Let’s play Shroud of the Avatar – Part 1

This is a gameplay of Shroud of the Avatar starting in version EarlyAccess.OSX.64.6.14 from May 30 2017. The game is still under development and it’s not shy about it, however it’s been on development long enough that there are certain things very unlikely to change. I’m here to examine the game, learn a bit about the capabilities of Unity, reflect on the development process and how it has affected development so far and try to have a little fun exploring the world of Novia.

The Journey to New Britannia

I downloaded the stand-alone game client since I’m still not sure what Steam account to link it too. After a light download I launch the installer and I leave it overnight to actually download the game.

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 11.06.08 PM

Next day I launched the game (…several times, since the Start Game button doesn’t give feedback when pressed and keeps enabled :P). I expected a very immersive intro video but instead got some kind of weird “breaking the fourth wall” video about me browsing the Internet (including Richard Garriott’s facebook page) and learning and getting into this new world. Come to think about it all the good Ultimas (4,5, 6 and 7) had something similar, but I guess it was a bit more subtle.

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 11.30.26 PM

Anyway, onto the game… I’m greeted with the main menu and promptly click on the “Play Offline” button since I don’t care about online playing.

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Isle of Storms

After a long loading time (I’ll have to play this on a newer computer!) I appear on the Isle of Storms as a shadow. There’s a lady in from on me and the game prompts me to talk with her.

It’s time for my first impressions about the graphics: Lighting seems a bit odd, and my biggest complaint is that plants don’t seem to mesh very well into the terrain… I don’t have experience with modern games so  I cannot compare, but I would dare to say it doesn’t look much different than Ultima IX (At least this first part?). Note however that graphics don’t matter much to me… I’m able to quickly fill the gaps with imagination.

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 9.32.18 PM
My FPS are super, super low. I notice my computer won’t be enough for a smooth experience.

Now I try to talk with her, but it just.. doesn’t work… I’m supposed to double click but it’s not working. After lots of clicking I manage to get the dialog to run.

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The dialog system, as far as I can see, is similar to Ultima 6. In theory you can freely chat with the characters, but they only seem to respond to keywords.

The game now instruct me to continue along the path into a mirror. I try to deviate for the first time and proceed onward, walking all the way to the circle of stones. But had no choice but walk back to continue the linear path… I guess that’s fine for a kind of “tutorial” level… I like the ambient here, specially the contrast between the seemingly normal grassy place and the dark space.

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For the virtues!

I walk back to the giant floating mirror, and again after a lot of clicking I manage to make it work… then I find a lot of  different options to tweak your character, specially your facial features… I try my best to make a look alike.

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 9.42.05 PM
One thing I didn’t like much were the limited options for hair style.

As instructed by the game, I continue uphill to meet with the Oracle. Frustration strikes again when trying to open the door and I resort to googling for the issue. I found out it may be caused by the game running at too low FPS and I learned I could use ‘E’ instead to activat’e’ things. A life saver!

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Meeting the Oracle is shocking! I expected an old guy or something like that, instead it’s like an automaton.

The Oracle will make you some questions inspired by the gipsy question on Ultima, however there are only three choices and so it’s much shorter.

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In the end it suggests you going the “bow” way since that’s what’s more developed now.
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The lunar gate activates once you’ve chosen your path.
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Walking around but found nothing, except a cool scene of a far away planet.

New Britannia – Battle of Solace Bridge

I step on the moonball and I land at a devastated town in flames (lots of flames). I can hear an annoying child whining continuously.

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I walk around and find out the game prevents me from using a door, and instead directs me to look at the burning house and the tavern.
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I got in flames many times while exploring the tavern, but the avatar seems to be super strong and recovers quickly 🙂
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FIRE!
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I got a lot of burns climbing the stairs to the second floor, which was just empty.
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Alright, by now I am really tired of the game pointing me (almost commanding me) to the next thing to do. I guess it’s ok, we are on the first part of the game, may be this is still the tutorial.
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I gotta talk to this girl. I know because there’s a halo over her, and the game’s commanding me to do so.
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For some reason the dialogs fail to make the characters believable to me..
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In Vas Flam
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Leaving the town is a bit buggy, but I managed to do it after reading the messages. I would have appreciated more having to find out how to do it, really.
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xoxoxoxoxo? really? talk about breaking the immersion

After leaving the town, I gotta help a guy fight some Zombies using my bow. It’s not easy because of the low FPS, but I manage to do it. Combat is… ok I guess, at least ranged one. It seems the avatar is super strong and has a lot of HP so enemies are not a challenge at all. It doesn’t feel very exciting tho.

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Cover me!
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WaaaaaRrrrGhh!!

After crossing the bridge, the bard instructs me to take a boat somewhere. I decide to walk the other direction, but found myself facing an impassable invisible wall of flames. I am under attack and on fire, so I decide to walk back.

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A strong invisible force field protects this location…
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Relaxing on a river after so much fire.

Solace Bridge Outskirts

I am greeted by a soldier who bluntly says I got to go and talk to a captain…

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The captain whatever is meant to be there…
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…nah… I won’t talk to him/her. I’ll swim here and see what I can discover!

I venture into the wilderness and met some rogue archers and bandits. They quickly succumb to my bow. After some time I find the farm of a man.

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Nice place

The old man there asks me to fetch some cotton from his backyard, just some meters away.

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Why doesn’t he does this himself? 😛

While on it, I’m attacked by some wolves. After killing them in not very exciting combat, I try to loot them but instead the avatar starts skinning them… nice touch

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Nice memories from The Savage Empire

After I deliver the cotton, the old man says he’ll let me use his tailoring station.

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He also gave me some XP I’m not sure how to use..
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What the heck! 😐
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I liked this part, my grandfather was a tailor so it brought memories.

The guy then asked me to kill an alpha wolf or something, but I’m not his servant, I’m here to explore and that mountain looks interesting…

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Let’s go up there
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The old man’s farm.

I walk a bit into the slope and the screen starts to dim. I thought it was a bug but then I learned that’s how the game shows you are transitioning out of a detailed area and into… Novia.

Novia – Roaming around

So, this is something I’ve been wanting to check since a long time ago… I’m a big fan of the dual scale model seen in games like Ultima IV and Ultima V, and I’m eager to see how it works in a modern incarnation.

So far it reminds me a bit of Final Fantasy VII. Locations are labelled with their names and when you get close to one of them the game prompts you to enter. So far I haven’t been attacked on the wilderness.

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A first look of Novia, I think the village on the other side of the river is where I started.

I explored all the way to the Eastreach Gap.

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I get the feeling I won’t be able to go pass through.

So far it’s not been that bad… I like the exploration aspect (once they let me go after the initial trail of events) and the crafting part seems to be interesting (I’ll need to get more materials and see). The movement system is a bit complex and I wish I could turn instead of strafing using the keyboard, and combat is a bit dull and hasn’t required any tactics so far.

We’ll see how it goes on next part.

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