Shroud of the Avatar: Deck Building Combat? #SotA

Recently on the forums for the upcoming Shroud of the Avatar, Starr Long, one of the game’s executive producers and previous Project Director of Ultima Online, busted out details on upcoming available skills for the new game. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, to be honest. It’s quite the information overload, and without the game, out-of-context, it’s hard to picture. However, using other games we have played, we can make a few general assumptions on what we can expect.

Firstly, Starr explains that there will be two kinds of acquired experience: Crafting experience and Adventuring experience, which will give skill points. This makes sense. In Guild Wars 2, making hamburgers and salads somehow made you a better fighter. People found this awesome as they had an alternate method of leveling, which is always good, but if I go home and make 200 sandwiches, I’m not suddenly going to be more effective in a fist fight. Having Crafting experience separated from Adventuring is a good step.

He then goes on to explain that there will be no classes. Similar to The Secret World, Skill points earned in each discipline can be used to buy any skills you want, with more powerful skills needing the prerequisites underneath them. So, for Ranged weapons, you first pick up the basic skill Aimed Shot, which then forks to Active skills Disabling Shot & Piercing Shot, and the Passive skill Eagle Eye. Skill trees are found everywhere in almost every game, so this should be nothing new to anyone.

Physical combat has 8 specializations: On the offense there is Blades, Polearms, Bludgeons, and Ranged, and on the defense there is Light Armor, Medium Armor, Heavy Armor, and Shields. These seem pretty straight-forward, very Oblivion-esque.

Magic, too, seems like the style of Elder Scrolls. So far, there are 9 different styles: Sun, Moon, Earth, Air, Life, Death, Water, Fire, and Chaos. Every magic skill, apart from Chaos, appears to have it’s opposite style represented.

But throughout the post, he drops hints that combat itself might be something different than we are use to. For example, on spending Skill Points on Active Skills:

Adding skill points to Active Skills increases the number of copies of that skill the player has therefore increasing the frequency that skill will appear during combat.

Wait… what? “Increasing the frequency that skill will appear”? The wording he uses here is interesting. He doesn’t say “will decrease the cooldown of the skill” or “reduce the time in between attacks”, he says adding skill points to Active Skills adds to the “number of copies of that skill the player has”. I don’t know about you, but this is sounding a little like a card game style of combat.

There is a skill in Chaos Magic, too, which adds to this deck/card game style combat idea, the aptly named Tabula Rasa skill:

Tabula Rasa: Instantly discard all skills and replace with new skills

Discard and replace skills, huh? Okay. So far, then, we know Shroud of the Avatar’s combat will include copies of skills, which adding points to will increase the frequency that they will appear, and a magic skill to completely discard all skills and replace them with new ones.

Also in Chaos, there is the skill Chaotic Confusion which says it “randomly rearranges target’s skills”. Woah. This skill doesn’t seem like it would be very powerful in, say PvE, as the computer doesn’t care where it puts its skills, but in PvP, just imagine being thumped with an attack that completely rearranges your skillbars. In every game we play, that would feel pretty overpowered, unless your skills themselves are also being changed out consistently.

So are they somehow going to fuse the third-person 3D world that we are use to, with a randomized skill deck style of combat? I am intrigued, to say the least. Combat would feel very dynamic and fast-paced, especially if you’re not exactly sure what your next upcoming attacks may be.

Starr then goes on in the post to talk about Crafting and the skill trees that will open up, and how recipes can be purchased, traded, or discovered, which seems similar to Guild Wars 2. The crafting disciplines of Gathering, Refining, and Production, though, sounds like Lord of the Rings Online.

All in all, comparing a game’s system prior to launch is, in a sense, an exercise in futility. We may see signs of what it may look like, but in the same way we know the different parts of a car’s engine and how they interact, the feel of driving is something else entirely. This concept of deck-style randomized skills, though, sounds intriguing, and I’d love to see it in action.

I’d highly suggest giving Starr’s post a read, especially if you have any interest in Shroud of the Avatar‘s development.

// Ocho

P.S. – Of course, I could be reading it the wrong way and be WAY off, or it may change completely before now and release… but speculation is kinda what we do, yeah?


7 thoughts on “Shroud of the Avatar: Deck Building Combat? #SotA

    • When it comes to Ultima, once EA got their hands on the series, it took a drastic turn for the worse. Ultima 7 was the last Ultima game that had no involvement with EA, and it was a fantastic, revolutionary game for it’s time. Ultima Forever is EA’s property, a property they have already run into the ground. Shroud of the Avatar is being designed by the original group who started the Ultima series, and so they are leaning heavily on nostalgia, but if anyone were to make a decent Ultima game again, it’d be them.


    • Have you ever tried Magicka? It’s a bunch of mages, but to cast spells, you need to combine elements in very quick succession. They’re making a MOBA, I believe, and although it’s not deck building, it isn’t your standard MOBA either. There’s a lot of skill involved to master it.


    • Although being a backer, it wasn’t until I read Starr’s post that I was really intrigued about the game. Up until now, it just looked like your standard fantasy trope… whatever comes out, I’ll still play it, as playing the Ultima games runs in my blood (my very first PC game was Ultima 6, and I’ve played them all since then), I just really am hoping it’s going to be good. 🙂


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