When role-playing games (RPGs) take digital form, they always seem to lose one vital component: a game master. Even multiplayer RPGs lack a central figure creating the challenges and overseeing the action. In BioWare's upcoming Shadow Realms, gamers will hearken back to a time when one player controlled the fates of the rest, for good or ill.
BioWare announced Shadow Realms, a cooperative multiplayer RPG, at the Electronic Arts press conference at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany today (Aug. 13). The title will pit four players against one Shadowlord, who can control the layout of the environment and fill it with enemies and traps.
Since Shadow Realms will be a competitive online multiplayer game, it will offer players a number of character-class choices. To team up against the controlling Shadowlords, players can control close-combat Warriors, elemental Wizards, curative Clerics and more. Players can also customize classes with granular ability and equipment choices.
Despite the fantasy trappings and competitive gameplay, Shadow Realms will actually have an ongoing sci-fi story. Its setting, Embra, is a parallel world to modern-day Earth, where arcane magic is real and threatening our world. As gameplay takes place in discrete chunks, the story will be an episodic, ongoing affair with Shadowlords replacing the usual AI villains.
Shadow Realms sounds like an interesting enough concept, but one key factor of tabletop role-playing is that the Game Master is not there to defeat players, but rather to facilitate them. Balancing his or her need to provide a fair and fun game with the players’ need to advance the story is one of the key factors to running a quality game, and replicating that in a digital form may not be easy.
Shadow Realms has no solid release date or price yet, but interested players can sign up for a chance to help alpha and beta test the game at the official website.