Steaming: Shroud Of The Avatar Arrives On Early Access

Eat it, goat boy.

Has it really been ten months since we last posted about Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues? Gosh. A new RPG from Ultima creator Richard Garriott seems like something we’d pay a lot more attention to. Why is this? Personally, I was burnt out on opulent Kickstater dreams manifesting as unexciting pre-alpha builds. But of course they’d look ropey. Anyway, what I think matters a whole lot less, as you can form your own opinions by playing Shroud of the Avatar. Yesterday it reached a done-enough state to launch on Steam Early Access.

Developers Portalarium have themselves sold early access for a while now, but now they’re seeking a wider audience on Steam. The Steam page notes, “This game still needs a LOT of work, it will be under construction for some time, and data wipes will happen periodically.” If you do fancy it, a Steam launch discount of 15% brings Shroud of the Avatar down to £25.49 for the next week.

It seems that Shroud is still very much about its imagined potential, and more than a mite wonky in its current playable state. Everything I’ve seen looks pretty dull, but Shroud is hoping to follow in the foosteps of Ultima and Ultima Online – can we judge it without a finished game and a stable playerbase to enable all sorts of emergent wonders? Perhaps not, but we can not spend money on it until its final form is clearer. I shan’t. I’m notoriously unkind to nostalgia, mind.

Lacking a recent official video, here’s something from an enthusiastic player:


  1. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Wow. That looks really bad.

  2. WarderDragon says:

    There are two kickstarters I regret backing – the OUYA and this. As someone who counts the Ultimas among the best games ever made, I was happy to see SotA appear – so happy I promptly forgot how to be a responsible consumer.

    They promised everything to everyone. Then they went back on the pledge promises. Then they wanted more money. And more. And more. Every “update” email is an advertisement for all the extra expensive crap they want to sell you for use in a game that supposedly has a single player experience as deep as any RPG that’s come before. Meanwhile, the game itself is all about houses, house decoration and house housing. It’s just bland and bad.

    • Dr I am a Doctor says:

      What made you think that backing the booyah was a good idea

      • WarderDragon says:

        Hehe. I wanted a console to put all my emulators on, and the OUYA seemed perfect for that.

        • Cinek says:

          So what’s the problem with running emulators on OUYA?
          (genuine question – I know next to nothing about it)

          • WarderDragon says:

            Oh, there is no real problem with it, but the hardware is very iffy – the controllers are really bad (though they were supposedly fixed later) and the WiFi is atrocious. What really got to me though was that they failed to deliver on even the basic promises, such as delivery of the Ouya before it hit store shelves. I got mine about a month after its retail release, in a crushed box, and they’d only paid for shipping to my country’s borders – despite the additional money I’d given them for shipping fees, I had to pay the local postal service to actually ship the package to my house, which is frankly unheard of over here. Then dealing with their customer service was a disaster in itself.

            Suffice to say that while the Ouya may serve the purpose I backed it for, the whole thing left such a bad taste in my mouth I don’t really want to look at that little cube anymore. :P

          • Cinek says:

            ~_~ yea, I know the pain. Got similar adventure with my timelapse tool – it was suppose to be delivered 6 months after the kickstarter was completed, but I got it 2 years later and still had complications with that… though at a very least – their customer support didn’t suck.

          • Thirith says:

            @Cinek: “Elite devs are borderline scambags with no basic respect to players.” What makes you say that?

          • Cinek says:

            What they did during this whole latest scandal. From popping up with a news that there will not be any DRM-free offline version one month before the release down to nearly everything that followed that. That happen soon after I bought the game, finally being tipped over to get it by a videos from Mighty Jingles, and almost immidietly I regret it.

    • Continuity says:

      Personally I never considered backing this, I understand why you did, I played ultima Online back in the day on my 56k modem. The whole concept of an MMO being funded from kickstarter seemed ridiculous to me, MMOs are among the most expensive and time consuming games to make.

      • WarderDragon says:

        I didn’t back it as an MMO, I backed it as a singleplayer game, which they promised it’d be fully functional as. The MMO part doesn’t interest me at all.

