Live from E3 – Thursday, May 19
As an MMO reporter at E3, I expected to see a lot of fantasy titles. After the first day of the show, one among them has risen up and made me take notice. Hero’s Journey from Simutronics has been on the radar for a while, but not until yesterday did we have a chance to see more than visuals.
They designed Hero’s Journey with fun as the prime motivator. To achieve this, they did away with a great deal of the typical conventions you have come to expect. The most striking thing is their character customization. To date, games have made you chose your armor based on its skills rather than its look. Hero’s Journey lets you wear whatever you want and still effectively have it protect you. For example, you may dress as a pirate, a knight in shining armor or any other of the amazing combinations they offer. The frilly pirate shirt will act just as well as the armor for protection. Obviously, this sacrifices realism, but it ensures that players get to look how they want and still effectively play the game.
More impressive is their character customization and how they build unique clothing options into it. They have the usual slew of options to kick things off – facial morphing, hair, racial changes, etc. – and then compliment that with full clothing customization. I am certain players will spend hours in the character creation making all sorts of combos. The end goal is that from day one you are not simply a hero, you also look like one.
In terms of classes, there are 12 options and you are allowed to select any two of them to increase the customization. The options here were pretty standard, but given the number of combinations – there are no restrictions – players will be able to create some very special characters.
The game world is built with purpose in mind. There is no countryside for countryside sake. In the demo I was shown, we began in a city full of other players (in this case staff). We briefly navigated the city and then proceeded to the gates. Once there, we chose a mission that was available from a large list and proceeded to an instanced area with our group. All areas are built for a mission, save some non-instanced “hunting grounds”. This means the game is very much zoned, but it offers the tradeoff of highly detailed and highly customized zones that are built to support the “journey” you as a hero have undertaken.
The instance we participated in took us to a wooded area to stop a monster invasion. We traveled through the level and at first I thought it typical fair. We fought monsters and moved along through a pretty linear path. However, this game is not just hack and slash. At one point we were cut off by an enormous group of monsters. There was no fighting them. Rather then run, or fight anyway, we sought an alternative solution. This may take some getting used to, as it is more commonly found in single player games, but it is important to have your eyes open. On a hill above the incoming army was a rock pile. A wizard shot a fireball at the pile and it gave way. The rocks rolled down the hill, crushing the army and allowed us to pass unmolested. This is the kind of customization their instanced areas allowed. The quests are not imposed on areas, but rather the areas are built for the quests.
Eventually after a series of challenges, we arrived at the end to fight a catapult. When it was used, the game broke to an extreme cinematic cut scene where it fires on an enemy bridge, which gives way and blocks the invasion. The entire instance was quite detailed, original and most importantly a blast. I am not sure how long it lasted, but I do know I was running late for my next appointment.