After reading Som's preview of End of Nations, be sure to check out our GameOn Podcast interview with Trion's Dave Luehmann!
During my recent foray into Trion Worlds’ and Petroglyph’s End of Nations, I had one mission: to not get completely waxed by my competition. It had been a while since I'd played a real-time strategy game in a competitive atmosphere, and I was concerned that I had been lulled into a false sense of RTS skill from tinkering with tepid single-player campaigns. Images flashed before my eyes of the game's developers and fellow journalists putting down their headsets victoriously and throwing their notepads at me in glee over my demise, and I entered the press event with more trepidation than I cared to admit.
I needn't have worried. First I and then my team collectively mopped the floor with our adversaries, bloodthirsty and ready for more, further proving that I RULE, BABY.
The nice folks over at Trion Worlds (Rift, Defiance) invited us to a press event last week to check out their new MMORTS, End of Nations. EoN is advertised as consisting of "massive, persistent strategy" on an MMO scale, and is being developed by Trion Worlds in conjunction with Petroglyph, whose founding members are known for their work on games like Dune II and Command & Conquer.
We were first treated to a presentation by Global Brand Director Alex Rodberg, who gave us a detailed overview of the game and Trion Worlds' plans for its beta testing and launch schedules. Alex illustrated how EoN is massive, boasting large maps of up to 56 players, multiple companies per player with 10+ units per company (with each unit being fully customizable), and thousands of units in battle. The game is also persistent, as competing in online maps affects global faction control and the global epic campaign, and you can advance your commander much as you would a character class in an RPG. EoN also relies on strategy with the standard features that you'd expect from a modern RTS and more, such as company building, hero units, tech trees, meta-game tactics and customization.
Interestingly, Trion Worlds is utilizing a free-to-play approach with End of Nations, and Alex asserted that this model will be a balance of time-versus-money rather than a pay-to-win scenario. All maps, factions, units and classes will be available to all players, whereas purchases can be made for convenience and customization. Face-punching for free? I'll take it! As a puncher, that is - not a punchee.
Alex also outlined EoN's plan for the year, as the game is currently in its friends-and-family alpha phase and will soon see a closed beta in the spring. Trion Worlds is planning for a PvP-only open beta in the summer, with a full launch (including the cooperative campaign) in the fall and live content updates to follow.
Dave Luehmann, VP of 3rd Party Development, then took the reins to guide us through three of the game's early missions. The first, "Operation Last Stand," was a basic 1v1 comp-stomp map that required us to defend a control point from the evil Order of Nations, the game's main antagonist organization. My side of the room was playing on the side of the Liberation Front, which focuses on heavy weapons and vehicles, and is opposed to the Shadow Revolution, who are of the more stealthy type. Last Stand, taking place in a post-apocalyptic Korea, allowed us to get our feet wet in EoN's gameplay and showed off the game's nice visuals, replete with crumbled buildings, large city streets, effectively-used lighting and metal-inspired music. The gameplay itself feels like a company-based RTS and has a mildly near-future Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II aesthetic to it (minus the Orks), and is fast-paced and responsive. Each unit in your company has a special ability, and you can switch out an entire company at any time, provided you pay the resource cost, if you need an on-the-fly change of strategy. Your commander also has special abilities like the ability to heal units and superweapons that are bound to create havoc on your opponents' screens.
To my surprise and delight, I held out against the computer longer than my adversary across the table, and managed through sheer force of will to avoid jumping on the table and offering an a cappella rendition of "We Are the Champions." Dave then took us through the different functions of the home screen, which is basically a world control map with different mission objectives. After you earn resource points in a mission, you can spend them in the "armory" to customize your units with skins, mods, and more, and create your three available companies. You can also earn build points to level up your commander through build trees, which will vary based on the four different commander classes in the game. Dave mentioned that at launch, the commander level cap will be 20. From the features on the home screen, it looks like EoN will have achievements, leaderboards, clans, friend lists, and matchmaking systems as well, but these areas of the game were not covered in our demo.
Our second mission, "Operation Resource Hog," was a 4v4 fight over the last fresh water supply in the world, this time set in the war-torn French countryside. In this scenario, as a group we were required to work together to take control of resource points, which would increase each team member's resource generation, and victory points, which would accumulate over time to win the mission. In our cooperation, I could feel how grouping in EoN could lend to the MMO aspect of the gameplay, and it became apparent how effective switching companies mid-battle could be to alter our strategy. You can always respawn units by paying a resource cost, but a couple of times my entire "alpha" company got wiped out and I decided to change my approach by using another company. Even if I was low on resources, I could bank on the good graces of my teammates while my resource pool increased and allowed me to spawn units from my new company to get back in the game.
To be fair, I didn't contribute as much as my companions in Resource Hog, but we still dominated. As the saying goes, it doesn't matter blah blah blah, winning is important.
Dave then guided us through the third mission, "Operation Deep Hammer," which would take place in the pillaged Australian desert scrub. Deep Hammer is a 12v12 base vs. base map that we played remotely against Trion Worlds' QA department, and got handily spanked in the process. We endeavored to dismantle our enemies' defenses, unlock superweapons, and capture tactical resource points, like "forward landing zones" that would allow us to spawn units deeper into enemy territory. Still, we got wiped by a team that clearly plays EoN like it's their job.
Overall, I can say that End of Nations plays like an RTS, but has a massively multiplayer feel to it and some MMO features in the huge maps, commander advancement, and faction control of world zones through competitive missions. Trion Worlds hasn't started showing the cooperative campaign just yet, which is also supposed to be quite massive and may add another layer of depth to the game that is lacking in other RTS titles.
Additionally, I found EoN's UI to be very clean and functional, particularly in the build of the game that we saw, which is still early, although the voice acting sounds a little canned. The game also ran very smoothly in our demo, except for a brief server reboot which was quickly resolved.
Even though our team got thoroughly thrashed by the QA department, the press event was tons of fun and showed off the competitive RTS aspects of End of Nations. Being more of an MMO person myself, I'm very interested to see how Trion Worlds continues to develop the "massive" and "persistent" aspects of their strategy game. So far, the "strategy" component seems to be fully functional, fun, and ready for the beta tests and launch later this year.
Be sure to check out our companion interview with Dave Luehmann on this week's Game On podcast!