By Jaime Skelton (MissyS), Senior Editor
When Shards Online appeared to the public in 2014, it was surrounded with an air of mystery and excitement. Veteran MMO players who had long been yearning to re-experience the glory days of the sandbox MMO (ala Ultima Online) were thrilled at the idea, spearheaded by former lead team members of UO itself. Shards stood as a call back to the days of player autonomy while presenting a modern framework and the potential to give players the right to create their own worlds in a new massive universe.
Almost two years after its Kickstarter was funded, Shards Online today stands on the precipice of its future. This weekend marks the launch of the Alpha Preview build (0.3.5), the final Shards Online patch before alpha begins. During this weekend, all previous trial players will also be invited to test out the new build, giving Citadel Studios valuable feedback on the game’s growth. With the Kickstarter campaign only promising to get the game to a playable Alpha state, reception to this patch and the alpha to follow will predict Shards Online’s future success or failure. I spoke with Derek Brinkmann, Founder of Citadel Studios, to see what this new update will bring.
Two new areas since the Pre-Alpha Build 3 include the Catacombs Dungeon and the Outlands. The Outlands area is a free-for-all map with open world PvP, where the only guards to be found are at the entrance to the zone. This area is wide open to allow players to build their houses and form their own miniature communities.There is one exception, however, and that is dragon that dwells near the center of the map. Players that can best this dragon have a chance to hatch one of its eggs and, if their Animal Ken is high enough, tame themselves a pet dragonling.
One other key aspect of the Outlands is its support of the new two-faction PvP system. Guilds can now pledge allegiance to either the Water (Tethis, God of Water) or Fire (Piphos, God of Fire) faction. This allegiance places a special mark next to a player’s name, and allows these two factions to engage in PvP anywhere in the world. Guild allegiances also unlock faction-specific crafted items which only allied faction members can use.
The Catacombs, on the other hand, offer Shards Online’s first real dungeon. This labyrinthine area is full of all the classic nasty creeps you’d expect: skeletons, demons, wraiths, and more. It changes its configuration every few hours from several available maps, and players will be able to influence which configuration appears next with a special item. The top level is friendly to single players and small groups, but the newly opened second level is designed as a raid dungeon. In fact, a party system is added in the latest patch, making it a little easier for players thinking about challenging Death at the end of the Catacombs.
Another fresh new area arrives in this build. Called the Prizm Lounge, this area exists in a different dimension and is exclusively accessible by Founders. It’s a little shocking to enter at first, as it features a highly technological vibe that sings TRON: bright neon colors and magical light signs, sleek modern typography and architecture, and electronic background music. Designed primarily as an exclusive roleplay hangout for Founders, this bar and lounge also offers players cosmetic space suits, special quests, and exclusive drinks and potions to imbibe. There’s even a VIP area within the lounge only available to Founders who spent $100 or more to back the game.
Shards Online has also had a great layer of polish in the last few builds, greatly improving the user interface in both aesthetic and usability. The new interface is much more user friendly, making it easier to not only see what skills a character has, but also what they can unlock and when, making skill decisions easier for the player. Though it has its roots in older games, Shards has a more modern design and ‘feel.’
Another brand new feature in this build is Fishing. The staple of roleplaying MMOs, players can now take up a fishing rod and fish in open water or from schools of fish in the worlds. Currently there are six types of fish of varying rarities. Fish can be wall decorations or just pure bragging rights! Fish have also been integrated into cooking, and different fish will offer different benefits in cooked food.
Shards Online is celebrating this special Alpha Preview weekend now, with a ton of exciting events, double experience, naked runs, live streams, and more. All the details can be found in this post! If you haven’t got an alpha key yet, you can sign up for the newsletter for a chance to win a seven day trial.