So, you see green orc-blood in your dreams. The whistle of a battle-axe cleaving a rival in two is music to your ears. You've played so many role-playing games that your fingers automatically go to their respective hotkeys even when you're simply typing an e-mail. But your wallet is empty. What do you do?
Well, Seven Lights has a solution for you, and it comes in the form of The Continuum, an online game that is turning some heads and keeping that spare change in its advocates' pockets. You heard it right; The Continuum is free. Now, before you hit the back button in your browser because you already think the game's not worth checking out due to its $0 price-tag, that's not to say it's a bad game. Before its initial release in late June of 2008, The Continuum already had over 50,000 users pre-registered for its arrival. While that testament may be nothing impressive when considering some of the blockbuster titles hitting the shelves this year (Wrath of the Lich King, anyone?), for a Flash-based game played in a browser that's an extremely healthy turnout. Still not convinced? Let's explore.
When you first join The Continuum, which is as easy as visiting the official website, you'll be prepped with a free Booster Pack that includes some basic characters for you to do battle with. While you can then invest some dollars into enhanced gear and stronger characters, this initial allotment is all it takes to step foot into the role-playing world. As you begin, the interface may take some getting used to. The game itself is played through what Seven Lights refers to as "The Lobby", a general window that encompasses tabs that lead to areas like the Multiplayer zone, the Challenges toolbar, and the Single Player game mode. This is where The Continuum takes some getting used to.
The place to begin, as is a common staple in most games nowadays, is the tutorial. Here you'll learn all you need to know about your characters; how they wield equipment, what abilities they can gain, and how to move them around on the game field. While this is all fine and well for universal know-how, the real strategy in the game revolves around your characters' stats and abilities. As you gain ability points and discover new equipment on the playing field, you'll be able to update your characters through a leveling interface. Depending on how many ability points you have at a given time, you can equip your characters with new types of weaponry or with skills like Strength. In other words leveling up is, for the most part, of the standard role-playing fare.
The key aspect of The Continuum that separates it from the common RPG (besides its Flash-based construct, of course) is the environment in which your characters battle. These two-dimensional backdrops range from forested hills to frozen tundras and are composed of square segments that act as placeholders for your troops, almost like a chess- or checkerboard. When you initially begin a battle, your squad of troops will be morphed into the visage of your lead-role character. You are given a set number of moves, and these can be used to advance towards the enemy or to scramble across the map to snag loot or a vantage point. Eventually, one of your moves will take you into combat with the enemy player, and the landscape will transform into the battle screen. Here is where you will see the variety of characters in your squad come to life.
The in-depth strategy of The Continuum is hard to pick up on at first, mainly due to the fact that all of your opponents, whether another online player or the computer, seem highly over-powered. Eventually, however, specific stats and tactics begin to catch up with you, and deciding which skills to use on the playing field becomes second nature. For instance, the Fire Manifested character can hurl a Fireball at a specific enemy, or the Vampire Insubstantiate can increase his defense by 10,000 for one turn. While that may not make much sense to you now, rest assured that the game's terminology will envelop you into its grasps soon enough.
Although there's nothing too fancy about the graphics or sound in The Continuum (this is a browser-based Flash game, after all), the multiplayer aspect really adds some depth. Challenging someone to a battle is as simple as selecting their name and engaging them, or you can create a general invite game for anyone to join. The feature is also supported by a general chat lobby that will quickly decipher any ambiguity on the part of the player you wish to face. All in all, the multiplayer is a very consistent and reliable feature, and in a game of this sort it is ultimately necessary.
Seven Lights has clearly put a lot of time and effort into The Continuum, and they continue to do so through constant updates. These updates include adding new quests, revealing unique characters and fresh expansions to the startup Booster Pack, and generally maintaining the site and ensuring that it's up to par. Although the game's initial success seemed everlasting, over the course of time fewer and fewer players appeared online, and it's hard to judge whether or not Seven Lights will continue with the game or find a new brainchild. If the latter is the case, be quite sure that the game's title will be more of the ironic variety than the factual.