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Platform: Windows® 95/98/00/ME/XP Publisher: Ubi Soft
Genre: Multiplayer Online RPG Developer: Wolfpack
Format: CD-ROM Expected Release: 02/04/03

Hands-on Impressions
11/02/02
Timothy Duong
Timothy Duong

Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) have become one of the driving forces in the world of PC gaming after the great success of titles such as Everquest, Asheron’s Call, Anarchy Online and Dark Age of Camelot. The growing list of MMORPGs, as well as those in the works, is a clear indication that this genre of online gaming is here to stay. Though as the trend continues, clones inevitably come and go; each seeking their fair share of gamers’ dollars. Among this deluge, only a few stand out of the pack by virtue of their own merits. One such game is Shadowbane, a promising MMORPG being developed by Wolfpack and published by Ubi Soft.

So, what makes Shadowbane different from the flock of Everquest wannabes? The game, like so many others, emphasizes player interaction, but with more novel implementation. Before jumping into the thick of things, gamers begin by creating their characters, which is a much larger endeavour than most. Each player will be given 30 character points to spend in choosing their avatar’s race, talents and traits. With each level increase, players will receive additional points to further character growth through different professions and disciplines. The game will feature 10 races and over 20 specialty classes to choose from.

Shadowbane is a graphic beauty filled with full 3D environments and lush, breathtaking scenery. The game might not push the envelope but holds its own against its contemporaries. With a fully customizable interface, players can take more time out to enjoy their surroundings instead of fiddling with awkward menus. While players stop to smell the flowers wonderful scores that truly evoke just the right emotion will accompany gameplay.

Shadowbane’s servers will be exclusively PvP (Player vs Player), though for the first 20 levels, each avatar is safe from character assassination. PvP can be one of the most frustrating aspects of any MMORPG, but Wolfpack has devised a way of dealing with PK’ing (player killing) to make conflicts more interesting. Impossible you say? Oh contraire! Whenever a character is PK’d, the name of their killer is added to a list that provides information about their guild and their leader. Is player X just knocking you around for a sick thrill? Send a message to his guild leader to have them discipline the subordinate. If their guild leader laughs in your face, start a war! PK’ers will also think twice if you adorn the emblem of a powerful guild. Another way Wolfpack hopes to deal with PK’ing is with a soft experience cap. At higher levels, players will have to manage a depreciating amount of experience and character points. The theory is that a high level player will be deterred from killing low level beginners because of their diminished rewards. Wolfpack hopes that, in addition to the guilds, the soft experience cap will help ensure that PK’ers pick fights with characters their own level. Needless to say, player-controlled guilds will have a huge role in Shadowbane and will even be customizable. From crest to credo, the players determine all aspects of the guild. They can even adapt different models of governmental systems such as a monarchy, oligarchy, republic or democracy.

Shadowbane will also feature a player driven economy, allowing gamers to crush the competition without lifting a blade. This is where politics and wits come into play. Instead of slashing a sword, slash the price on your town’s merchandise and entice adventurers to spend their hard-earned coin in your shops and have your enemies bleeding where it hurts: their pockets. Players will also have the capacity to own buildings and property, as well as destroy them. From castles to armouries, players can build their own empire or wage war and raze the towns of others! Those who choose to forego high-stakes real estate can live the life of a hermit in a little cottage of their own. Not to exclude creative player input, aspiring bards can also participate in Shadowbane’s War Herald program. As in-game events transpire, players will be called upon to be historians and artists, capturing history as it unfolds.The most creative submissions will be published on the official Shadowbane website.

One of the many shortcomings of MMORPGs has been their relative lack of storytelling. Shadowbane promises to break the mold, captivating players in a world with over 5,000 years of myth and legend. Shadowbane’s lore is written by the scribe Meridian and recorded on the official web site. By creating a world with its own history and folktales, Wolfpack hopes to immerse gamers in an engaging experience. With this much lore and legends of great heroes-passed, where does the individual gamer fit into all this? Players of distinction will find themselves in some of Meridian’s future stories.

With a player-driven economy, guilds and war heralds, Wolfpack hopes to create a unique MMORPG experience for fans of the genre instead of regurgitating Everquest’s table scraps. Even though Shadowbane has recently been delayed until March 2003, Ubi Soft assures us this is to ensure the finished product is a worthwhile and stable adventure instead of another broken MMORPG launch.



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©2002 Ubi Soft Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
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