Now that PAX Prime and DragonCon are both over, Portalarium is recovering with the latest build for Shroud of the Avatar. Release 10 is a special play test, where folks who attended the two events had a chance to sign up for a possibility of testing. This will introduce new testers to Shroud of the Avatar, which means Portalarium receives far wider feedback than previous play tests, which have previously only been open to backers. Release 10 continues Shroud of the Avatar's pre-alpha stage of development. To keep an eye on future play tests and other events the staff will be attending or running, Shroud of the Avatar's Events page doubles as a roadmap, allowing people to have a quick glance at the game's timeline.
Reading the feedback forum from this weekend's play test, it's obvious that the community is pretty divided on the deck based combat in Shroud of the Avatar. Currently, there are two modes of combat. You can choose to use a traditional MMO setup, where you select your abilities and use your hotkeys the way you would in most MMORPGs. The problem with going this route is that your abilities will cost more, they'll have longer cooldowns, and you'll have access to less abilities. The downsides to using a deck are that while you have a choice in what you build your deck out to look like, many of the abilities you'll have access to will be randomized. The upside to this, is when an ability goes on cooldown, another takes its place, and you can also have access to combos using unlocked decks. This method also has a lower cost for abilities that you use. I wrote about the introduction to PvP in Shroud of the Avatar not too long ago, which features a video that shows off deck building and using it in combat. This was introduced to the game in Release 8, so there are chances that some of the information in the video is now outdated, however, I suggest anyone curious about combat in Shroud of the Avatar check it out.
Speaking of differences between releases, Release 10 came with a lot of polish added to the game. Even though Shroud of the Avatar is considered to still be in pre-alpha, polish can never come to a game too early. Polish was kind of the theme of this release, which also brought better optimization, load times, and stability to Shroud of the Avatar. Release 10 also introduced Spectator Mode for the group PvP arenas, as well as dueling. Dueling is now available anywhere in the world by right clicking on the player you wish to duel with. This was originally slated to be a Release 12 feature.
Combat decks received an overhaul, which now lets players start out with more simplified decks before building more expert level decks. This will let players get the hang of the deck combat system before moving into a more complicated set up. If you're not ready to start tinkering with deck building, a new auto deck feature is added in, which will create one for you. Combos have been listed in the UI, as well as the ability to power up combos by repeat use of a glyph. Combos that are available will now highlight on your action bar for better visibility. Deck swapping in combat is now available, as well, after an alternative deck is set up and designated as the alt deck to swap to.
Release 10 also brings less scenes (which is kind of like phasing in games like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2), so that more players are together in the same area, rather than spread out over different scenes. With this comes adjustments to player housing. Less scenes means that there will be less available housing, but it allows Portalarium to address the issue that people are claiming houses, but not actually using them or decorating them. Instead of just allowing people to keep claiming housing without any intention of use, players will now need to purchase a housing deed, as well as upkeep costs. This will allow for less housing scenes in Shroud of the Avatar, along with housing that will be actually used once claimed.
Did you get a chance to play in this special play test? If so, what do you think about the deck based combat in Shroud of the Avatar? Do you think Portalarium is on to something or are they missing the mark? Let us know what you're thinking in the comment section!