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An exclusive first look at the pre-alpha release of Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues is available at Ten Ton Hammer, and while it's pretty short, it gives us a taste of what's to come in Portalarium's upcoming title:
As I meandered around the city, I saw the expected NPCs and they somehow seemed more living and dynamic than in most other MMOs I've played, and I just can't place exactly why. Part of it, I'm sure, is the system Shroud of the Avatar uses for talking with NPCs. Rather than a clickable pop-up dialogue box, in Shroud the player simply types what they wish to say into local chat and the NPC responds. I like that system a lot, but I do worry about a town full of players yelling at each other and at NPCs, thus making it more difficult to have that conversation. .but then I guess that's sort of like real life as well.
Another thing adding to the sense of the world being alive is the sky in Shroud of the Avatar. As day turns to night, players will be treated to a nocturnal treat on par with Skyrim. The shattered lunar debris eases over the horizon, and you really have to stop a minute and look. You realize that as dangerous as night will be in Shroud of the Avatar, you'll likely find yourself braving it for the chance to star-gaze a bit.
In my case, I pretty much spent all night taking in the darkened environment in the safety of Owl's Head, which is when I saw the most amazing thing I've ever seen in an MMO. As the sun rose the next morning, I saw birds. I know, you're doing a double-take there, but think about it. No matter where you live, there are always those tiny local birds. They zip around in strange wavy patterns, rarely flying in straight lines. I've never seen a game get that detail right, until now.