Renaming a game can be a risky proposition, especially if people associate it with an established type of gameplay. However, there’s much more than a simple name change in play as evidenced in my Legends of Aria preview, as the game formerly known as Shards Online has been reworked from the ground up as a result of fan request.
Sweeping Away the Shards
While the original concept of Shards Online was sound enough for the person running their own private server, it ended up being too limited for the people playing. Players wanted a big open world and so the decision to switch gears and create a complete open-world MMORPG, akin to Ultima Online and Darkfall, came about. As a result, the Shards Online title was given the axe.
Legends of Aria retains much of the original ideas that were started with Shards Online but it brings them to a far larger world. The map on offer at the demo kiosk housed a lake that was approximately the size of an original Shards Online world, granting the game a playable area that’s expanded by at least ten times if not more. At the same time, the renewed focus on the game has given the devs new emphasis on expanding its open world gameplay.
EVE on the Ground
Much of the design cues in Legend of Aria are taken from EVE Online in terms of how parts of the map work. There are highly safe zones where attacking others will call on the immediate fury of guards that teleport in, along with areas that have towers that are designated safe zones and swaths of completely lawless land.
Differing areas of safety isn’t the only idea from EVE being implemented. When a guild is formed, they can align themselves with a certain deity. This system lets guilds wage war against each other based on a planned flow of what gods are enemies or allies. Even if a guild fight breaks out in a safe zone, there will not be guard interference. However, unguilded players will be safe from whatever holy wars erupt between guilds.
Just like in EVE, PvP is expected to be a regular activity in Legends of Aria. There will be other avenues of play available to the game, including crafting and gathering.
Picking a Fight
As far as fights go, either in PvP or otherwise, there are a variety of skills on offer without the restriction of pure classes. Players are able to piece together a mixture of melee and magic if they desire, so long as they’re comfortable with not being specialized.
PvP engagements also appear to work similarly to Ultima Online, with players entering and exiting range of each other during skirmishes as evidenced in a video. While there are pieces of gear in the game that enhance stats, the stat gains overall are not immense so far, requiring players to utilize movement and positioning in their fights.
When asked about balancing the game for PvP and the builds people create, it was explained that the devs are ready to be proactive in response to the meta. Flavor-of-the-month builds are a thing that will be expected and actions to dial down builds that overwhelm the game will be taken.
Don’t Pick a Fight
As for those players who want to live a peaceful life, crafting will be an affair similar to classic MORPGs and involves lots of material gathering. The more immediate difference in Legends of Aria’s crafting is the way durability can have an effect on a finished product through an Improvement system.
Materials of a certain grade can be further enhanced or Improved with repeated crafting on the same item. Some materials even allow a number of free Improvements without losing any durability. After a certain point, however, continuing to Improve an item runs the risk of breaking it, which is displayed as a percentage chance.
In addition to Improvement, items can also be Enhanced. Enhancement requires different resources and has no effect on durability and provides unique bonuses to an item, such as making it heavier to deal more damage. Ultimately, gear is intended to be flat but can be refined to suit a player’s needs. The biggest benefit of crafted gear is its ability to stand up to punishment.
While Legends of Aria isn’t exactly shattering norms, it’s not looking to do so. Fans of Shards Online and the devs at Citadel Studios have a comfortable idea of the kind of MMORPG they want to see. It’s probably not going to blow minds or blaze trails, but Legends of Aria is looking to offer up a classic MMORPG for those who miss that experience.Related: Legends of Aria, MMORPG, PAX East 2017, Preview, Sandbox MMO, Shards Online