Armchair Empire Home


Platform: PC

Genre: Online RPG

Publisher: Shadowpool Studios

Developer: Shadowpool Studios



Related Links:

Review: Eve Online (PC)

Review: Phantasy Star Online Episodes I & II (Xbox)




Be notified of site updates. Sign-up for the Newsletter sent out twice weekly.

Enter E-Mail Address Below:

Subscribe | Unsubscribe

Trials of Ascension

trials-ascension-1.jpg (51928 bytes)   trials-ascension-2.jpg (68608 bytes)   trials-ascension-3.jpg (54430 bytes)

With every year the MMORPG market gets more and more crowded.  Nonetheless, developers keep pumping out the titles, some of them good, many of them bad.  Shadowpool Studios seems to think that they may have a slightly different, interesting take on the genre with Trials of Ascension on the PC.

The game doesn’t look to reinvent the wheel by any means, instead tweaking what we expect from online RPGs.  One interesting feature being implemented is permanent death for characters.  This in and of itself isn’t anything new, but the way it will be pulled off should be.  Your character won’t be gone for good the first time he or she dies, but with each time the character gets resurrected they’re soul’s ties to the mortal world becomes weaker until eventually the character dies and that’s it.  What makes permanent death have even more potential in the game is that if a player makes a very powerful character once it dies for good it will likely leave a relic behind for other players to use.  The relics will be a powerful item, weapon, and such that will prove very useful to those who acquire them.  While the relics are interesting, what should prove more interesting is how many players decide to hunt down other high level players to kill and take their relic.


Trials of Ascension will also rely on a skills system for improving players instead of standard leveling up in hopes of players not feeling like they’re being manhandled into becoming mages, or fighters, or clerics, or whatever from the get go.  Of course, if players want their characters to fall in line with these classes they’ll have to adjust their skills accordingly.  Conversely, this approach could also open the door for a number of hybrid class characters.  

On top of this there will be 18 races available for players to use as their alter ego in the game, ranging from the conventional such as pixies, goblins, humans, elves, and dwarves, to the unexpected like actually being a dragon, or a centaur, or even a gryphon.


The religions of this world will also play a stronger role than they do in other RPGs.  Instead of a character’s faith simply dictating a few spells and immunities they possess, players will be expected to follow its doctrine rather closely in order to gain new items and the favor of their god.  




Also of note is that Trials of Ascension will do away with the old styled S&M approach to RPG combat of “I hit you then you can hit me”, replacing it with a more fluid style which includes maneuvers and such to land and escape blows.  Shadowpool hasn’t gone into much detail on this yet, so it’s unclear whether or not this means combat will be more akin to what one may find in an action RPG.


Permanent Death:
When you confront danger in TerVarus, you literally are taking your life in your hands. While player characters are hardy, death leaves a permanent mark upon their soul, weakening their link to the world of the living. Should misfortune befall too often, that link will be lost, and the character's soul will depart... forever. With this daunting thought comes the trade off that only permanent death can offer in the form of a barrier against high level character stagnation and economical bloat.

The Eighteen Races:
TerVarus is populated by a myriad range of civilized creatures, from the tiny and delicate pixie to the towering and mighty dragon. There are eighteen player races to choose from, each of whom have their own unique aptitudes and abilities, as well as their own preferences and rivalries. 

A permanent death is not the only way for a character to end their days. The mighty often leave themselves a permanent legacy in the world in the form of a rare and mysterious artifact. These relics of the departed are known to bestow a wide range of mysterious powers upon those who are fortunate enough to find them.

Skill System:
Every character in TerVarus is unique in their skills and abilities; gone are the days when one's powers could be summed up by reference to 'class'. Player characters can train themselves in virtually any activity that they might wish to pursue, and there is no end to the dizzying heights that they might reach. Of course, mastery in one area comes at the price of competence in another, so players must train wisely.

The gods are not the only source of magical power, and the gifted can pursue their own individual mastery of the arcane. This is a dangerous path, for while the rewards can be great, the dangers to body and soul that must be braved have claimed many a would-be magician. 

The faiths of TerVarus are integral to the world, and no one can avoid their touch entirely. The rewards for devoted service can be great, and the collective power of the masses gathering to worship can power minor miracles, which the gods themselves channel through their shrines and priests to aid their followers or beset their enemies.

Combat System:
TerVaran combat will be unique unto itself. The “Caveman” model of hit and be hit while standing still is dead in TerVarus, and characters can perform a myriad of combat maneuvers to make the perfect fighting character according to their needs and style.

Player Driven Economy:
Gone are the days where the gold piece is king, and where they are more common than the grains of sand upon a beach. Player characters are dependent upon one another to create and trade the goods they need, and a stable economy requires many craftsmen. What value do goods command? That is solely between the parties that are involved in the exchange. 

Player Run Settlements:
In TerVarus, the players will run the settlements. Governments, from the cruel dictatorships to benign democracies, evil kingdoms to knightly realms, will all be possible for players to create. Settlement diversity and style will be limited only by one’s imagination. 

Dynamic Weather System:
Even the world itself provides challenges, in the form of heat, cold, rain, snow, and dramatic natural disasters such as a rampaging tornado or bone-shaking earthquake. A wise explorer will take precautions against encountering such adverse conditions. An unwise explorer is unlikely to survive them.

If there’s one complaint that a lot of MMORPGs set in a world of fantasy get, it’s that they are too similar much of the time.  Shadowpool may have something here with Trials of Ascension, keeping the game in a familiar setting while addressing many of the qualms gamers have with the genre.  Now gamers will just have to wait it out for the game’s release, or at least put their name in the hat when beta testing comes around.

- Mr. Nash

(August 3, 2003)