Shroud Of The Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, Lord British is back

Richard Garriott, a.k.a. Lord British, is the creator of the Ultima series of roleplaying games. After a brief hiatus following the release of Tabula Rasa, the legendary developer is returning with a new studio and a new game touted as the spiritual successor to Ultima Online. Failing to secure the Ultima property from Electronic Arts, Garriott settled on a new name, Shroud of the Avatar.

With a focus on player housing, crafting, exploring the sandbox world, NPC interactions, and combat, Shroud of the Avatar takes a different approach to the now-standard theme park MMORPG model. In addition, players can choose to experience much of the content in a single-player package, or embrace traditional multiplayer role-playing alongside a “pay once to play” model that balances future content launches against in-game currency.

One major difference in Shroud of the Avatar is that the housing system is not instanced and is part of the world itself. While many MMORPGs place housing options in their own space far away from civilization, landowners in Shroud of the Avatar have their buildings front and center in player occupied space. Customization options are impressive, with the ability to select paintings on walls to choosing tables, chairs, and other decorations. From cabins to castles, the housing system lets players become a living part of the ongoing world. The housing system goes even further, allowing guilds and players to become owners of entire towns.

Shroud of the Avatar features 20 different skill trees so that players can mix and match to create a distinct play style. Instead of pigeonholing players into archetypal classes, you're free to dive into combat and magic schools, combining Chaos magic with ranged combat or Moon magic with heavy armor. Players can also specialize in crafting a complex web of gathering, refining, and production that should keep even the most enthusiastic crafter bustling and busy.

In stark contrast to many other MMORPGs today, Shroud of the Avatar features a fully offline single-player mode that’s expected to have over 40 hours of content, including ethical dilemmas and player choices that have meaningful impact on the story. Multiplayer is also different than the norm, where players can opt to play solo, with friends, or with the greater community.

The project is still in Early Access alpha mode, but already we're seeing a solid core gameplay loop become established, featuring freeform exploration and combat. For players who enjoy wandering in the woods searching for resources to craft new goodies at your base of operations, that’s an option. Don’t want to mess around with that? Find a local barkeep and ask around rumors may lead you deep into the sewers or dungeons where your combat mettle is constantly tested. Since the experience is largely freeform in the open world, if you’re prone to exploration you may end up delving into extremely dangerous but rewarding locations.

If you’re looking for a fresh MMO experience with an open-ended sandbox core, keep an eye on Shroud of the Avatar as it marches toward release this year.

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