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Publisher: Ubisoft    Genre: Adventure & RPG    Expansion For: Shadowbane
Min OS X: 10.2    CPU: G3 @ 350 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

Shadowbane: The Rise of Chaos
January 12, 2004 | Casey Carbonneau

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Early 2003 marked a turning point in Mac gaming. Two Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) were released. The first was Everquest, allowing Mac gamers to journey through exotic locales, build up mighty characters, and meet fantastic peoples. The second, Shadowbane, allowed Mac and PC users to journey through exotic locals, build up mighty characters, meet fantastic peoples … and kill them.

A quick rundown of Shadowbane goes like this: Pick a server, create your character (this represents you in the virtual world), gain experience and gold, level up and train, join a guild, dominate the world. Shadowbane was revolutionary in that it allowed any old regular Internet Gaming Joe to dominate an entire world with hundreds of real, live inhabitants. Not only does Shadowbane: the Rise of Chaos set a precedent of the first (ever!) MMORPG expansion pack released for the Mac, it also expands the Shadowbane universe to make fighting for an empire (or ruling one) more detailed and comprehensive.

Graphics and Performance
The Rise of Chaos improves on Shadowbane’s already good graphics. Most players consider the graphics a means to an end – they have to see in order to fight. Luckily, Shadowbane features scalable graphics, and this can help cut down on client-based lag. I tested this game on two systems. The first system was a dual 450 MHz G4, 1 GB RAM, and a Radeon 32 MB running 10.2.8. With all the settings turned down, it ran fine. I could even put some settings up and did not notice much of a difference. Mind you, it looked like crap, but I could still move around, use my spells, and kill people. The second system was a 1 GHz Powerbook, 1 GB Ram, and a GeForce4 MX 64 MB running 10.3.2. On this system, I can max the settings and in some situations get no noticeable slowdown. With a full group (10 people) plus mobs (short for mobiles – “monsters”) I can operate and play, and boy does it look pretty. But if another group rolled up and tried to kill us, slowdown city. So, if you put the settings somewhere in the middle you’ll do just fine.

The Rise of Chaos (thankfully) improves the login screens from their original ugliness to a series of quite impressively streamlined screens. Beyond that, there really isn’t much improvement over Shadowbane. The skies look a lot better (imagine seeing actual clouds or stars instead of a generic sky palette), there is now weather (though at the moment it crashes the Mac client so you’ll have to turn it off), and some building cosmetics are improved.

The sound is actually a high point of Shadowbane. It is unfortunate that under the current build having the sound turned on creates a major memory leak. The music is quite impressive for a MMORPG and the sound effects are varied and distinct, though some do get somewhat repetitive. Although, the sound is good enough to improve player versus player combat (PvP). For example, I can tell what spell a character off-screen is casting by what it sounds like being cast. Alas, having the sound on will require frequent client and system resets, so be warned.

And when you have the sound completely off, the client still makes little annoying, repetitive, and incessant noises. There are two or three loops of these noises (they are ambient noises and apparently cannot be toggled with the regular sound settings). Imagine having the sound for Shadowbane turned off, and still hear the sound of a one-minute clip of trickling water playing over and over and over. And over.


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