The Chronicles of Spellborn is at its weakest when it lapses into the familiar. Level-up dings replete with swirly animation and several minutes spent contemplating where to spend points. Courier quests. With a shoestring budget and no significant publishing muscle behind it, it's an MMO that can ill-afford comparisons to WOW and WAR. Fortunately, this sort of thing is relatively uncommon. It may be guilty of reaching back into established convention for support, but for the most part Spellborn strides out into unknown territory.
Set in a wholly original fantasy world, the game casts you as a novice militia member in the city of Hawksmouth, a medieval metropolis that sits on one of a large number of floating shards that make up the game-world. Once, this was a single planet, but when the game's races - humans and oddly-jointed Daevi, the differences being purely visual from a gameplay perspective - rebelled against their demon overlords, the world was shattered.
The result is an art style wildly different to other MMOs. The shards are enclosed worlds; when you look up, you see the roof of a stone cavern far overhead, with light streaming through holes in the firmament. Huge slabs of stone, tossed about casually in the Sundering, erupt from the landscape, while shards of glowing crystal provide ghostly illumination for the many forest glades. Combined with the truly lovely environmental art, the unique setting makes for a game that's a joy to explore. Soft edges and diffuse lighting abound, with beautifully composed incidental music and background sound giving the whole game an evocative twilight feel. On occasion, Spellborn tries to wow you with spectacle - the epic home buildings of the High Houses being a perfect example - but it's usually more interested in a delicately woven atmosphere, and it's all the better for it.