Last year I backed a project on Kickstarter, my first ever backing and it was for a top-down Action-RPG (aka Diablo-clone) built using the CryEngine. Its name was Umbra but recently on entering Steam Early Access, it received a name revamp, one I’m not particularly fond of, to Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem.
I really hate the new name, I thought Umbra had a lot more character and added a sense of mystique to the world. So for the rest of this article, I’ll keep calling it Umbra.
When you launch Umbra, the first thing you’ll see is a warning reminding you of the Alpha stage of the game, and how because of that there is very little in terms of sound design in the game, which is true as there are barely any sound effects, let alone music to find in the current build.
You begin your adventure in a dungeon surrounded by zombies and here the game shows you its basic mechanics as well as display its graphical power to you.
Yes, Umbra‘s engine is the CryEngine, the one we know from the Crysis series, so the game is absolutely gorgeous down to the enemy models—not that you’ll see much of them if you like to play with maximum zoom-out as I do.
Umbra’s a strange game. At its core it’s a typical action adventure where on levelling up you improve a character’s attributes and then spend points on skills. But you don’t get new powers from these. The skills are all passive bonuses to your attacks and other abilities—and very weak ones at that, at least in the current build. In Umbra you get new powers through tomes randomly dropped by enemies or found around the maps. These give you magical powers, new powerful strikes to use your Rage meter on and so on. These don’t improve with your levels but instead have their own experience bars that fill the more you use them. On a new level, you can improve their effectiveness or reduce their resource cost, though as they state in the game, the resource part is still a work in progress. One thing I’d like to see is more options on power level-ups, perhaps adding something that modifies how a spell works. For example, give the victims of Frost Nova an additional slowing effect after they thaw, or make them more susceptible to certain types of attacks. In other words, allow players to level up and customise the skills as they see fit.
Umbra is still very much in Alpha and you can tell. Clicking on items will make your character run towards them but not pick them up unless you click again, something I’m sure is a bug. It’s the same with basic attack and rage powers, you have to really button mash for them to execute. Your character’s rolling sometimes sends him in the opposite direction, which is slightly inconvenient to say the least. Quest givers don’t remember that they’ve already given you missions, so they’ll repeat and reset the ones they’ve already given you. Finally, characters are jittery in the best of cases and often their pathing algorithms mess up and they get stuck. One of my biggest gripes with the game though is how small the enemy nameplates are. You can barely read their names and even seeing their health diminish takes some effort.
But the potential is there and as a backer for this title I want to see it succeed, I want to see it improve with every new patch until it’s the best it can be. I like how you get skills in the game, it’s unique and sets the game apart from others. The skills’ individual XP are just as good. As I play it, I hope we get more colourful maps to fully show the power of the engine. Nothing wastes a powerful graphic engine more than dull gray environments and while Umbra’s are highly detailed, they’re still gray, black and brown.
As I go back to broadcasting in the coming days, as well as publish videos I’ll make sure to cover Wolcen’s new content patches, to show the game’s evolution.
And yes, I secretly hope they switch the name back to Umbra!
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