Home > The Chronicles of Spellborn > The Silence of the Shards

The Silence of the Shards

December 17, 2008


Lately I have played some Chronicles of Spellborn on and off. It is a game that I have a bit of a love/hate situation with.

First of all – I do like the environment and setting. It looks quite nice and the atmosphere is very good. I also do like the combat, although I tend to move between “hey, that was not too bad” and “oh boy, do I suck at this…” in terms of what my combat results feels like.
It is certainly something that takes some practice and probably never going to be any mindless buttonmashing if one wants to be reasonably successful at it.
My guess is that it might work out a bit better with a mouse wheel to select the skill row on the skill deck though, since the fingers on the keyboard is used for moving/strafing/jumping also. But I use a trackball instead of a mouse and the one I got does not have any mouse wheel. I will likely never go back to use a mouse unless I am forced to and I am not yet prepared to try find a trackball with a mouse wheel just for this game.

When it comes to the game in general I think there is one phrase that sums it up: Old School.  With that I mean that in many ways the game feels a bit like a game from a slightly older era, the time when men were men and… 

There is for example no way to see what other players are logged on or playing in the area, no /who command, no /search function or similar. At least not what I have found out and I have seen other people ask for it. There are no fast travel options, you run to wherever you want to go, except when going between shards – then a shard ship is used. Running might get slightly faster if your PEP (Personal Experience Points) is high enough, but not by a huge amount. Minimap does pretty much only show quest NPCs. Quest texts do require reading to figure out what to do often and sometimes are also vague enough that you may need to search though the zone in detail to complete them. There is no auction or cinsignment house function, just a trade chat channel. The characters need to be online to be invited or added to a friend list and for a group invite I think also a visual proximity is required.

Note I do not say that this is bad; in fact I do like some parts of it. But I do worry a bit that the game might be one that will require a lot of time in order to feel that some progress is made. If that will be the case then it might not be the game for me.

I do not know whether these bits and pieces are intentional or if  they intend to change these things later.

So far I have created two characters; one Void Seer (spellcaster) and one Trickster (rogue). For my view of a spellcasting archetype I felt that I did a bit too much melee fighting with my void seer, which was my initial character. So I decided to try out another archetype also. And I do like the trickster better, it feels to me that the skills work out better or are more interesting in comparision to the void seer with the combat mechanics. It is fun to play.

At level 5 is when you select your discipline (trickster and void seer in the cases above) and at level 9 you can do some quests to select a high house to join and become a citizen of the Enclave. Shard ship travel requires citizenship, so unless one wants to stay only on the initial shard (Parliament), one was to select a high house. There are 5 of the high houses; Maul, Rune, Torque, Silver and Shroud. Each house has their own philosophy on how to deal with things and one will have to pick one that feels are in line with how the character should be played. Before selecting a high house one can visit all of them in  a quest (They have their houses in the two initial zones Hawksmouth and Aldenvault) to get some information. Once the choice has been made and the initial house quest has been completed that choice is sealed; no change is possible.

In my case I choose house Rune for my trickster. The quests to become a citizen was pretty straighforward and quick and the fame (xp) was good, gained almost half a level. When the citizenship part was done a quest was offered to head to a different shard, Quarterstone. Getting the chance to travel with a shard ship and also see yet another new area made that an easy choice and I headed off directly.


On the way to Quarterstone through the Deadspell storm

On the way to Quarterstone through the Deadspell storm

When onme travels with a shard ship there are two options; travel with the crew or in a cabin on the ship. Travelling in a cabin is safer but more expensive, If you travel with the crew there is a chance for an attack and you have to fight, but costs less. I choose to go with the crew. In this case nothing happened though, after 2 minutes of real time the ship arrived at the Quaterstone docks. At this point I have pretty much just started to explore Quarterstone a bit.


Palace District in Quarterstone

Palace District in Quarterstone

A concern that I have and other players as well is that Spellborn feels quite empty. I do not know if the game is empty or how many people are playing it. But the lack of /who command and other means to figure out where people are and find people online at least gives a perception of emptiness. And while it is certainly possible to solo most of the content I think this is a game which really benefits with more group play – mob behaviour, the different combat mecahnics, spawn rates of mobs all contribute to make group play more rewarding.

Also, the whole debacle with the IP blocking and separate publishers for various countries do not help either. Although apparently the IP check is only when you set up the account according to some players, not when you actually play. And for some of the countries which the game is released for you can still not buy the game in any stores.  In the EU forums which is only accessible to those with accounts, there are 6 different forums in total: One Free2Play forum and one subscriber forum for each of the three languages English, French and German.  I do not get this; if one wants to attract free2play players to become subscribers, wouldn’t it be better that they could access and use the forums that the subscribers use also? As it is now the Free2Play forums seems quite empty (at least the English one) which would just emphasize the notion of a game with no players for those trying it out. 