        • spacedyemeerkat says:

          Don’t worry, I’m in the same boat. I regret backing this game.

          Although not as much as I regret backing Godus.

          To be topical: I do not regret backing Elite: Dangerous.

          Must be a potential RPS article here somewhere.

          • Cinek says:

            Hahaha, funny, cause I’m on the opposite side.
            I played godus @ my friends house, and I had more fun with it than I do with my Shroud of the Avatar.
            And I do regret buying Elite. Actually: Frontier pissed me off more than SotA devs (they’re just incompetent, Elite devs are borderline scambags with no basic respect to players)

    • Gunstar Zero says:

      Completely agree – they’re trying to rinse people for as much cash as possible with all the worst ‘carebear’ aspects of ultima online.

    • Janichsan says:

      I backed a couple of successors of classic games, including Wasteland 2, Elite: Dangerous and Torment: Tides of Numenera, and absolutely loved the old Ultima games, but I never really considered backing Shroud of the Avatar. What was shown in the videos looked like an early 2000s era game, and neither the planned episodic release nor the multiplayer focus (alleged solo offline mode aside) really tickled my fancy.

      And – full disclosure – I share your shame of backing the Ouya. Boy, was that a bad idea…

      The only other Kickstarter pledge I regret so far is Star Command, who even after two years haven’t delivered. (And I’m on the verge of regretting Elite…)

      • alphabetagamma says:

        In light of the ED fiasco, the Shroud of the Avatar devs reaffirmed in public postings on Steam and on the official forums that they are committed to delivering the single player offline game.

    • alphabetagamma says:

      The game is a lot more than housing. There are over 200+ crafting recipes that uses upwards of many hundreds of ingredients that can be gathered in the wild or crafted, 100+ combat/magic skills across 16 skill lines, Open PvP combat, many dozens of quests across 50+ scenes (towns, dungeons, wilderness, etc) to explore and get lost in. And the game is barely even getting started in terms of content creation.

      • twincast says:

        Does it still have that weird card combat system?
        And if so, does it actually work satisfyingly?

    • PancreaticDefect says:

      To be fair, how else was Richard Garriot going to afford another ticket to space?

    • Bart Stewart says:

      A “Kickstarters I regret pledging to” would be an educational article.

      Mine include SotA (for precisely the “every ‘update’ is just another concealed attempt to sell houses” reason given above), Elite: Dangerous (for dropping offline single-player and refusing a refund because I was enthusiastic enough about this game to play the initial alpha — alone — for two hours), and Star Command (for a vaporous PC version after spending months on an Android version funded in a separate KS project). And I’m very unsatisfied with the developers of M.O.R.E. for their extremely poor “we’re too busy to say anything for months” communication.

      I’m also a bit grumpy with Warhorse for not warning anyone that their early test build of Kingdom Come: Deliverance runs on 64-bit OSs only, but that’s mostly my fault for not shelling out the cash for a new PC.

      The sad thing is that I liked the pitches for all these games enough, and wanted them to succeed, that I threw some of my precious zorkmids at them. The subsequent behavior of these developers stands in sharp and ugly contrast to the contact from developers like Jon Shafer (At The Gates) and Josh Parnell (Limit Theory), who’ve managed to make great and visible process on their games while staying in touch with their enthusiastic backers. Gavan Woolery (Voxel Quest) has been another standout here.

      I’ve seen some of how the sausage gets made; I have a good idea of how hard it is to craft a fun game of any size. So this isn’t foot-stomping, “where’s my game?!” entitlement talking. This is a public note to myself to be more careful in the future of the developers I choose to trust… or to lower my expectations and my KS pledge level.

  3. honuk says:

    I’m really getting sick of the kickstarter + early access thing. no, this is not my opportunity to express my inner desires to shape the video game industry with the power of my own enthusiasm and imagination. it’s a chance for some people to sell me a game twice before it exists in a state in which they might be held accountable for it. I don’t care. how many games that were financially successful in early access have even ever left it? that’s an honest question

    • Artist says:

      It becomes pretty hip to be against kickstarter and early access without differentiation. Hooray for a simple world view.

