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Adventure & RPG
Release Date

March 25, 2003 | Andy Largent

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Getting Started
Now that you've got a character and are logged into the world, what is there to do? After wandering around for a bit in your hometown, you'll likely stumble upon a small gang of monsters. Wolfpack has nicely placed groups of low-level baddies near beginner towns for players to start acquiring gold and experience. The further out you go, the more difficult these will become, so take care to not stray too far.

Once you kill a few monsters and begin leveling up, you'll be able to further customize your character's attributes and start buying better weapons and armor. This is all fairly standard RPG stuff, but the real fun begins when you first group with a team of other players. Especially at lower levels, grouping together is an easy way to quickly build up experience by sharing with others in the group. While your wealth may be split, when fighting a horde of monsters with a decent-sized team, you'll quickly realize its benefits.

For those with commitment phobias, grouping has no permanent ties in the game, thus you can quickly drop out should the need arise. This early initiation into relationship-building does help to get players of roughly the same level talking and interacting, which will become much more important later in the game when moving on to guilds.

Moving Further
Beyond ability points, your character will also gain a number of training points at each experience level. In every town you'll find a trainer who is able to work with you on different aspects of your character's game. For example, if you find a great double-handed broadsword, but aren't adept enough with a sword to use it, a fighter trainer will help increase your sword skill. This will require a fee as well as eat up your training points, so spend them wisely.

Training will also open up a world of new options for further skill improvement. For instance, spellcasters can train either their base offensive or defensive magic skills to open up new spells. In turn, these new spells can then be trained to make them even more powerful.

Once reaching level 10, you're then given the option of even further classing your character. Called professions, these secondary classes give you a chance to hone your skills into more specific areas like that of an Assassin, Scout or Ranger. Many early strategy guides for the game recommend saving some of your training points for use once you open up your profession-specific skills. Pick wisely, because once you've chosen a profession, there's no way to undo the effects of this decision and choose a different one. Though, with so many options, it's likely you'll work through a few "throw away" characters before settling in on a favored set of classes, races, and attributes.

Once you've reached level 20, the real story of Shadowbane begins. While we were unable to explore this during the beta, the game promises player-run kingdoms formed by one or more guilds. A full economic structure is in place to keep them running, and a complex siege system will enable battles of epic proportions.

It's tough to draw too many conclusions at this point, but we are very excited for the launch of Shadowbane; so we can to get the chance to explore the game world further. The first 20 levels in themselves should provide a great new experience for role-playing fans. Moving on to bigger and better storylines with the guild system is really just icing on the cake.

There are a few concerns that we're hoping Wolfpack will have nailed down for the game's launch. Lag and in-game stability were issues during the beta, but word is that many more servers will be brought online for the release. The Mac OS X version also seemed to have particular trouble with a few of the graphic options like dynamic lighting and shadows. Thankfully, the game's graphics are very customizable, and turning these off then allowed me to use very high resolutions.

Shadowbane's graphics may not be the very latest seen in a video game, but considering the amount of data being rendered, they are still fairly impressive. For those with high-end machines, there are a few goodies like bump-mapping which can really help the game look impressive. Also, if the game's user interface doesn't suit you, you can look forward to customizing it to your liking.

The system requirements for the Mac version are also remarkably low, with players only needing a 350 MHz G3 with 128 MB RAM and Mac OS X 10.2 in order to play. Shadowbane retails for $40 and will have a monthly fee as well, though the first month is included in the box cost.

[Update] The subscription fees have also been posted to the Shadowbane FAQ:

Monthly Plan $ 12.99 USD per Month
3 Month Plan $ 34.99 USD for 3 Months (a 10% discount!)
6 Month Plan $ 64.99 USD for 6 Months (a 20% discount!)
12 Month Plan $119.99 USD for 12 Months (a 30% discount and immediate access to the 3 Restricted Races!)
For more details, check out the Shadowbane site.

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Wolfpack Studios


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