I’m not sure how it was when viewing from home, but Bioware’s reveal for Shadow Realms sounded atrocious at the EA press conference. It sounded like anything but the sort of game we were hoping for. But then I went behind closed doors and found out that it’s actually pretty awesome.
Shadow Realms will still make use of all the usual Bioware RPG elements. Players will have choices to make and there will be cinematics to help advance the story lines. As you progress through the game you will get loot and experience, customizing your character and your play styles. However, combat is soundly placed in a Dungeons and Dragons inspired context.
When players accept a quest, this will generally push them into a 4v1 multiplayer match where four players attempt to traverse a dungeon while the Shadow Lord (aka dungeon master) sets obstacles for them. Players can choose to solo or join up with friends, although if you go in with friends you won’t be able to play as the Shadow Lord, something that could randomly be allowed if you play with strangers.
Having already successfully created classic fantasy with Dragon Age and sci-fi with Mass Effect, Bioware was excited to set this game in a modern fantasy world. The game takes place in our current world, although there are certain times when players are transported to a more classic fantasy environment. This means that loot can also be specific to the realm; if you get loot when pulled into that fantasy world, you might pick up a fantastic broad sword that you can pair with your modern uzi.
The game will be delivered as an episodic experience. Developers are hoping that it will be like a beloved series, with people discussing choices and plot developments over the water cooler. I’m not really too sure that people talk over water coolers, or that people like episodic experiences when they really prefer to just binge on the whole thing, but it will be interesting to see how Bioware can flesh out a story given more time for development between each episode.
I got to see some of the 4v1 action and it really is a whole new genre that Bioware is creating. Sure, there are other asymmetrical multiplayer games coming out – just look at Evolve, or Fable Legends, or Dying Light – but this one expands upon that with a fully fleshed out single player story experience integrated into the game. At least, that’s what Bioware is striving for.
During combat, the Shadow Lord can select the types of creeps available, as well as pick skills. Players also pick skills, with both sides able to add skills at each checkpoint. This means that players can shift their strategies depending on play styles as the game progresses.
Beyond setting traps, the Shadow Lord can also possess creeps. When he does so, a blue aura appears around him so players can see who he is possessing. Unlike other games on this type, the Shadow Lord can also only see the world in 3rd person adventure camera style – no 2D or bird’s eye view, even when laying down some traps.
The game is still in pre-Alpha and will probably change a lot before release. At the moment, it’s only built for PC, but depending on demand it might appear on consoles as well. We have all been told to head on over to the site to sign up for the Alpha to help the developers build the game in the right direction. I hope they are successful in bringing tabletop gaming into the modern era with this, and after seeing more of the game I’m a bit more optimistic about what it might actually be about.
Last Updated: August 19, 2014