    • Farsi Myrtle says:

      Why would you have to buy it twice?

      Anyway I saw a figure that said about three quarters of early access games are still in early access. (Totally unverified and uncited claim, so you know it’s true.)

      But early access hasn’t been a thing for long, so that doesn’t mean a whole lot.

      The secret to a happy life is don’t buy early access to stuff that doesn’t seem worth playing right now, easy. Read the Steam reviews, they tend to be a good guide.

    • yazman says:

      ” it’s a chance for some people to sell me a game twice”

      I hope this is a joke, or that you’re just really, really ignorant. To my knowledge there has yet to be a kickstarter game that has charged the backers for the steam version when it gets on early access. I’ve backed a dozen or so games and all of them that are on Steam, I got for free as a backer. Including this. If you backed SOTA you’re not paying for it again on Steam.

      • honuk says:

        I don’t mean that it is a chance to charge the same people twice, I mean it is two chances to sell people an unfinished game. presumably your kickstarter gave you the money to make your game–that’s what you sold it on, at least.

        it’s all so much preordering to me. I’ll stick to paying for games I can play and be reasonably sure of, thanks. anything worthwhile will trickle down to me when and if it actually turns into what it’s supposed to. and then it’ll trickle down to me at a third the price if I wait an extra month, to boot.

  4. Cinek says:

    One word describes this game: Meh.

    • tumbleworld says:

      I’d go with “Gah!” myself.

      • Premium User Badge

        Earl-Grey says:

        I second “Gah!” with the implied recoiling in terror.

        • Bethor says:

          I was like Yay but that was more because i sold of my account on the SotA forum (and because that was actually an option supported by them)

  5. Stevostin says:

    Well I don’t watch the trailer but the steam user review. And they are 1) extatic, whith an outrageously positive ratio 2) made by a lot of people with 100+ hour played on a beta.

    This is enough for me to flag as “potentially important”. Still, I hate top down view for RPG, but if there is a sale… and once it’s not EA…

    • Cinek says:

      That’s the problem with reading Stream reviews on a crowdfunded games. Majority of people who spend that much time with it are so financially (an by this: emotionally) invested into the title that they are blind to anything that’s wrong with the game.

      • morbiusnl says:

        in other words they find it a good game. whats wrong with that?

        • Myrdinn says:

          Nothing. Just that people who haven’t financially/emotionally invested into SotA might find a lot of faults in the game that the fans are blind to.

        • Cinek says:

          in other words they find it a good game because they are invested in it, not because it’s a genuinely good game. And reviews other people read should tell you just that: If it’s a good game or not. I’m not interested if someone put $1000+ bucks in it or not, and that’s pretty much everything these reviews tell me.

  6. Caiman says:

    Sheesh, I thought at first the player character in that video was wearing bottomless chaps, but no, it’s just a hideous character model whose pants are sucked all the way up his arse crack. When the camera momentarily zoomed in on the hideous thing as he climbed some stairs, I recoiled in horror.

    I wasn’t impressed with the Kickstarter at all, and I’m yet to be convinced this isn’t going to be a trainwreck.

  7. tiltaghe says:

    I wasn’t paying attention to Shroud until now but it has changed! thanks for the link to this fella’s video. Sold! I never did the Ultima games because I had no computer at that time, and trying them recently it was difficult to go beyond the controls and clunkiness induced my the age I guess.

    Ok the game is a bit ugly right now but not thaaat much, I like the characterization of some NPCs. Can’t say really why it appeals to me, its a feeling. I like the way you talk to NPC and sellers and don’t have to drag and drop items etc. Neat.

    • Cinek says:

      “I like the way you talk to NPC and sellers and don’t have to drag and drop items” – you don’t ?!?!?!