Also there are now 6 universes, 2 for each language (English/International, French and German) and for each language there is a PvE and a PvP universe. Critical mass is important and if the player numbers are low it would have made more sense to put all PvE and all PvP on one universe and have different chat channels for the different languages. They seem to rely almost completely on word of mouth to get more players; but if the players perceive that the universes are empty they will risk driving people away through word of mouth. Perception is eveything; they may have huge populations but if that is not noticeable they could still suffer because of that.

  1. December 18, 2008 at 16:43


    No, really, why do something as stupid as they did and separate community is beyond me.
    I also think they are not high profile enough to do that.
    I am glad you are discussing this, as I wished to read more about how it is going. These issues of split communities is causing server emptiness, and the UI tools sound pitiful.
    I will try it once Acclaim stops either being idiots or the SiL team smarten up.

    So far, this seems unimpressive.

  2. December 18, 2008 at 21:58

    I’m still looking forward to this game — my international copy has still not arrived — and am totally jealous that you’re able to play it!

    That said, these days community features should be a high priority to any game. If you have no community, you have no game, that’s what i comes down to.

    Sorry about typing. Cat misinterprets typing as an interesting way to scratch the cat, except it needs a cat head write over the keys to make it really effective.

  3. sente
    December 19, 2008 at 03:45

    The community related support is my main concern right now, most other things I either like or tolerate.

  4. Beau
    December 19, 2008 at 03:45

    I’ve been playing it, and while I love the game, I can see some of the lack of players.
    Maybe once it comes out in the US it will pick up?

    Once you get a good group, the combat REALLY shines, and while it is kind of empty, if you look you can find players.

    I just practice the old “just ask for a group, don’t wait for a group” thing! lol


  5. sente
    December 19, 2008 at 11:59

    Well, unless they change their policy of separate servers it will not necessarily pick up more when US, UK and other countries in Europe gets added to the equation – they will be on different servers run by Acclaim.

    It may be that Acclaim servers in this case may have better populations once they go online, there is certainly a lot more people in Acclaim-controlled countries than in Frogster/Mindscape-controlled countries.

    It is certainly not impossible to find players – ask in the zone chat typically works. This has been used in many games before also; asking rather than waiting for a group always works better.

    But not everyone will do it that way and again it is a matter of perception rather than actual hurdles and blocks. Make it more convenient, make it easier to interact and people will be happier.

  6. Andrew
    January 4, 2009 at 22:43

    I am waiting to try spellborn, but I must say I am a bit disappointed. I was very excited about the game, until I started reading reviews.

    Unfortunately in this day and age, any MMORPG that bills itself as ‘old school’ loses.

    There is no reason for not having clear directions for quests, for eschewing character search facilities or any of the other niceties and user friendly aspects of gameplay. It also seems that the powers and abilities description are vague and don’t actually spell out with numbers what each power does.

    In my view, this represents a level of backward thinking on the parts of the developers which surprises me, given that they embarked on innovation for gameplay and combat.

    It’s a shame, because if these elements are not retrofitted into the title it will probably lose more than 60% of the people that would otherwise be attracted to it simply because it is more difficult to get around, find quest targets and group ,and figure out how to develop your character than all the other MMORPGs, even the ‘old school’ ones. WoW, City of Heroes/Villains, Warhammer,Runescape etc. all seem to be more user friendly than the current descriptions of Spellborn.

    I am not paying anyone to have to Alt-Tab between a game and my web browser to figure out how to best play that game. I don’t have to do that in my singleplayer RPGs,

    I’m certainly not doing it for a game that I will pay 360% more in a year than I would on any single player RPG out there (US$50.00 for a single player RPG vs US$180.00 a year for a 15US a month MMORPG)

    I’ll reserve final judgment until the game launches in the Americas, but my initial wild enthusiasm has been very much tempered.I no longer have time for games that feel like work, my real life is too full of tedium and mundanity for me to suffer such in my virtual, fantasy leisure as well.

    Reality can go to hell when placed next to my enjoyment 😉

  7. January 5, 2009 at 12:02

    I agree with you partly; a game should absolutely facilitate to help people communicate, get together, socialise etc. I can understand that there may be a desire to leave out some that for PvP purposes and people who do not want to be disturbed by others for various reasons – but that is what different anonymous and hide facilities are for.

    As for clear directions in quests; I think descriptions should be _correct_, but not necessarily obvious all the time. There is a fine line however between having a quest that provides and extra puzzle/challenge due a fuzzy description and one that just becomes tedious and annoying.

    I think Spellborn has quests in both categories now. Some of them are quite nice, some may become a bit annoying.

    As for showing numbers, that is also an area where I am a bit in both camps. In the end I think the game needs to provide enough information so that players can feel that they can make an informed decision about choices. And if a choice does not have enough information, the option to change it again later.

    That may or may not mean that numbers are shown. I am not convinced that showing numbers for the combat skills in Spellborn is going to help much here – it all depends on how damage and defense is calculated and what affects the calculation.

    Putting points into the attributes Body, Mind and Focus is one area I do think they could provide some better information for than what is currently available.

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