There is, or there should be, a motto in MMO design: “When all else fails, add more stuff.” That seems to be the strategy behind Mantle of Power, which is being billed as the first full expansion for Trion Worlds’ Trove. It’s big, it’s bad, and it’s got dragons. And also dragons. Did I mention it had dragons?
I got a brief runthrough of the expansion on Monday from Chief Funmaker (his official title, or at least it should be) Andrew Krausnick and Lead Animator Ted “Ted” Sanger. The basics: a new level cap increase, from 20 to 30; a new gem system that lets you add more power and abilities to your character; and four new worlds to explore. All of this comes in a free expansion that’s available now to anyone making a purchase in the store and in one week (April 26) for totally free players.
Truly outrageous power
You’ll start your adventure in the aptly named Tower of Adventure, which contains portals to the various new worlds of air, fire, and water, as well as the shadow world. The elemental worlds look like you’d expect: floating islands in the air world, rivers of lava in the fire world, and rivers of – gasp – water in the water world.
To not die in these worlds, you’ll naturally need more power. As you level through the world, raising yourself from 20 to 30, you’ll gain access to a new type of equipment slot, gems. Gems come in three elemental flavors and two power levels. Smaller gems just give you a stat boost, while larger gems give you new abilities or change your existing abilities. If you get a gem you don’t need, you can break it down into resources you use to acquire gems you do want.
I had to stop the demo at this point and ask about that hobgoblin of every new MMO, power creep. If all this new stuff makes you bigger and better, does that invalidate old gear and progression? “Since gear in our game is upgraded, it’s never obsolete,” Krausnick told me. “You just take what you have and upgrade it to the next level.” Also, since gems are brand-new, they just add onto existing gear without replacing anything else.
A whole new (deadly) world
On to the worlds themselves, their creation was the result of a lot of work on Trove’s world creation engine. They’re procedurally generated, “more roguelike,” as Krausnick put it. They look spectacular, and they’re where you get the gems that match their elements: air, fire, or water.
You can also get primordial dragons to ride in these worlds – “I cannot even express how many dragons they [players] want” – each with their own special abilities. The air dragon gives you and anyone riding in your wake a speed boost, the water dragon shoots out bursts of water that make for lovely ponds and waterfalls, and the fire dragon does rapid-fire… uh, fire. Additionally, each dragon gives you a passive bonus just for unlocking them, such as the air dragon boosting your gem power by 10%.
Once you’ve mastered the elemental worlds, you can take your chances in the dangerous shadow world, Shores of Everdark. It’s a dangerous place meant for groups, with rivers of spikes and Exploding Blue Things (which I’ve suggested as the official name for the blue things that explode) and challenging boss enemies lurking in the dungeons. No mobs in the shadow world drop loot; instead, you have to find a key from one of the elemental worlds and beat a boss to gain access to his chest and the sweet, top-tier loot within.
Aim for the top
The final big deal coming in Mantle of Power is contests. Leaderboards were added to the game in the past few weeks, tracking the best players in a number of categories, such as PvP matches won, boxes opened, power rank – and the most important category of all, fish caught. With the expansion, Trove will reward top players weekly in various tiers, such as top 50,000, top 10,000, top 100, etc., giving progressively better and better rewards, including some items that aren’t available anywhere else.
As we concluded our demo, I focused in on a comment I’d heard Krausnick make in a previous interview, that the Trove team now had “learned a lot about the engine from the game’s earlier days.” So, what have you learned, I asked? What can you do now that you couldn’t have imagined doing a couple of years ago?
For Krausnick, it’s the world creation process. “It’s basically mathematical formulas. Making things look like worlds… it’s insanely hard to do. What we originally tried to do with it was we thought of the world we wanted to make and we tried to make mathematical formulas to create it. Like, how do we make certain kinds of mountains, certain kinds of valleys? We’ve since backed way off from that. We let our map guy and our artist work together, and he says, ‘Hey, this looks like a cool set of shades we can do. What do you guys think? How can we make this work?’ We’ve got a lot more synergy and the kind of learning you can only get from being hands-on. There’s no replacement [for that].”
That’s the technical side of things, at least. In terms of dealing with how players interact with the content, Krausnick said, “I just multiply all hit points by 10, because they’re way better at the game than you ever think they’re going to be.”
You can get into Mantle of Power now by purchasing any gem pack in the in-game store or via Steam. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until the 26th to start boosting your characters to their crazy new levels of power.