    • tumbleworld says:

      Wow. I can’t tell if you’re serious or trolling. That video would have been impressive pre-WoW, but now it looks like something knocked together by a determined fan team using an ancient engine. “Cheap” doesn’t even begin to cover it. I can only assume that Garriott kept three quarters of the KS cash back for himself.

      • Cinek says:

        “I can only assume that Garriott kept three quarters of the KS cash back for himself.” – I doubt. If it’d be up to me to make bets for the current state of things – he hired people based on sentimental value, not an actual merits of work. He also lacks professional art direction and a vision in terms of visuals – something that really makes a difference even if you can’t afford high-end graphics.

        But yea, you nailed it – this game as it looks like it could have been impressive if released before November 2004 (mind you: Doom 3 was released in August 2004 and it already looked better than SotA), though still it would be far from becoming a great title that really embeds itself into your memory.

  8. Cut says:

    I find it interesting that a lot of people seem to be discounting the game because of the graphics.

    I have (just made up) a list of vital aspects to my long-imagined but sadly non-existent “perfect game”:

    *Depth (complexity of the underlying game systems)
    *Fun game mechanics
    *Exceptional AI (combat, NPCs, “living breathing world”, etc)
    *Unobtrusive, intuitive UI
    *Solid on-line experience (connectivity, lag, fps, etc)
    *Original story-telling
    *Immersive skill based combat (PvP and PvE)
    *Meaningful decisions with long-term effects
    *Emergent gameplay
    *Eye-popping graphics

    And the ONLY item on that list I would be willing to compromise on is the graphics…

    PS I know nothing about it, so I’m not in any way suggesting that SotA ticks all those other boxes (though I did enjoy Ultima and UO immensely way, back when… ;))

  9. alphabetagamma says:

    The reviews have been positive but also clearly repeats that it’s still a buggy, unbalanced pre-alpha. Sure there may be some blind fanboy posts there but those are not the majority of them.

  10. twincast says:

    What’s been bothering me most about SotA’s campaign is that Richard Garriott learned all the wrong lessons from Chris Roberts’s success with SC (other than the latter actively imploring the former to have proper single-player). And the lack of Origin Systems-level graphical ambition certainly didn’t help in raising a budget, either.

    Well, I still backed it on the basic level because of the fond memories I have of Ultimas VI, VII & VII Part 2 and the vivid imaginations reports of others’ experiences in Ultima Online inspired in wee me, but I never really expected it to be right up my alley, so I can’t say that I’m emotionally invested at all. Haven’t read an update in many a moon.

  11. aliksy says:

    I only skimmed through the trailer, but the “combat” at about 7:25 is completely terrible looking. Standing still, trading animations that don’t connect. That’s laughably bad. Maybe that was acceptable in the early 2000s, but come on.

  12. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    People still trust that guy with their money… The Tabula Rasa scam probably had a plot worthy of a budget daytime TV docu-drama.

  13. VaLorRavenclaw says:

    Shroud of the Avatar has a lot to offer players that cannot be found in other games of this category.

    If you are the type that likes to be led around by the hand and not have to think about anything then this may not be the game for you.

    This game is about community, friendships, exploration, thought provoking quests and fun. There is no arrows telling you who to speak to or where to go next, no single path to follow from start to finish. This game is open ended and there is no finish, only more to explore in a dynamic world of ongoing entertainment.

    If you are only looking for a game with stunning state of the art graphics and easy to follow instructions that guide you to specific tasks like an interactive movie then you should pay attention to the negative comments.

    If that’s not what you’re looking for, if you want a game that allows you to choose your own path at any time and do whatever you like whenever you like then come check out Shroud of the Avatar and get involved. You’ll see that it’s the people that makes gaming fun and Shroud of the Avatar offers a world that is literally built by people, run by people and shared by people in an interactive way that most others games cannot offer.

    Join while the world is being built and watch it grow. Learn it’s secrets and discover it’s dynamic nature. This game will be incredible when it’s is finally released so don’t miss out on the journey.

    For anyone interested in learning more about the current state of the game and how it got here I recommend checking out the ongoing videos done by The Mad Hermit. You can find them here: link to