Shroud of the Avatar "pre-alpha" launches on Steam Early Access

Shroud of the Avatar

Richard Garriott's Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues has arrived on Steam Early Access. This release comes at a bit of a discount off the planned regular price, but it's also in a pre-alpha state, which the developers say means that it still needs "a LOT of work"—caps theirs—and won't feel like a finished game.

Shroud of the Avatar's Steam launch coincides with Release 12, which features the addition of a number of new features. Among them are 15 new skills and more than 50 weapon and armor crafting recipes, an in-game hint system, 40 new songs, the addition of Skill Trainers, maps for the Ravenswood Forest and Tower of the Shuttered Eye areas, guild support, and "polished visuals and random encounters" on the overworld map.

"When we applied for Early Access for the game, we received our green light in less than three days. In fact Steam players gave the OK with an 86 percent approval rating," Garriott said in a statement. "What they’ll find is a fantasy RPG that harkens back to my earlier games in the genre, but with modern day technology that combines a single player narrative with an Ultima-like sandbox MMO."

That's presumably referring to the state of the game at some point in the future, perhaps in mid-2015, when beta testing is expected to begin. For now, the Early Access release would seem to be more about getting some insight, and maybe the opportunity to have input, into its development. "This game still needs a LOT of work, and will be under construction for some time," the Early Access page warns.

"This means it won't feel like a finished game to you because some of the features are half-finished or missing entirely, the design hasn't been balanced, performance hasn't been optimized, lots of bugs to fix, etc. Joining now means participating in the development, not just playing the game."

If you're cool with all that—and lots of people are: Shroud of the Avatar pulled in more than $1.9 million on Kickstarter and nearly $3.3 million more through its own crowdfunding campaign—you can get in on the action on Steam. To learn more about what Lord British and co. are getting up to, have a look at our hands-on preview from June.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.