Dawnspire: Prelude (PC) review
"Then the amount of people on the server dropped and the bots came. Playing Dawnspire with the bots is an exercise in tedium."
MMO games rely on a thriving community. Try to imagine the open planes of World of Warcraft empty save the odd lumbering gnome warlocks or dwarf paladins stumbling across the desolate green fields. Imagine EVE without the thousands of miners and traders constantly clogging up Empire space, without the pirate raiders in low-sec to pod you and steal your gear, and without the bounty hunters that prey on them. Imagine Final Fantasy XI completely wiped clean of moogles and gold-beggars. Alright, so that last one would be cool, but otherwise, imagine. Imagine those thriving villages empty, those guilds run by a skeleton crew, those alliances weakened to a snapping point by sheer lack of numbers.
Now forget that these games have single-player sequences on which you can still whittle away your time on should you be forced to play on your own; imagine that the entire game hinges on cooperation with fellow players and nothing but. Imagine that, without the helping hand of human interactions, you need to rely on dumb ally bots to pad your team and battle an enemy AI that will tear you to shreds before you can find your feet.
You are imagining Dawnspire. Itís a beautiful world, and that itís ultimately broken breaks my heart.
Because Dawnspire is an Multi-Player Action RPG (MPARPG! The manliest abbreviation ever!) in the same vein as old-skool favourite Diablo. Get lucky and fall upon a server filled with (non-jerk) human players, and the game veritably sings. Letís say you fall upon a game of the epic Relic Conquest mode, a fantasy-led take on capture the flag. In this, three relics are dotted around the mapscape, and youíll need to switch your tactics around to obtain (or, indeed, defend) each one. My elf-like Reaver is a nightmare clad in a segmented carapace with the ability to produce poison-tipped weapons from her own body in order to inflict suffering upon anyone stupid enough to get in her way. Backed up by a mana-spewing Witch and the dwarf/tank race that is the Seeker, we stormed these relic strongholds, holding up targets just enough for them to be plagued with eldritch lightning bolts and soul-stealing blasts of arcane magic that leeches away at its targets' very essence. We held back the medieval-like Templars and chased down stealthy Shadowblades once they dove into a pool of shade and shifted about the locations. We quickly built a strong sense of team; we watched each otherís backs, and, because the forces we were up against did the same, every battle was different, every charge, every strategic retreat, every time we had to adapt on the fly was new and fresh. The rocky trails that were our battlefield rang with the clashing of weapons, the groans of defeated foes as my poison worked its way through their veins, or the cries of our own men as they were cut down by a suddenly-appearing Shadowblade unseen from their flanks. Gaelic melodies fluttered majestically in between the never-ending tapestries of sound and violence. Of blood-lusting warfare. It was a blast.
Then the amount of people on the server dropped and the bots came. Playing Dawnspire with the bots is an exercise in tedium.
The bots do not do teamwork. They do charging into fights on their own, and they do getting slaughtered at the hands of organised defences. Their attacks break against defensive walls like flies slamming into a windscreen. This leaves you on your own. My once-fearsome Reaver finds herself naked and alone without the support of her allies and quickly becomes a carcass. Then, when she respawns, ready to dive back into the action, she finds that her spawn point has campers -- enemy bot campers -- and sheís forced to fight a doomed battle over and over again. The bots on your side? They donít care: theyíre off tracking down treasure or running head-first into groups of enemies that easily rip them to shreds.
This is not how you get the best out of Dawnspire.
Neither is the complete lack of a starting points for beginners to get a foothold in; a lot of the time, new players break upon the blades and the spells of bloodthirsty bots or of excited veteran players happy to have something human to aim at. Newbies have to try and pick the game up in between slews of deaths and scenes of their own continuous slaughter. Thatís quite the obstacle to overcome, and one that that doesnít feel worth the effort when all you have to go up against is wave after wave of bots that either want to ignore you or gut you where you stand.
Iíd love nothing more than to sing the praises of Dawnspire, maybe to revisit the game in a few monthsí time to find a thriving community that elevates the title towards the potential that oftentimes seems agonisingly out of reach. Iíd love to hurl this review into the olí HG bonfire that we keep burning away outside the offices and write a fresh one talking about the epic battles I had with my travelling group. Of the raids, of the quests, of the adventures we had in the always-growing library of fan-made game modes. But, as things stand, I canít.
MMOís rely on a thriving community. Dawnspire needs one to thrive.
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