"Ok, ssssomeone fffforgot to inssssulate my arrrrmor, its ffffreakin' cold out hhhhere," I stuttered through chattering teeth. My breath was billowing as I danced around in the snow trying to keep myself warm. Elleonal laughed at me as she ran around in her Jobe-made environmental suit. "Looks like someone forgot their arctic gear," she beamed as I looked at her through frozen eyelids. "Take a look above you hotshot," Yari stated smugly as she warmed her gloved hands. I arched my neck backward and took in the view.
We stood at the root of what looked like an enormous Redeemed fortress. Ziana leaned forward and pointed at the base of the structure. "See the symbols near the bottom and up higher too?" she asked. I spastically nodded in the blistering cold. "Both the Redeemed and Unredeemed have their own language," she informed, "and there are messages written in their Temples and Gardens that can be decoded to tell you about their governers." "Even the Yutto encampments have their own written language." "Well, that's nice," I added as I looked beyond the gilded towers and into the night sky. "Brrrr, at least it's not snowing," I spat as I crossed my arms and walked over to look at the suns setting over the treetops.
Ziana laughed at me and asked us if we'd prefer something warmer. Nodding quickly, I was relieved to be whisked away from the frozen hell of Penumbra, only to end up in Inferno itself.
"Ok this wasn't what I had in mind," I shouted sarcastically as my footing gave way, leaving me dangling over a rather balmy looking pool of magma. I was quite happy that were were provided with equipment that allowed us to withstand the inhuman heat. After receiving bewildered looks, I found footing and deftly leapt back onto the platform. The heat waves off the lava were making my eyes blur terribly before Ziana took us to more solid ground: smack dab in the middle of an Unredeemed fort. Ziana chimed, "You may notice similarities to Dante's Divine Comedy and the 7 levels of Hell." She spread her arms in greeting. "I welcome you to the Inferno."
While we had encountered many kinds of Unredeemed on our journey thus far, nothing could have prepared us for Fortuitous Dom-Chi Mord, a mammoth arachnid lord who glared at us through sulfurous eyes. "If you think he's impressive, take a look at him..." Ziana stated, pointing to the lumbering giant demon that came bounding over the building. "Ohhh, I wanna KILL that!" squealed a boisterous Elleonal. "Do you remember the Notum Vein from Elysium?" Ziana inquired. "The original inhabitants of the Shadowlands wanted to become gods themselves, wanted to control the essence of life," she stated. "Scattered throughout all areas in the Shadowlands, explorers can find pieces of these 'Blueprints of Life'." "When a complete blueprint is assembled, players can bring them to a Notum Vein and spawn the creature that was preserved in the artifact."
Elleonal stopped and thought intensely about these "pocket bosses" and inquired, "Now do these have infinite uses?" "No, though once a blueprint has been created, they can be reused, but not indefinitely," Ziana answered. "Won't there be a huge influx of special treasure into the economy of Shadowlands if these boss monsters are spawn-on-demand?" Elleonal asked. "Not really," Ziana replied. "Almost all of the incredible loot that these special creatures drop will be unique as well as untradeable." "Once a player picks up one of these items, they won't be able to carry more than one, nor will they be able to sell or trade the item with other players," Ziana concluded.
Elleonal decided she'd press further into the topic. "When such a creature is killed, who gains looting rights?"
Ziana smiled and chimed,"You can choose from three methods of looting," she answered. " 'Alpha' is the most popular, allowing alternating looting rights between team members." "You can set looting to 'All', allowing the fallen enemy to be looted by any member of the party," she continued. "Finally, you can set looting to 'Leader', which only allows the team leader to loot the body," she continued. "In the case of no-drop items, a player who is currently looting the corpse can view the objects on the body first, and relinquish looting rights to another if the team agrees that a particular treasure needs to go to another player," Ziana added. "Though," she added, "if not teamed, looting is determined by a number of variables including who dealt the most amount of damage, whoever got the most experience from the fight, and whoever manages to land the final blow."
Ziana noted that unlike other online worlds, the monsters and structures in Shadowlands aren't pre-generated and peppered across the landscape by random code. They are hand-crafted creations that are methodically placed into the environment, becoming an active part in what game director Gaute Godager calls "Geogameplay." This allows the environment to affect how creatures and players traverse the land and interact. "As monsters are hand-placed, we're able to make them smarter according to the scenery. They take into account the terrian and made adjustments for their viewing range for targeting, etc.," she continued. The linear progression throughout the various islands found in Shadowlands is also integral to the concept of Geogameplay.
"So if this is inspired by Homer, namely Dante's Devine Comedy, does the 7th and last level of Hell awaits us?" I inquired. Ziana smiled darkly. "The last level... is Pandemonium." "No one who has ventured there has returned to tell of it... strange echoes, screams of insanity in a nightmarish otherworld," she mused." I've never seen it either," she grinned. "I do know that the ultimate goal of those who venture this far into the Shadowlands is to become a part of a final climactic battle which will determine the fate of the Shadowlands," she added. "Of course, nobody has been there and survived to tell the tale." I thought about what she had said for some time. Could there be a resolution to the chaos that was ripping this world to peices? Time would only tell.
We had thought the trip was over, but not by a long shot. Ziana still have more to show us.
"On Rubi-Ka, players accept missions at terminals and progress to an endless array of randomly generated dungeons." Ziana stated. "In the Shadowlands, the missions chose you..." I tried very hard to stop myself from throwing in the odd Pokémon reference, but couldn't. Elleonal and Yari gave me the gaze of death after my snappy comment, which summarily dulled my witty laughter to a muted whimper.
Ziana chortled and continued. "This Gameplay-On-Demand, or G.O.D. system, allows a much more natural and dynamic method of game progression," she continued. "Each door you walk into, each NPC you interact with, may become a custom mission tailored to your level, profession and faction." "To clarify, there will be no traditional missions in Shadowlands, the quests that are given out via the G.O.D. system will be carried out in the static dungeons found throughout the Shadowlands," she stated. "When you or your party enters one of these static dungeons, the G.O.D. system takes into account the levels, professions and faction of your party, and determines what you may encounter in that particular location."
With that said, we were transported to a dungeon in the wilds of Nascence. As we entered the structure, I noticed that as a natural setting, the lighting inside the dungeon was affected by the time of day outside. As the sun set, the ambient lighting grew darker. I looked above and marveled at the high arches and ornate ceiling tiles that were reminiscent of a mosque. Progressing further we found that the dungeon was multilayered, linked with the more traditional lift-beacons from Anarchy Online missions as well as actual stairways leading to different areas. Within that single dungeon we saw well over a dozen different room designs, each of which Ziana noted, were designed with an aspect of functionality. This design choice led to an organic setting instead of the forced simplicity of a randomly generated location. "So how many of these static dungeons are found throughout Shadowlands?" I inquired. "Over 150 static dungeons can be found throughout this world, some of which are over several stories in height and are simply breathtaking." Ziana replied with a dreamy look on her face.
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