My brief jaunt into The Chronicles of Spellborn

I gave The Chronicles of Spellborn a try over this past week.  I had been waiting for the game to allow North American players to log legit ever since I downloaded the game a few months ago thinking that I could play during the European launch.  This was one of the rare occasions where I have gone in to a mmorpg knowing little to nothing about the game.  I knew it was a pseudo-fantasy setting with what looked like Tim Burton influence, but that’s about it.  What I learned after installing the game was that there is some sort of business model at work here.  I thought it was going to be a subscription model, but it’s actually some bizarre and twisted means of confusing the heck out people who just want to play the game.  I tried to figure out which method was cheapest, ie which membership level would net the best savings on these “coins” which are cashed in for play time or something, but I ended up giving up and just deciding to log in and play for free.  It’s still beta, right?  Or is it… I don’t know.  You see, I’m still that confused.  I’ve deduced that you can play for free up to level 7 or so and then you have to pay and from what I’ve gathered elsewhere you can end up paying anywhere from ~$14/month to ~$10/month if you’re patient enough to mix and match.    Anyway, on to my thoughts on the game.

Spellborn plays much like every other mmorpg.  Initially there is a tutorial that I couldn’t figure out how to skip that taught me how to walk forward, backwards, left, right, jump, and patronize me in every other way imaginable until I was finally able to prove to the game that I was ready.  The tutorial wasn’t bad though.  It sets the mood and gets the player at least familiar with the basics of how Spellborn’s combat wheel works.

Once I was actually able to get in to what I think was the game world, I was pleased to see that there were a lot of other people there.  I like crowded games.  I like seeing that there are a lot of other people playing the game around me because it somehow augments my ability to enjoy a game.   It became quite apparent that questing-to-level is the means of progression in Spellborn.  I think I had four different quests to kill or pickup or go somewhere.  Reading the quest text quickly bored me, but honestly it wasn’t any worse (or better) than other questing experiences.  I glanced at my quest objectives and headed out to fight some bears, boars, and whatever else I could find.  It took a decent amount of effort to kill what I think was the weakest mob I could find, but you won’t hear any complaints from me because it means you can take a few friends and already enjoy killing newbie mobs together.

Combat was engaging.  I actually liked the wheel.  This sort of combat where you press hotkeys to activate abilities is standard/nothing new and where some feel the wheel makes apparent just how basic combat is, I find that it does just enough different to offset the simplicity and not matter at all.  I enjoyed the added dimension of having to aim for some things and I thought combat flowed moderately well – although at times some of my abilities felt sluggish.

The graphics, animations, and things that would fall under this category were all good.  I liked my spell graphics on my caster and how I could mix sword/shield with spell casting on the fly.  Character creation left a lot to be desired, but it allowed for people to change armor and colors to stand out from the start.  I could also be short and fat which is oddly a rare thing to see unless you’re a hobbit.

I ran around for a bit, quested, killed mobs, explored, leveled up, and did all the standard things.  My overall experience with the game was positive, but the problem for me is nothing stands out and grabs me.  I didn’t once feel like “I must play this game!” or “This game justifies spending money” or “I want to log in when I get home!” – ultimately I didn’t think “This is a ton of fun”.   I had to think about why for a second.  The answer here is that Spellborn just does not stand out.  Why would I (or you) stop playing WoW, or LotRO, or Darkfall, or any other game to play Spellborn?  I couldn’t come up with an answer.

If you have nothing better to do, or at worst want to risk downloaders remorse, give it a try.  I think you’ll feel the same way that I do:  Spellborn is a decent game, but nothing special.

  • The coin system is backwards. It’s RMT meets monthly subscription in some sort of odd half way payment model.

    I’m not sure what you’re thoughts are on this Keen but something that came up when Tobold gave a review of the game and something that occured to me whilst playing (before I read into Tobold’s blog so it’s obviously a reoccuring thought) is that there’s no ‘randomness’ to the wheel and thus the wheel just becomes another hot bar bash without any new innovation to what is effectively turn-by-turn combat. You can preplan easily ahead because there’s no restriction to how many times you can put an ability upon the wheel or where you put it.

    I presumed originally that there would be a sort of ‘random’ factor to the wheel that would require quick-on-your-toes reaction but unfortunately that’s missing for what is effectively a slightly gimicky set of hot bars.

  • I had exactly the same feeling. The game is not bad, but it is also not exciting at all. I got bored by WoW, and no longer play Guild Wars either, and Spellborn just did not entice me. I will rather play the offline-game “Mount & Blade” again, because it manages to give me the “thrill” that I am missing nowadays.

    Spellborn has some new ideas, but it is definitely not original enough. Just another DIKU MUD game.

  • I was pretty excited to try this when I installed it last week. I had been checking up on that game for over a year.

    The customization was the best part for me. Mixing pieces and coloring armor at creation was a breath of fresh air.

    Alas I finally got out in the world, killed my first bear and realized the combat system is not for me. I uninstalled after that heh.

  • People keep asking for alternative pricing models but do we really want MMOs to end up like the cel phone market? Capitalizing on confusion?

    Does the presentation of hot bars / button bars really need much innovation at this point?

    Cynical questions I know. I guess I’m in grumpy old-schooler mode today.

  • The spinny wheel hotbar is a normal hotbar that spins. Not much to say about the wheel other than that. Unless you have severe motion sickness, it’s no better or worse than a normal hotbar. A random element might have been neat to experiment with, although I doubt it would have any practical implementation. I could see it now… “My random hotbar got me killed with a bad roll”.

    I find the preplanning was the best part about the wheel. I can just imagine how much better the planning ahead would get when you have more than 3 abilities.

  • Played it, same feeling as you…I honestly think I have some deranged mmo condition. Perhaps it’s just that Blizzard is Satan, yeah that’s probably it.