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Home > June 2003 > Reviews

Some argue that computer gaming was changed for ever when the idea of online, persistent worlds emerged. I believe this is true, although I think gamers have been slow to adopt this premise, not fully understanding what it means. Five years ago when I first played Myth: The Fallen Lords online, my world changed. I made friends, clans, enemies, and blew a lot of 'binary' stuff up. The community that the game created was great. No other single player game could possibly replicate that kind of continued fun. When any other game is finished or beaten, most people stop playing it. With Myth, Bungie made the game timeless. You could play it forever (almost), and people still play Myth and Myth 2 to this day.

Then came EverQuest. Although it was stubbornly Windows only, we Mac gamers heard about it. Who didn't, it even seemed to make national news as imaginary items from within the game were being auctioned on eBay for real U.S. dollars. EverQuest was the first Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) to hit the big time selling bajillions of copies world wide. Although Delta Tao did release Clan Lord, a Mac only MMORPG many years ago, which you can still play today, the game didn't really explode onto the Mac market like EverQuest took the Windows market. Hence, many Mac users have been without the wonders of an MMORPG. Sony is currently developing a Mac version of EverQuest, but if you have ever seen EverQuest on a PC, you will know not to hold your breath.

About the time Bungie sold out to MicroSoft, and Mac OS X was getting near the beta stage, a company called Wolfpack Studios began developing Shadowbane. Since day one, the company promised OpenGL based graphics, full Mac support on OS X, and a deep, rich, game environment which would put EverQuest to shame. After many years of impatient waiting, Wolfpack finally delivered on that promise.

The story behind shadowbane
The game is built on the premise that society has fallen into an "age of strife." Society having been torn apart by wars, forsaken by its leaders, and abandoned by its gods, the landscape is now wild and free for the taking. Players band together to form and build cities and guilds while they fight back and forth.

The premise of the game is player versus player. Yes, you still go out and hunt creatures to gain experience and levels, but as you grow stronger, and become more familiar with the world, you will make friends and eventually have to join a player made and organized guild.

Many guilds are formed and the world map is dotted with small towns almost everywhere. Most are formed by players that just want to build a town. Some are formed with ideas of establishing a trade city where fortunes are made through capitalism. Others are built for pure evil to dominate the world and kill us all. Ultimately, you will be struggling with your characters and guild mates to defend yourself and your city from these giant borg-like evil assimilators. Much of the world is dominated by these nations and you can choose which side to fight for.

How the game works
Some online games let you download the game for free but then you have to pay a monthly fee to access the servers (i.e. Clan Lord, Lineage). Shadowbane is not one of those. With Shadowbane, you buy the game and you pay for monthly access. However, the game is fairly priced, as is the monthly fee. To offset this, you get a month for free when you sign up. There is also better pricing if you are willing to commit to more time.

After installing the game and setting up your account on the game's website, you are ready to play. The first step is to create a character. Don't invest too much emotion into your first character. Think of it as your trial character. Get in the world, see what it's like, learn. Then make the character you really want to play.

Your character can be one of several races, including human, dwarf, half-giant, shade, centaur, aelfborn, elf, aracoix and minotaur, each having their own bonuses and negatives. To start, you choose one of four classes, fighter, healer, mage and rogue. After your character reaches level ten, you can choose a sub-class by locating one of the various trainers and committing to a life of study under that sub-class. There are too many sub-classes to list here, but a few are thief, assassin, ranger, druid, barbarian, fury, crusader, bard, various preists, and all kinds of fighters.

You start on what is called "Newbie Island." This island is quite large, full of monsters of varying size and designed to help you gain levels and advance your character up to the main continents of the world. Newbie Island has a distinct advantage over the rest of the world. It is a safe zone, meaning other players can't kill you, or steal from you. It is quite easy to set off on your own exploring Newbie Island.

The next step up from Newbie Island is the main continents, but still remaining a member of a "safe city." In the safe cities, you are still safe from Player Killers (PKers) and thieves, however, step out side the city, and you are vulnerable. This is why players in the safe cities group together to form hunting parties. Safety in numbers. You don't have to be the strongest character in the lands, you just have to be able to run faster than the other people in your group.

After your character reaches level 35, you will have to join a player guild. You can still walk to the safe cities and use the amenities, hang out and look for hunting groups, but you can't live there. This is when you decide what kind of group you want to be involved with. After playing your character for 35 levels, you surely have met people from all walks of life, and will most likely be recruited. It is at this point you will find your game playing to change a bit. Although you will go hunting for experience and gold, you will find yourself defending you guild's city, erecting buildings, starting sub-guilds, spying, killing and quite often running for your life.

Shadowbane runs fine on my PowerBook G4 12 inch. Even at higher graphical settings such as 32 bit color and high texture detail. However, the game lags quite a bit when ever there is huge group of players around. These times can be very frustrating. Sometimes it is just in a safe city, when there are a lot of people there. This isn't a big deal but it is annoying. Other times, it's right when your guild's city is under attack and all your allies are present as well as enemies. This is not a good time for the game client to be rendered useless by lag. In fact it is the point at which the game must keep running. I have been sorely disappointed by this on a number of occasions, but the game is still fun enough to keep play. I just keep hoping the next update will resolve the issue. I have not tried playing during these lag times on a monster machine, like a G4 tower with a Uber graphics card, but I have heard it is a similar situation, though not quite as unplayable.

Personally I love the game, but my biggest gripe is with the economy. Monsters are never ending, and therefore, gold is never ending. The premise of PKers and thieves is to steal your money for their guild. To this I ask why? Isn't it just as easy to go camp a monster spot and kill them all day and night to get gobs of money? If money was finite, then I would see a need for thieves and PKers, but with an endless supply of gold, eventually, we will all be millionaires, using gold to make spoons, bed pans, nails, toothpicks and other things. The economy needs a serious adjustment to make it more useful. With the current economy, there is no reason for war, political struggle, or anything put peace. War is futile because it will go on forever.




OS X 10.2


Awesome graphics, well thought out structure and core concept, fairly priced.


Game lags at inopportune moments, economy needs work (though best I've seen yet), and thieves suck