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Legends of Aria Early Access Review

Edited by: Jade Swann

A Legacy

Legends of Aria, published and developed by Citadel Studios, is the latest creation of Ultima Online lead engineer Derek Brinkmann. Originally Shards Online, this MMORPG boasts over thirty skills across a variety of professions. These skills can be mixed and matched into any combination you would want to play and any kind of character you wish. If you want to eschew combat altogether and just focus on crafting and selling on the player market, you can do that. If you desire a standard knight in shining armor, you can do that as well. 

Maximum Potential

Legends of Aria is very, very open-ended. As mentioned, you can practice a variety of skills and professions in any order you would want. Certain intensive professions, mostly those that focus on combat, require four skills to level up, while smaller professions ask only for one or two skills. If you want to progress your mage profession, you'll need to level up your four core magic skills: evocation, manifestation, magical affinity, and channeling. Conversely, if you wanted to be an alchemist, you would only need to level up alchemy. Every handful of skill levels, you can go back to your skill trainer for a quest related to your profession. These quests have certain rewards that usually give items needed for your specific profession, as well as unlock the next tier of abilities for your profession. Abilities can be purchased with training points, earned after killing so many monsters and acquiring so much experience.

There is one rather significant caveat to this skill system, however. You can only have a total of six hundred skill points on a given character. While this has the implicit effect of making it so that no one character can be the best at everything, it also severely hampers what you can do with a given character. As every skill maxes out at one hundred points, that means you can only really ever master six skills. While your skill book allows you to limit how many points go into any given skill, choosing your six skills can be rather annoying. Let's say you want to be a sword-mage of some stripe. Both warrior and mage professions require four skills to level up completely. Cutting a skill from either prevents you from acquiring the abilities tied to them, meaning you're hamstringing your character. To keep your magic skills competitive, however, you'll need the magical affinity skill. This skill isn't strictly required by the mage profession, making the build more cumbersome than it's worth. This goes double for warriors that would want to diversify in weapons. Each weapon is divided into its own skill: slashing, piercing, bashing, or ranged. If you're going to add a shield to the mix, that's another skill entirely. Citadel Studios put out a press release recently, stating they are going to rework and expand professions. Hopefully, this will address some of my concerns with the system, but as it stands, builds are quite hampered.

Confounding

As Legends of Aria is an Early Access game, you can expect a variety of bugs and unfinished content. While there is no one glaring issue to be fixed, it's the myriad of little things that add up. While just walking around the game and talking with NPCs, I got stuck in the geometry three times in as many hours. Parts of the scenery are still unfinished, even in the early areas, with rocks ending at odd angles, revealing the ground underneath. It's also very unoptimized. I would encounter frequent stutters when just walking around and crossing zones. When I first tried to log in after installing the game, I would frequently be booted out to the login screen while attempting to create my character. Occasionally, quest markers will be misplaced or persist past the end of a quest. One spell effect, Ruin, seems to be completely missing as of the current patch. Some of these issues are more egregious than others. The misplaced quest markers led my character to a higher level zone, nullifying my new player protection. This led me to die at the hands of a higher level player. Said player then looted my corpse of all my reagents, beginner gold, and weapons.

A Wide World

Celador is vast, but sadly not very pretty. The character models and equipment look fine enough, but the general foliage and consumables look rather dull and simplistic. Which is a shame, really, as the isometric, third-person perspective lends itself to diminishing the impact of the former while bringing the latter to the forefront with the UI and hotbar. The size of the world itself is a double-edged sword. There is enough space for players to have a house or merchant stall in the world, but even low-level quests require you to run five or ten minutes out of the way. Quest targets themselves are randomly generated, meaning that you will likely pass an orc barrow right next to a bandit camp, neither occupied by anyone. Further, the models for these structures don't disappear once destroyed, so prepare to pass a few zero-health mob spawners on your travels. It's also unfortunate that the only use for all this space is bold-faced grinding of resources, skill points, and gold.

Despite all this, I have hope for Legends of Aria. I alluded to one of the reasons in the previous paragraph. Firstly, there is a lot of room for customization, and not just in character builds. Players can buy plots of land to develop on their own with furniture, houses, and hired merchants to sell things they’ve made or acquired through questing. Enterprising players can even set up their own server with their own rules if they don’t like the default ruleset. To top it all off, the developers are listening to feedback and are still actively working on the game, as evidenced by their planned revamp of professions. While I feel they are lowballing their estimate of six to twelve months in Early Access, if Citadel Studios can stick this landing, Legends of Aria is certainly an MMORPG to be reckoned with.

4

The Verdict: Flawed

While not a game that can be readily binged, Legends of Aria is a fine game to sit down and kill an hour or two grinding towards your next skill milestone or crafting order. The longer you play, however, the more the many bugs rise to the surface. In its current iteration, it's a bit of a tough sell. However, as it nears completion of its Early Access period, I think we'll see something great out of Citadel Studios.

See About Us to learn how we score

John Gerritzen
Written by
Tuesday, 10 September 2019 04:52
Published in Adventure

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John Gerritzen is a programmer by education, author by hobby, and game critic by occupation. While he usually favors RPGs, he will play anything that engages him narratively or mechanically. When he's not playing games for fun or profit, he's usually reading or watching anime.

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