Although this game from Shanda Games Ltd. is pretty similar to other games in many respects, there are a few features that give it a unique flair, especially the virtue system, mounts, and my personal favorite, an ability to shape-change into a two-headed dragon!
Virtue is a virtue
Ellen-Jane explains that "Eligium is all about playing together," and the virtue system is a clever way to promote grouping. Basically, each player chooses one of five virtues when creating her character. These virtues mean little while soloing, but when grouping, the different combinations of virtues in the party offer specific bonuses and buffs. One example is the advantage of extended life in battle.
A definite selling factor to the game is how big the world is -- more room to explore is always a plus. Just to look at the whole map you have to zoom out multiple times through multiple regions. While the game is in open beta now, I was taken to an area that is not yet available to testers where the most prominent terrain feature was a gigantic skeleton. It was here that I also experienced being a dragon and fighting against the humans. Nice! How often do you really get to be the dragon fighting the human mobs?
OK, so I am sucker for dragons. The Virid race are druids that get the ability to shapeshift into werewolves or two-headed dragons. Each shape has its own skill set as well, so the shape-change is not just cosmetic. The major drawback here is that each race is limited to only one class (except for humans, who get to be Warriors and Mages), so if you want a certain class, you are stuck with a certain race and vice versa.
Gotta hatch 'em all
Of everything I saw during the demonstration, the mount system was the most interesting. In most games, you are granted or you purchase a mount, but in Eligium, you obtain an egg that you must care for. While the type of mount is a given (there are myriad mounts available, and you can own many at one time), the quality of your mount depends entirely on how well you take care of your egg. Ellen-Jane explains, "They are a bit like Tamagotchis. So they tell you they're hungry, you feed them, you give them right amount and the right kind of food, and in the end, it turns into a kick-ass super mount. If you don't pay enough attention -- if you don't care about it enough -- it will be a mediocre sort of mount."
I took an immediate shine to the flaming cat, but other mounts look just as interesting. There are also tons of companion pets for characters to choose from, from robots to fantasy creatures.
Even with the similarities to other games, Eligium has unique features that might make it worth checking out. It is planned to release in Q2, but interested gamers can go to the site and apply for the open beta, which is happening now.
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