BioWare Announces Shadow Realms, a Story-driven, Episodic, 4v1 Online Action-RPG for PC
Dragon Age: Inquisition isn't the only thing brewing at BioWare. After weeks of teasers, BioWare and Electronic Arts have unveiled the studio's brand new game, a "4v1 story-driven online action RPG" called Shadow Realms. Set in a constantly evolving world where modern meets fantasy, "four heroes adventure against another player-controlled enemy, a malevolent force called The Shadowlord, in dynamic 4v1 co-op missions, ensuring that no two battles are ever the same." Interestingly, the narrative will be released episodically, allowing players to experience and influence the story-driven adventures as a community, which BioWare compares to a great TV series playing out over time.
The gameplay of Shadow Realms is supposed to resemble classic pen and paper RPGs, such as Dungeons and Dragons. BioWare feels that developers, including itself, have done a good job in the past of capturing the character creation, character progression, and combat of those classic adventures, but have failed to capture the essence of "playing together with friends in both co-op and opposition in real time." That's the idea behind having the antagonist, The Shadowlord, be controlled by a player, essentially filling the role of Dungeon Master (DM). Keeping in line with DMs in pen and paper games, The Shadowlord interacts and sees the world in a similar way to the hero players, but with better tactical knowledge. The Shadowlord can set traps, cast spells, summon monsters, and yes, even control monsters directly with a third-person, over-the-shoulder camera and control scheme.
To combat The Shadowlord, there are currently six hero classes to choose from: Warrior, Assassin, Wizard, Cleric, Ranger, and Warlock. You can check the Class Overview page to read a brief description of each, but suffice it to say that each class can be customized to your liking with various abilities, weaponry, and equipment. The game's setting is actually two-fold: modern day Earth and the parallel world of Embra. Players will indeed get to fight their way through both. The official site has a great, in-depth DevBlog entry on the Lore for the game, but here's a very brief synopsis taken from the press release:
In Shadow Realms, Modern Heroes on Earth are being awakened and recruited, because of magical powers they never knew they had, to fight in a new and dangerous war against the Shadow Legions of Embra. The Shadow Legions, who have been battling on Embra for years against the members of the Radiant Empires, have gained new strength with the coming of a powerful, unknown force that we call the Shadowlords. And, they have just figured out how to leave Embra and invade Earth.
Having a mix of modern day Earth and a fantasy world allows BioWare to mix the familiar with the absurd, which should provide for some unique enemies, environments, and encounters. You can sign up for the Closed Alpha at the official site, which is currently planned for this Fall. Shadow Realms is strictly planned for PC; at least for now. Gamers have embraced the 4v1 gameplay of Evolve, but that's a mostly competitive setting; it'll be interesting to see how 4v1 is embraced in a more story-driven adventure. In the meantime, check out the impressive concept art and screenshots below.
Source: Press Release and Official Site