The Chronicles of Spellborn Preview

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Publisher: Frogster
Developer: Spellborn NV

Platform: PC
Official Site:

Five Centuries ago, the world was ruled by the Empire of the Eight Demons. A desperate effort by unknown heroes destroyed the Altar of the Undying, shattering the Empire, but also shattering the very world itself. That magical cataclysm left the remnants of the world as shards floating in a magical maelstrom called the Deadspell Storm that preserves life in the handful of remaining shards.

The few remaining humans, alongside the Daevi, the bastard offspring of demonkind, struggle to survive and rebuild in what is literally the wreckage of a world.

Projected Release: 2009
Kyle Ackerman

For the last four years, Spellborn NV has been hard at work creating The Chronicles of Spellborn, a massively multiplayer online game set after a magical and demonic apocalypse. The game is currently in an early beta-testing phase, has publishers in Europe and Asia, and is considering its plans for release in North America (with a probable North American release in 2009). As you'll see below, The Chronicles of Spellborn plans to distinguish itself from the other MMOGs out there, particularly with its experience system and death penalty (or lack thereof). I had a chance to sit down with the Spellborn developers to learn about their take on MMOGs.

Man or Demon?

The Chronicles of Spellborn will launch with two playable races: the humans and the daevi. Humans were the slaves of demonic overlords in the Empire of the Eight Demons, and the daevi are the offspring of a demon and a former human slave. Humanoid in appearance, the daevi feature goat-like legs and other supernatural features. Humans and daevi have similar abilities and statistics, but each will have different available quests and will follow diverging storylines.

Players will begin by choosing to pursue the archetype of the warrior, the spellcaster or rogue, each of which can pursue one of three paths. The three paths for each archetype emphasize different character attributes and skills, for a total of nine main styles of play. As players have come to expect, appearance and clothing are highly customizable. But in a different twist, clothing has no statistics – all attire is for looks, so characters can separate their urge to min/max from the desire to make a character look like a bad-ass or paragon of role-playing style.

That's not the case for critical items like weapons and jewelry. Not only do such items contribute to character power, they can be enhanced with sigils that can be found throughout the game. Sigils (runestone-like objects) can be added, singly or in various combinations, to increase the power of and change the effects of various items. Another convenient development is that while characters might accumulate a vast inventory, players can break down inventory in the field and get the same price they would from running back to town and visiting a vendor. Eliminating the need to constantly head back to town to fuel your own personal economy is just one of the clever things the Spellborn team is trying. Also, players will be able to take recipes and ingredients to vendors and NPCs to craft custom items.

Making Experience Personal

Personally, the most interesting thing to me about The Chronicles of Spellborn is the game's approach to death. Older massively multiplayer online games typically brutalized the player after death, taking away massive amounts of experience, forcing players to fight to regain character development. More recent games typically impose a lesser penalty, making characters rest briefly or repair broken equipment, ensuring that death isn't without consequence, but making those consequences minor. Sensibly, The Chronicles of Spellborn rewards living, rather than strictly penalizing death.

In The Chronicles of Spellborn, conventional experience is known as "fame." Fame primarily comes from completing quests, and is what will take the player through the game's 50 levels of character development. Then, there's something called "Personal Experience Points" (P.E.P.). P.E.P. come from killing creatures, and when you you're killed, your P.E.P. are reset to zero. The more P.E.P. you collect, the better your character will perform, serving as an improving and ongoing buff for your character. So, the longer you stay alive, the more powerful you'll get. But should you die. Your baseline character can still successfully quest.

All Action, No Dice

Combat, too, is a little different, bearing more similarity to action-heavy games like Guild Wars rather than typical MMOG combat that's more macro than action. The Chronicles of Spellborn doesn't use random die rolls in the background. Attacks are aimed using the game's reticule, with no auto-targetting help. If your aim is good, you always hit. As a result, players actually have to dodge, aim to cast spells and stay active throughout combat.

Beyond the active nature of Spellborn's combat, The Chronicles of Spellborn uses a Skilldeck. Characters get a variety of skills that can be used to customize your combat experience and construct extensive combination attacks. Skills may have special functions (like stunning, doing extra damage or adding to another skill), and up to eight skills can be placed in a combo chain. If one element of the combo misses, the rest of the chain is lost, but the more skills that are placed in a chain, the more effective the attack becomes. In this way, The Chronicles of Spellborn plans to capture that feeling of collectible card games in which players seek out new skills and then find clever ways to use them in combinations.

Portals of Magical Fire

The Chronicles of Spellborn has a variety of factions battling over the remnants of the game's world that float in the Deadspell Storm. This provides the kind of competition that makes for an interesting storyline and an unending sequence of quests, but it also provides for varied and gorgeous settings. Each shard looks different, and are linked through a series of portals (some of which are secret). When I saw the game, it was really cool to notice "windows" in the upper segments of a shard through which the glowing tendrils of the Deadspell Storm could be seen, while the foreground was filled with a conventional fantasy landscape. In particular, I was impressed by the scene as a flaming windmill was highlighted by burning fields and a maelstrom of a magical sky.

The setting promises considerable potential, which the Spellborn team promises to fill with a variety of monster-hunting and player-vs.-player zones. Ultimately, when The Chronicles of Spellborn emerges in stores, it should offer some interesting twists on the MMOG formula you've come to know and love.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on March 25, 2008 10:56 AM.

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