BioWare’s been teasing something for Gamescom 2014, and now we know what it is: Shadow Realms. It’s an online action RPG inspired by tabletop classics like Dungeons & Dragons, but with the twist of being built around 4v1 action. A given match pits four humans, who draw from six different classes, against a single fifth player, who controls the Shadowlord.
Heroes and Shadowlord alike level up along their own lines of progression, though the focus for each is very different. The humans are essentially treasure hunters, venturing into areas on Earth and its parallel world of Embra in search of loot and adventure. The six classes are: Warrior, Assassin, Wizard, Cleric, Ranger, and Warlock. Each corresponds roughly to what a D&D fan would expect them to, but you can find more detailed explanations right here.
The Shadowlord serves in a role that is more akin to Dungeon Master. While the player controlling it wanders around the map from a third-person perspective and can attack the humans directly, it’s also able to remain invisible, taking direct control of AI-driven monsters, casting spells, and setting traps from the shadows.
The game features a story that will be delivered episodically, though it’s not clear how that narrative is going to play out against what amounts to a one versus many hunt-style multiplayer game. The good news is that Shadow Realms is in the hands of creative director James Ohlen, former lead designer on Star Wars: The Old Republic. Say what you will about that MMO, but the BioWare-class story fit very well into the framework of a massively multiplayer game.
Shadow Realms is expected to release on PC at a later point in 2015, though a note on the official website from producer Dallas Dickinson confirms that a limited number of players will be invited into the closed alpha “soon,” with an open alpha planned for fall 2014. Whether that alpha runs into an eventual beta, and subsequent final release, remains to be seen. There’s been no mention of pricing on this one, but our expectation for now is that it’s some form of free-to-play.
We’ll stay tuned for more details soon. Gamescom 2014 attendees will be able to check Shadow Realms out on the show floor. Everyone else will just have to wait for the alpha, which you can sign up for on the game’s official website.