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Shroud of the Avatar major update, also free to try for a few days

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Shroud of the Avatar [Steam, Official Site], the RPG that has single-player and selective online modes has a big new release out. You can also try it for free for a few days to see if you want to buy it. I tried it again and have some thoughts for you.


To try it free right now, head to this page and follow the instructions. It does have a few caveats like not being able to trade with other players and it's online only for the trial.

I haven't progressed far at all in the game, these are my thoughts as someone who is new to it taking on their new and improved starting experience. After all, initial impressions with huge games like this can kill it or win it in people's minds quite quickly.

First of all, I really do like how they've done the game, with the ability to completely play by yourself, or choose one of the online modes if you want. The fact that it's an RPG that doesn't force you one way or the other is fantastic. That alone makes me really like it.

The new update upgrades their version of Unity to 5.5, so we should see some improvements on Linux thanks to that. There's a ton of other editions, including a continued revamp of the starting experience. You can see the full changelog here.

image

One issue I had previously was the conversation system, of needing to type out manually your replies to NPCs. This has been fixed and you can now simply click certain words to reply to them, this has made it a lot more accessible than it was previously. That's been there for a while now, but it has been a year+ since I last played it. You also have the options listed to click below the chat box, to make it easier again. In the chat box, they now use different colours between conversational chat and system functions, like chat being white, and it telling you about accessing your journal with J being in a brownish colour. The chat and interactions system on a whole has been vastly improved and it's actually really nicely done now.

The initial start of the game has also unsurprisingly come a long way too. Originally it dropped you into some sort of destroyed village, but now you start off with actually setting up your character in a special starting area. This starting area guides you along a few of the basics like movement and how to use the conversation system. Once ready, you speak to an Oracle who asks you a few questions and you're given a character type as an outcome, but of course, you can choose to go a different path if you so desire. I chose to be a bowman, since I love my bow and arrow in any RPG and it also happened to be the easiest starting path.

Quests in Shroud take on a very different form to other RPGs where it's not obvious right away what you should be doing. You take on quests from conversations, asking anyone and everyone if they need any help. Some obviously don't but some will give you a whole new quest-line to play through. It gives it a very unique feel not found in many RPGs available today, to make you do a little more real exploration yourself with less hand-holding. You don't just get quests from chatting, you can also earn emotes from talking to various people, like a backflip for example.

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They do still need to work some more on the starting experience, as I quickly got lost. Part of this is the map items you get have markers on them, are written in Runic text. I get that games want immersion, but forcing Runic text on people is only going to cause issues. It does, as there's many posts complaining about it. I had no idea where anything was or what anything is when looking at map items due to this. I imagine though, the more I walk around the more I will discover as I become familiar with the surroundings. That leads me to one thing: the community. I've only spoken to one other player online and they were surprisingly polite and helpful in directing me. I do suggest checking out the online map though, as it helped remove a little frustration for me.

Travel in the game is done on an Overworld map, where you literally walk across this big map and enter locations if you so choose. You can see other players near you walking across the map if you're playing it online too! I like this, as it gives you a better feeling about the grand scale of the game and it does look pretty decent.

image

Combat feels very much like you find in World of Warcraft. You have a hotbar of abilities, with it all played out in real time. What I like is that your abilities level up the more you use them (like, say, Skyrim). As a bowman, simply firing off arrows constantly was levelling up my basic bow abilities, for example. My short time in the game ended when three spiders surrounded me and stuck me in place with their web, then a wolf came along and a bunch of skeletons were also approaching. The combat is brutal and actually damn fun.

image

Death comes in the form of becoming a ghost, you cannot really do anything but wait around until the (rather long) respawn timer finishes counting down. I personally find it to be too long, but I'm sure it's in a long line of adjustments to be made before the final release.

Performance seems as bad as ever though, on my 980ti on Very High settings it really crawled in places. Hopefully they will continue to update their Unity version to take on recent performance optimizations (and perhaps Vulkan as well), as well as do more optimization themselves.

Issues
- It suffers the usual Unity issues with multiple monitors: It seems to select a resolution of combined monitors, although it actually seems like it correctly display at 1920x1080 instead. It might just be a UI bug in the settings page.

- The main map feature you get by pressing the hotkey 'M' is not currently supported on Linux.

Overall, performance issues aside, the developers are crafting a reasonably impressive experience that RPG fans might want to take a look at on Linux. I wouldn't recommend it for the impatient though for sure, it will take quite some time to learn. If you want an easy to understand MMO take a look at Albion Online, but if you want a very in-depth RPG that offer single-player than Shroud of the Avatar is a definite contender on Linux.
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Comments
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nitroflow 7 April 2017 at 1:29 pm UTC
BTW the main map feature is integration with sotamap.com.

With regards to the combat system, the initial setup is a typical hot-bar style affair but you can, and should, be using the dynamic style card system instead of the fixed hot-bar as it is not only faster but it also allows you to combo skills. But I do understand as I still use the initial setup because it's what I'm used to and can't be arsed to change it even though I should.
Nanobang 7 April 2017 at 1:46 pm UTC
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Nice review, Liam! Thank you. I think SotA was one of the first games I put on my Steam wishlist years ago. I still follow its updates as well, but its nothing like being able to read a good review. I'm glad you did this.

