When playing Shadowbane, I was expecting an immersive world that allowed advanced PvP action, and good old-fashioned online RPGing. The game promised a lot: Castle sieges, character variation, and a fairly realistic world; something you look for in a game that you're paying for monthly. Even though Shadowbane fulfills a few of its promises, overall the game comes up short.
You'll start off like any other low level character, waiting to hack and slash or magically cast your way through the world, getting ready to hear that beautiful sound saying that you just leveled up. In Shadowbane, leveling is one of the easiest things you can do. In most MMORPG's, many people tend to power level, meaning they get together with a friend who's been playing for awhile and they help them fight harder creatures so they level up faster. You don't really need to do that in Shadowbane because it's easy to get experience going solo, and when you need to start joining parties, there is no experience penalty to deal with. So you can join up with a party, go kill and gain as much experience as you would as if you were by yourself. Sounds great right? You'll find yourself with tons of money all the time and sliding up the level ranks swiftly. Unfortunately, nobody can seem to get any organized teaming together, and there is usually so much confusion you'll end up dying anyway. This is usually from people getting in the way, or forgetting how to use certain aspects of the un-user friendly interface.
Dying, like in any other game, sucks. But, in Shadowbane, it sucks even more. All your unequipped items and un-banked money can be looted from your grave, and you lose a massive amount of experience. One thing to always remember: Get items to see thieves in hiding, and check your equipment frequently. The player interaction in this game is quite advanced; advanced enough so that thieves can pick your pocket while your busy resting without you even noticing.
Shadowbane suffers from a lot of gaming faults. If you can get through the complicated interface, you'll still hate resting every other minute because running and fighting eats away almost all your stamina. The major feature of building your own massive guilds and having full all-out wars was a very promising feature. However, even though I saw some great castles, towns and shops, I saw no wars or castle sieges. I don't know if it's because players realized it was a useless feature, a poorly designed feature, or if it was just something that nobody ever really got around to doing.
For the money that you're paying and what you're hoping for from an online RPG, Shadowbane is most likely one of the weaker games on the market. It promises a lot, and for the most part executes those promises, just not very well. Character variation in the game is probably one of the best things about the game. By level 10 after being in your basic classes, Mage, Fighter, Healer, and Rogue, you get to branch off into different jobs. What job you pick will determine what kind of character you have and the different abilities you will have. The differences between an-all out mage and a cleric, or a barbarian to a knight gives the game enough dynamics to keep it interesting. There are literally dozens of combinations you can choose from, and the world is vast. Customization is definitely Shadowbane's strongest point. Once you get into doing all that, and you find a good team to play with, you can really start to have some fun.
Overall, Shadowbane was probably the only RPG I've played where I always had money, never really had to worry about leveling, but always had to worry about who was going to backstab me or take my stuff. It's interesting, and if you don't mind controls that will take you days to get accustomed to, mediocre graphics, and servers that lag all the time, Shadowbane can really be as much fun as any other MMOG. It's not a bad game, but it has plenty of room for improvement, and hopefully a lot its issues will be addressed in the future.
+ Quick leveling
+ Never have to worry about money
+ Good character and class variations
+ Customizable towns and guilds
- Graphics not very appealing
- Overly complicated interface
- Unorganized teaming
- Laggy servers
- Stamina loss can get irritating
When it comes down to it, Shadowbane really isn't the best game to fulfill your MMORPG cravings. Granted it's a decent game, with a good amount of meat, but in the end, it has too many flaws and not enough strong points to make up for it. The lag alone could ruin any online gamer's experience, and with such a complicated interface, it's not a game anybody can pick up and play with ease. It can be fun if you put some time into it, but for the money, and the amount of hours you'll have to give up, it just isn't worth it. Sure, a lot of the problems can be addressed and fixed with a few patches, and server upgrades. Also, if the game lasts long enough, there may be upcoming expansions that may just make the game a whole lot better. But for now, there are better games out there.
Reviewed by Thomas Wong