping your character into your own creation. It?s usually easy to find a group to adventure with, and after level 20 when you?re off ?newbie island? and onto one of the main continents, you?ll most likely be joining a guild and have a ready-made supply of friends to whack monsters with. Later on there?s also enough variety in armor, weapons, etc. that your character can finally look somewhat unique. Being open to thieving and the potential to attack or be attacked by other groups who are also out fighting monsters adds enough spice to keep the leveling interesting while you continue running on that treadmill. All MMPORPGs can sink or soar depending on whether or not you successfully find a group of people you can enjoy the company of on a regular basis, and this is especially true for Shadowbane. Because they?ve stripped the game to the essentials of PvP, the quality of both your friends and enemies will greatly influence the fun you have with this game. The classes are well-designed so they all play a vital role in later levels, and solo-ing after the first 10 or so levels is very difficult, making for a game that absolutely requires you socialize a great deal. Ultimately, if you?re looking for thrills from the game itself, such as great graphics, sound, or a dynamic and interesting environment, then you?ll be disappointed. But, if you?re fortunate enough to find some good people, you?ll have lots of fun in Shadowbane.