Greeting and salutations, Crusaders, and may I say that we, here at MMORPG.com, hope you all are enjoying a healthy and happy holiday season. This week we are going to take a look back at the final livestream of the year, Into the Warp, episode fifteen, which aired on the 19th of December. The big focus of this episode was the unveiling of about twenty or more minutes of actual game play using the current in-studio build of Eternal Crusade. Originally the event was going to be scripted, but the dev team opted to use a live gameplay session, and it was outstanding.
First, the mission itself: a team of eight Space Marines composed of Tactical, Devastator, Assault and Apothecaries was tasked to infiltrate a Traitor-held defensive position that was intent on launching a missile strike against valuable Imperial assets. In the pursuit of their goals, the Marines would need to use several vehicles, Rhinos, Damocles (command Rhinos) and Predators, to quickly move across a large battlefield, until they encountered a small Traitor outpost that was controlling a void shield that was denying vehicle entry to the main Chaos base. The Marine forces would dismount at this time, and, foot by agonizing foot, battle their way into the outpost to deactivate the void shield and allow the vehicles access to the larger base, particularly the Damocles Rhino, as that vehicle can be used as a spawn point.
After the Marines take down the void shield, they must travel to a larger fortress where the missile silos and launch computers are located. This is where the Chaos resistance gets fiercest, as the Traitor Marines have all the advantages here, positionally and numerically, in that they have their spawn points right there in the base.
For their part, the Traitor Marines get to use their own versions of all the Marine vehicles and classes, though I am not entirely sure if the Aspiring Sorcerers were up to speed, as I didn't notice any psyker powers in use. They could have been though, I just didn't notice any.
The battle itself was closely fought, and though the Marines did win in the end, with about a minute to spare on the clock, I thought it was a close thing, and that the difference-maker in the end was Steven Lumpkin's organizational skills and battle tactics. There are those who feel that Chaos took a dive in the end, but I can honestly say that I didn't feel that way. You can be sure, that when BE comes back from their holiday break, I will push for an honest answer, not because it matters, but because I am honestly curious.
Now for the things that stood out in my eyes, the good, the bad and the ugly. First, the communication, both the in-game voices and the out-of-game communication were excellent. It quickly became obvious that Eternal Crusade is well-suited to having a group leader who recognizes situations quickly and that the classes are flexible, yet specialized enough that a good commander can call upon what he needs, and get it on-site very quickly. That might be my only quibble with the spawn/load-out system right now, it might be too easy to change your characters load-out. I think I like the idea that changing your load-out in mid-battle should be a chore, not a simple log-out/log-in switch. I like the idea that choosing your load-out matters, and should not be done frivolously.
I am not going to include balance changes in my opinions, as I understand that these things are always in flux and that until we can start testing with larger and more varied groups of players, we will not see any true balancing passes. Lots of people have been complaining that the bolter weapons need more punch, in regards to how they sound; again, I think that is one of those things that will get looked at more closely after the more serious issues have been examined. Like the warping and dislocation of players during combat, particularly during melee. Any good melee system is dependent on good positional information for characters and their weapon strikes. Being close is not enough, and that seems to be where we are right now; close, but not quite there yet. I suppose it could be attributed to some inherent system lag, and, for now, I am content to let Patrick Balthazar, Lead Programmer on Eternal Crusade, and very active on the games forums, get some tuning iterations in before I start complaining. The models looked great, very close to being ready; maybe some minor changes to the armor plate areas of the Marines.
The battlefield was sufficiently chaotic, no pun intended, and I thought weapons were well represented and distinguished from one another. There has been a great deal of chatter on the forums regarding the tracer-fire of the bolters, as in there is too much of it. It occurs to me that, if bolters truly fired .75 caliber rockets, the air would be filled with glowing dots and streaks, as rockets are pretty bright. Just look at bottle rockets on the Fourth of July and you will see the effect to a much lesser extent. For my own tastes, I thought that the tracer effects could be toned down a fair bit, maybe half as many as we were seeing in the video. I understand the importance of giving the player some visual cue as to what direction enemy fire is coming from, but I also think that creating those effects for so many players at one time is going to bog down some people’s systems.
All around I thought the gameplay demo gave a great inside look at what we can expect once the first Early Access Module becomes available, sometime in 2015. As we do every article, I want to close with directing any of our readers who is interested in Eternal Crusade, and participating in its development, to visit the official forums website, and register. If you do, you will get the chance to voice your own opinion on the development of the game, and areas you think need attention.