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The amount of Early Access products available on today's market poses an interesting conundrum to reviewers. A purchase is needed to actually play them, so it would seem fair to review them, but at the same time the developers stress that the games are unfinished and not representative of the final, complete product. Ultimately, it's up to the various publications to decide how to act, and the folks at MMORPG.com decided to do a full review the current build of Shroud of the Avatar in an attempt to better advise potential players.
They weren't exactly impressed and assigned Richard Garriott's latest a 5/10.
It was promised as some jack of all trades, combining all the best aspects from the Ultima series, including Ultima Online. Yes, my expectations in the previous article that it was supposed to be the successor of Ultima Online only, were wrong. I apologize for that, even though ironically the development process slid kind of into that direction. Anyway, it seems that this sort of fusion might have been too ambitious to realize. Currently, with selective multiplayer modes and offline single-player mode, there are four different ways to play the game. But the game doesn’t adapt to these modes and therefore doesn’t truly fit to any of them.
In general I would say that Shroud of the Avatar first and foremost feels like a MMORPG. We have a huge sandbox with housing, crafting and free travel. The small zones and the long loading times take away a lot of the limitless feeling of MMORPGs, but it’s still there. The multiplayer online mode is the only one where the towns feel at least somewhat lively and would usually be my preferred playing style. Why “would”, you ask? Well, besides the performance issues there are also non-technical game mechanics that give the single-player online mode an advantage.
Farming resources and grinding mobs is an elementary part of the game, but both are scarce, at least if you dwell mainly around the more frequented areas. In single-player online all is yours, you don’t need to share, but you still have most of the necessary online functionalities available, like access to the market vendors. From an atmospheric point of view though you are running around in an empty and dead world. Despite daily routines for the NPCs, the game does not manage to generate even slightly the immersion of typical single-player games.
The huge initial paywall for tax-free housing in good locations (we will have to see how it is working out now with the raffle) and the “creative” ways of collecting more money on the way left a somewhat bitter taste. But even putting this aside, in its current state I would have a hard time justifying why this game would be worth 45 Dollars. Not to mention the thousands some players have dumped into development.