Shroud of the Avatar will feel eerily familiar to those of you out there that played Ultima Online, and for good cause. The man behind Lord British, of Ultima fame, was the key hand at play in designing Shroud of the Avatar, and while not officially an Ultima game, it sure feels like one. You even still play as an Avatar, just like in the Ultima games! The direct link to such a longstanding game franchise is a double-edged blade that both props this title up and yet also helps to tear it right back down.
The graphics for SotA feel very dated, which isn’t necessarily a good thing for a 3D rendered game. Because of this, your machine is going to need much better specs to play this comfortably than you would have needed if they’d chosen a simpler engine to make this title.
Because of this, I ended up having to lower the settings to make the game playable, but at least they had thought of this and provided sufficient options for people. Even with those settings done, though, combat still felt very unresponsive. The delay between when you tell your character to cast a spell and when it gets cast is likely to get you killed if you have a penchant for cutting things close with heals, but it’s not just the delay caused by pseudo-turn-based-combat, but even things like turning the camera or jumping has a strange delay between input and result.
The story, without ruining too much of it, is little more than a light framework at the start, providing tidbits of information through progressional quests as you explore the world that you’ve been set loose in. The voice acting is really off putting, although not because of any lower quality of the artists’ work, but instead because of the really horrible faux-shakespeare olde english embellishments to the language that are just jarring. This is especially the case when you know that a month after launch, the world is going to be overrun with an unstoppable swarm of ‘text speak’ abbreviations in the form of more Avatars than you can shake a stick at.
The one thing that does shine through through all the mundanity is that this is still in development. Quests are being changed, the world is being restructured, and the world is being built right around the people playing the early access product.
This is a game that comes from a franchise (sort of) that is nothing but success and potential, and from where they are right now, Lord British has nowhere to go but up. This is a title with a lot of potential that is still improving, and it’s definitely worth trying out once it is fully released.