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Having spent some quality time with the Steam Early Access build of Portalarium's Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, PC Gamer has wrangled up a quick preview of the MMORPG that should help bring you up to speed if you haven't yet checked it out yourself. A taste:
Combat is hilariously awful. My first battle past the brief tutorial sees me whipping out my sword and swatting at a deer with sounds that could have been someone's hand patting a flour bag. Never mind that the animations are disappointing by the standards of the last decade; that sound is the sound of madness, and it carries over to every other weapon I try. As for the deer herself? She merely bounds back and forth, letting me swat her with each pass until she plops over so I can loot her hide.
It gets better when you start encountering hostile creatures, although they're prone to standing around looking bored. (Also, in this world bears are apparently much easier to kill than wolves.) A dynamic "deck" system that switches out skills randomly on your bar helps avoid the drudgery of standard MMO rotation, but it's not explained clearly. I eventually defaulted to playing with a fixed skillbar so I'd still have some time to munch on some turkey this Thanksgiving.
What I did learn, I learned from other players. Garriott and his team bill SotA as "selectively multiplayer," which will eventually mean that you can play entirely alone, only with friends, or with other people in the manner of a traditional contemporary MMORPG. That's all in the future. The regular MMO mode's the strongest right now, although the single player and MMO modes available both benefit from the first sketch of a story penned by Tracy Hickman of Dragonlance fame. The veterans from the days before the Steam release are helpful folk, and I saw none of the hostility towards newbie questions that you find in some online worlds.