‘People Who Love BioWare Story- telling Will Love’ Shadow Realms
It’ll also have four-on-one gameplay that pits players in various RPG classes against a “Shadowlord,” another player who can possess enemies, set traps, and generally be a jerk.
At a fan event today at Gamescom 2014 in Cologne, Germany, BioWare let players get hands-on with Shadow Realms and also took time to answer a few fan questions with a four-developer panel. The livestreamed event answered a few more questions about how Shadow Realms will work in general, but a big takeaway was that “BioWare storytelling” will be a big part of the PC-only, episodic online title.
“You’re going to have some of the epic stories that you expect where you’re making decisions that have an impact on the world — your world,” said BioWare Senior Creative Director James Ohlen during the stream. “It’s going to have all the classic elements of the best BioWare stories. People who love BioWare storytelling are going to love this.”
Shadow Realms is described as an episodic modern fantasy title, and that means content will drop periodically throughout the year, said Director of Production Dallas Dickinson. BioWare didn’t specify just how often episodes would be available — it sounds as though the studio is still working through the details — but there will be things to do in the meantime, and the instanced missions of Shadow Realms are meant to be pretty replayable as well, with players hunting more experience points and loot in each battle.
The game sounds as though it’s taking a fair amount from the pages of the MMO genre (BioWare Austin is, of course, responsible for Star Wars: The Old Republic), even though it’s not technically an MMO. Players group up to work through “realms,” which are not unlike dungeons and are filled with enemies and culminate in boss fights. Don’t expect a traditional MMO feel, though: BioWare said there won’t be open-world areas as players might traditionally understand them. Instead, the game is about “personal storytelling,” with a focus on cooperative play, the developers said.
The four-vs.-one aspect of the game comes from the introduction of Shadowlords, who are invisible playable characters fighting on the monsters’ side. Players gain various abilities as Shadowlords to use toward the goal of wiping out the hero team in any given match.
Ohlen said the game is multiplayer only, but that doesn’t mean you can only play Shadow Realms if you have other people with you (although you can, of course, group with friends). Instead, the game will queue you into a group of other people instantly, so you can delve into a game immediately. Details on how story will work with the group-finding mechanics are still a bit sparse, but Dickinson said the game won’t let players be held up by being at different points in the story when they’re trying to play together.
As for Shadowlords, they’re not exactly the dungeon masters they might at first appear. Yes, Shadowlords are controlled by players and work against the heroes by manipulating the dungeon, but they level up and have customizeable loadouts just like the heroes do. Player get various abilities to start with and through the course of playing a realm, meaning they can change their gear and powers to react to how the heroes are faring. Expect to be able to do things like lob bombs or set traps for heroes, possess monsters, and the like. Dickinson described the balance BioWare as going for as being tough for the Shadowlord to win in the first room, and tough for the heroes to win in the final boss fight, but he also said the studio means to gather player feedback on that balance and adjust it during the game’s upcoming closed alpha period.
While there’s no straight player-vs.-environment or single-player version of Shadow Realms, the game works with a single person firing it up alone by grouping them with other players from across the Internet. Dickinson said you also won’t be limited by facing down an unskilled Shadowlord; realms are already full of enemies, and Shadowlords add to the challenge, they don’t necessarily determine it.
The focus is on making sure players have more of a co-op experience than an MMO-like PvE experience, Ohlen said.
“What if you have a terrible Shadowlord? If you have a terrible Shadowlord, you’re actually playing a PvE experience,” Dickinson said. “All that adds is a dynamic level of fun that we think makes it better, but the experience just feels very much like a co-op experience.”
BioWare sees realms as being replayable, and you can expect rewards for working through areas in the form of experience and loot, like pretty much any other role-playing game. Shadowlords earn experience and loot as well, so you’ll be able to focus on growing both your good guys and your bad. (You can also just play as the heroes if you prefer, Ohlen said, but BioWare means to incentivize taking on both roles.) There will be rewards for every battle for the winners and losers, and players can expect to be rewarded for “playing well” during a match, even if they don’t emerge victorious at its conclusion.
Expect also a high degree of customization in Shadow Realms. BioWare said players can expect six different character classes to work from, and the usual BioWare full customization that includes both genders and a range of physical appearance options. You’ll also be able to customize your characters’ abilities for each realm, it sounds like, with a number of active and passive skills. What you’re capable of doing also changes based on your weapons and other equipment, and you’ll see characters with gear that ranges from modern Earth attire to more fantasy-leaning clothes and armor.
BioWare is currently taking signups for Shadow Realms’ alpha test at shadowrealms.com. You’ll need an Origin account to sign up, and as of now the game is PC-only.