Whether you're mad with power or simply wished video games were made a certain way, Shards has a place for everyone.
In Shards Online, every player is given their own Shard. This Shard equates to a world -- or a server in this case -- where 32-players (with options for more down the road) may enter. The owner of the shard governs their own world and can create whatever game they want by either spawning mindless violence on a whim or creating a role-play only, conflict-free game room. The choice is yours.
I was fortunate enough to get hands-on time with Citadel Studios to try out Shards. I am interested in its concept since I like the idea of creating your own game for all to enjoy (or hate) and laying down all the rules and structures. This sort of harks back to my days playing Dungeons & Dragons where I played the role of Dungeon Master more often than not. It’s all nostalgia. I just had to try it.
Shards is still in pre-alpha testing so I definitely can’t take it apart and be fair at the same time. The game has its share of glitches in the way of clipping through mountains. There were also features that just blatantly didn’t work consistently. The brightside is most of the base game functioned. Me and the rest of the media present were given a nice showing of the game and the concept behind what players can do to govern their shards which to me, is all that matters.
When playing Shards, you are given an overhead view of the game like in most dungeon crawlers. Path of Exile makes a great example for this particular scenario. Combat and gameplay is fairly straight-forward: click-click-click-click-click.
Most of your game time will be spent clicking since that’s how you move and target hostiles. All your offensive skills will be in a familiar spot: Q-W-R; and numbers 1 through 4 will host your spells, be it heal, fireball, or whatever. There were times I had difficulty clicking but the developers thought ahead and made the spacebar highlight all nearby targets, allowing you to click on a box to be more specific about who you highlight. This was helpful and kind of genius actually. More games should implement it.
Our avatars at the time were fairly generic. To start off, everyone in the lobby was a half-naked dude with no weapon. You can earn armor but killing creatures for money to buy it, or you can kill mercenaries and take their clothing. You have to start somewhere, right?
From what I’ve been told, progression is reliant on gear and skill level, not off direct character level. If you sat there and used nothing but a sword, your skill for that particular style of weapon would continue to grow. This works the same for magic and other core fighting mechanics. So basically, the game makes sense in that sticking to a particular style of play makes you more proficient at it.
I’m not sure how big each individual shard will be but the demo hosted one fairly large with two sections: a neutral zone where guards protect you if you come under a fire, and a zone where you were pretty much on your own: other players can now kill you. Not every world has to be like this though. This was just the way it was for the test and/or made that way because the devs wanted it that way.
Now this is where the fun begins.
We were treated to base gameplay but things didn’t start to get spicy till we were shown the potential of what players can do with their shards. For our first out-of-the-box scenario, we were placed into a zone similar to the popular Minecraft mode The Hunger Games. Yes, based on the movie.
We had 5-minutes to prepare ourselves: open crates for loot, kill monsters for potions and skill books, etc. After the time was up, all the players had to take what they got and begin to kill everyone else in cold blood. Once you’re dead, you’re out. The combat, while not incredibly dynamic like a MOBA, still had enough appeal that made me use my skills cautiously and channel spells to survive. Some of the fights just lasted way too long but in the end, I won by unfair default when me and another fellow media mate banded together and took down the devs. My partner then proceeded to the outside of the battle arena and committed suicide. R.I.P.
After our little dabble with some PvP, we were then given the opportunity to see more of what is customizable. The devs then began to summon giant deer and hippies that shot out heat-seeking bunny missiles. Heat-seeking. Bunny. Missiles.... Please?
When we thought the oddities were over, me and the rest of the media had to band together to fend of fire-breathing bears all while never stopping to attack because halting meant being struck by lightning. Oh, and when you get mad, don’t start swearing because typing profanity into the chat box causes a soldier to come out of nowhere and kill you almost instantly. There was no placeto hide till the devs spawned a house for us. There is landscaping customizability as well.
The possibilities seemed endless and players can create a world as serious or as goofy as they want. They can even create their own MMO style and make it difficult by making monsters harder and larger. I was also told it wasn’t out of the question for someone out there to make a Shards MOBA or even a castle defense game just off the basics of what the game has to offer.
Shards Online is still in alpha, but Citadel Studios streams backer-games every week through their twitch account.
Personally, I was impressed with the base game itself and can’t wait to see what kind of player-generated content other people come up with. I’m just dying to play all the zombie survival games people comes up with.