I do wonder about what you said regarding meeting other players online. Is this an instant PvP situation where I'm likely to be trounced for the pleasure of the other player? Or is PvP limited to allocated areas of the map, or a separate server, or sump'in?

I might just go ahead and try it out, although I know I'll one day buy it --- once it's out of beta. Could you tell me, please, how large the download is, and also, if you're still on Antergos, what steps you took to install it. It looks like it's a .deb package, and I've not confronted trying to install a .deb package on an Arch-based distro (Manjaro, in my case).
Tchey 7 April 2017 at 2:29 pm UTC
I will try it again, but from my reading over the past few years, it seems they wasted potential here.

Are these correct :

- map is cut is several little pieces with loading screen and no real sense of openworld
- you have to pay for the game, and the cash shop is a huge trap with ingame house costing 200+€ up to 1000+€, rent, deed, and many other things that you "must have" to have a real MMOG experience
- whatever more than a basic gameplay experience, you have to pay with real money
- even for being part of the forum, you need to pay 5€
- Little activity around the game beside the official voices
STiAT 7 April 2017 at 2:32 pm UTC
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I've an early access key (I'm backer) and here-and-there play it. I do like what they want to do, but I have a real issue with all the loading screens.

I don't know if they're limited by engine choice, but this does not feel like a "continous" world. It feels like dozens of very-ultra-small areas for certain purposes where you get a 3 minute loading screen between those areas.

I hope for a fantasy / realistic MMORPG for Linux, but that one isn't going to be for me if they're serious about the world map + loading screens to ultra-tiny areas.


Last edited by STiAT at 7 April 2017 at 2:32 pm UTC
stan 7 April 2017 at 3:00 pm UTC
Thanks for the news! I’ll try it even though based on what I read and saw on youtube it does seem like a poorly made cash-grab.

NanobangIt looks like it's a .deb package
There is also a tgz installer if you click on "(tgz)". The web site says the game takes 1.5 GB on disk.
khalismur 7 April 2017 at 3:20 pm UTC
Loading screens everywhere and the overworld map are TOTALLY immersion-breaking. Hell, even with zone-loading you can make an amazing online RPG (looking at you Guild Wars 1), but they managed to screw it up with SotA.

Early backer here, really regret having spent 50 euros on this. Also terrible performance for bad graphics... A pitty.


Last edited by khalismur at 7 April 2017 at 3:21 pm UTC. Edited 2 times.
EMO GANGSTER 7 April 2017 at 3:27 pm UTC
really hope they update the graphics after they get everything else iron out the look of it makes my eyes bleed.
wintermute 7 April 2017 at 3:59 pm UTC
QuotePart of this is the map items you get have markers on them, are written in Runic text.

There is an option to show English names on the overworld map, you have to turn it on yourself though. For the in game map: Windows and Mac users got SotaMap integrated in this release, Linux users should be getting it next month.

QuoteCombat feels very much like you find in World of Warcraft. You have a hotbar of abilities, with it all played out in real time.

It's actually (and somewhat controversially) a bit different, but as part of the improved new user experience it's now all locked down to start with. Talk to a skills trainer to unlock the full deck system.

QuoteDeath comes in the form of becoming a ghost, you cannot really do anything but wait around

If you look on your compass when you're dead you will see ankh markers (like a stone cross but with an oval for the top bar), head to one of the ankhs to resurrect.

Also, please post your feedback (or even just a link to this) in the new player experience feedback section of the forum.


Last edited by wintermute at 7 April 2017 at 4:03 pm UTC
Joeyboots80 7 April 2017 at 4:22 pm UTC
I have been playing this title off and on for a year now. It has come a long way since the early alpha days. Nice article Liam, was a good read. Cheers.
wintermute 7 April 2017 at 4:24 pm UTC
Tchey- map is cut is several little pieces with loading screen and no real sense of openworld

There are many much larger scenes these days, these are mostly not suitable for a low level adventurer however. They are trying to address this by putting 'outskirts' scenes between the current starting scenes and the first town on your quest path to minimize the number of loading screens in the first few hours of play. However yes, there are still many loading screens.

Tchey- you have to pay for the game, and the cash shop is a huge trap with ingame house costing 200+€ up to 1000+€, rent, deed, and many other things that you "must have" to have a real MMOG experience

If you feel that you "must have" a house then there are several options: you can buy a deed in the add-on store; you can win a deed in the monthly in-game lottery; you can buy a deed from another player outside the game with real money; you can buy a deed with in-game gold from a player vendor. There are also a number of people with player owned towns (POTs) who are willing to loan out their surplus housing to new players.

You can buy a house if you want, but you don't need one for a row lot. Plenty of players in game have extra houses from their pledges which are for sale on vendors, there are also seven craftable houses.

Tchey- whatever more than a basic gameplay experience, you have to pay with real money

Notwithstanding the free trial, you have to buy the game to play it all. Once you have purchased 'game access' however you can go wherever you want and play how you want without buyiing anything else with real money. The add-on store stuff is mostly cosmetic and/or has in-game craftable equivalents.

Tchey- even for being part of the forum, you need to pay 5€

Yes. Though some sub-forums have been opened up for the free trial weekend.

Tchey- Little activity around the game beside the official voices

Most of the activity around the game is the players I would say - SotaMap, the various crafting websites, the story writing competition and most of the other events are player driven.


Last edited by wintermute at 7 April 2017 at 4:26 pm UTC
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