The past few years have been dense with reboots, remakes and Kickstarter-funded drives to return old franchises to life. When it was first announced, Shroud of The Avatar seemed like a relatively safe bet; the original mind behind the Ultima series, returning to not only dust off the singleplayer and story-driven side of the franchise, but blend it with the fondly remembered gameplay mechanics of Ultima Online.
We've not covered Shroud of The Avatar at all since November 2014. Now, almost five years since it first raised $2m on Kickstarter, and over three years since it first debuted on Early Access, Portalarium reckon it's about ready for launch.
While I've not had the chance to try Shroud of the Avatar myself, from what I've seen streamed and heard on the grapevine, this one isn't quite ready for prime-time, and may never get to that point, either. There are quite reasonable concerns about how dated the game looks, and while that is a literally superficial complaint, it's hard to argue against the game looking a lot flatter than it should. Some of the more positive and recent Steam reviews even mention that it doesn't run especially smoothly either.
Also worrying are reports of a multiplayer economy that vastly favours a handful of wealthy crafters, and of more particular concern is the concurrent active player-base. While I am aware that you can log in to the game directly after purchasing it from Portalarium's own site, the fact remains that the Steam average player count (using Steamcharts' unofficial but usually accurate figures) has been hovering around the 120-130 mark for the past 8 months. That's not a healthy number for an online game.
It doesn't help that the single-player side of the game bears little resemblance to Ultima (beyond having to type conversational keywords at NPCs), and just looks more like an MMO without other players. Complaints abound regarding the optional cash-shop that the game is using to provide yet another layer of funding, with many plots of land for player housing requiring real money in order to buy a deed to them. It's not the best of signs, really.
Shroud of the Avatar is currently £31/$40, although the price may yet increase on March 27th. You're probably best off at least playing the free trial before diving in to something potentially regrettable. We'll hopefully have a full review, or at least some hands-on impressions ready at launch, but it's hard to shake the feeling that this one has fallen far short of its potential.