Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The Chronicles of Spellborn

I played The Chronicles of Spellborn beta for a few hours. I didn't like it. I didn't even plan to write a review. But fortunately the guys of Killed in a smiling accident wrote a review which echoes many of my feelings about that game. So instead of writing the same stuff again, I'm sending you over to them to read their post. :)

What disappointed me most was the revolving hotkey bar, which sounds like a nifty idea from the outside, but somehow totally fails to be interesting. It is far too easy to string a series of reasonable damage dealing abilities on one row of the wheel, put a couple of buffs and debuffs on the second row, and that is all you ever need. It really isn't any more interesting than a fixed hotkey bar. The problem is that in TCOS, just like in WoW and pretty much any MMORPG, there is often no need to react to anything in combat. You can work with the same spell rotation for every mob. TCOS just puts that spell rotation on a rotating bar, which if anything makes it more obvious that you're not really making intelligent choices in MMO combat.

I'm still waiting for a MMO that works like Magic the Gathering, that is you prepare a deck of abilities and get a *random* draw. TCOS is like Magic after you stacked your deck, which removes the interesting surprise bit. So after a few hours in The Chronicles of Spellborn I started to ask myself "why would I want to play this?", and couldn't find an answer. So I stopped.
It might not be your cup of tea as an MMO, but Wizard 101 does use the deck of abilities and get a random draw system.
Agree completely with you on the rotating spell bar Tobold. There's alot of potential within the system but it's been placed on badly. Slap on a few restrictions to the abilities etc. and we might have something interesting to work with, but like you mentioned, as it currently is, it's a non-randomized skill select system.

It either needs a bit of a revamp in the skill bar section so that it provides a new and dynamic turn to the combat (which would provide real 'flow' to the game once players know their skill decks in and out, not button mashing in sequence flow) or a few hefty restrictions disallowing say skills to be used more than once until everything on the hot bar section has been used... or at least something along those lines.
The reviewer wrote: "... and was left disappointed, as I frequently find myself to be these days when it comes to MMOs"

Me too. Not only in regards of Spellborn. Following the WoW hype and create one boring MMO after another seem to become the next serious money grave for developers.
Seems like there is a general malaise about all MMOs. I wonder if MMOs were mostly a fad and are about to collapse quite a bit. We appear to be looking at a long dry stretch; 18 months or so till the next WoW xpac, no big MMO's in the immediate pipeline (as if those have a chance to satisfy)... hmmm. The only MMO anyone is excited about is the one they can't buy and will never be a mainstream success.

The MMO is Dead, long live the mmo?

But seriously, it's a beta. That reviewer you linked to thinks its the games that suck these days, and not him being jaded. I feel like giving him the "Like a Virgin" speech from Reservoir Dogs.
Seconding Wizard 101.

I was set to snark a bit about randomized abilities running counter to the concept of "making intelligent choices in MMO combat", since I tend to prefer tight preplanned strategy with built-in flexibility... but then I remembered that yes, MTG works extremely well, and W101 gets pretty close. It's more constrained than I'd like in my ideal system, and even MTG is more constrained than I'd like, but the MTG model really does allow for interesting choices, and if it's designed well enough, the equivalent of "mana screw" can be dodged, alleviating much of the frustration.

The notion of a constrained set of abilities is one of the things that made Guild Wars work. "Restriction breeds creativity", as Mark Rosewater oft quotes, and it makes choices important. Of course, that would mean slowing combat a bit, to allow for those choices, and maybe including a fudge factor to compensate for mana screw (either in time or in mechanics, like regeneration). W101 slows combat down and has "cantrip" attack spells, which is one of the reasons why it works fairly well. I do wish it had more interschool interaction, and a couple of other features, but by and large, it's a great little game.
Thirding Wizard 101. That's all :)
I downloaded TCOS, played a bit, liked the character very much, killed some boars, quit the game, uninstalled, went to paly Wizard101. So, fourthing. :)
I know we're all sterring this off course,but:

I played W101, but didn't find this "Magic" comparison really. Yeah, it's kinda "Decky" but didn't seem to have the interaction level a TCG does. To be fair, I've never played magic, but played the hell out of yugioh TCG, which --go ahead and scoff-- was actually pretty in depth the further you got into it.

Setting up traps, and playing counters up to 5 levels deep (i play magic card, you counter with trap, I counter your counter, you counter my counter's counter, the chain works itself out) adds some real thought to play. Maybe I didn't play W101 far enough, but the system seemed fairly simple... which isn't a bad thing, they had a vision, and nailed it, but I just don't get the TCG comparisons, really...?
I'm playing Wizard 101 occasionally since the beta, and got an annual subscription. And yes, the combat system is better than that of TCOS. The comparison to TCG comes from the fact that the spells you have are RANDOMLY drawn from your deck, while the TCOS system is predetermined (stacked deck).
Tobold, hopefully you will change your opinion about deck system if go further then first 3 levels. Combat system in Spellborn is incredible, better then anything Ive seen
I agree with mindw0rk. Spellborn is quite amazing if you level up quite a ways. After awhile you have to pick or choose your abilities and how you want to set them up. Especially once combos come into play. There are some abilities that lean more towards evaded/ranged or aoe, etc.

From the sounds of what the Dev's said they will be adding more abilities as the game goes on. Thus creating somewhat similar "choice" that Guild Wars has.

The first 8ish levels don't do the Skill Deck justice. I personally think its quite innovative, yet also doesn't jam up your entire keyboard with keybinds.
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