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CES 2007: Squadrons

Carolyn Koh Posted:
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Gods & Heroes - Squadrons

Carolyn Koh catches up with Richard Zinser, the VP of Game Services at Perpetual Entertianment to talk about squadrons.

“The focus currently is on play testing our squads,” said Richard Zinser, VP of Game Services of Perpetual Entertainment as he showed off the squad combat system at CES2007. With a game currently in a closed Beta phase, their mythical creatures already in game and a planned launch in Summer 2007, Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising is currently in a state of tuning, balancing and refining.

The unique aspect of Gods and Heroes that make them stand out from the current crop of MMORPGs is the squad combat. Richard ran me through various scenarios in the mid-level game (level 30), commanding four minions. When asked about the learning curve, he explained that in the play through of the newbie experience the end of the first series of quests that a new player would complete was one to obtain a minion. Then, your squad size is controlled by your level. So even though you may have more than one minion, you may not bring them all out to play.

“Free minions will be far and few between. Most of your minions would be hired. They will be the same level or close to that of your character, and will gain experience and level up with you.”

Much like the rogue you got in Diablo II, I mentioned. You equipped her and leveled her up with you as you played the game.

“With Steig at the helm, there’s no surprise that there are a lot of similarities between Diablo and Gods and Heroes,” responded Richard. Duh… of course! So, to the facts:

Minions may be obtained via quests or hired (for a one time fee) – either way, they remain with you, and unless things change during beta, care and feeding of your minions is in upgrading their equipment and bringing them out to play.

There are 3 basic classes of minions: Infantry is your basic foot soldier, he is your heavy fighter; the skirmisher is your artillery section with bow and has some melee ability; and the spell caster can cast offensive or healing spells. A slider is available to set the aggression level for your squad. The higher the aggression set, the more offensive feats used and the more power used for offensive spells rather than healing. Although not in the demo, I am told that a slider will probably be available to determine the amount of damage your minions or you will take before the spell caster heals.

Each member of the squad can be controlled separately or grouped, and they may be commanded to stand-down. If you get too far away from them, they are liable to just go on home to camp, so we attempted to see if we could get far enough away from them that they could not be recalled, but even though we ran off the mini-map, when the command was issued to recall, they came right back.

The squad system is designed to enhance game play and not replace grouping. “It is a feature, not a crutch,” maintained Richard. “It is a unique aspect of the game.” To that effect, the first minion obtained is the same class as your character. If you are a warrior, you cannot pack your squad with spell casters to support you while you adventure.

After showing me the various squad formations available and the ease which more could be created, I asked about other aspects of the game. There is no traditional crafting system in game but quests are an integral part of the game and will drive the storyline.

Your character has several stat bars apart from health:

  • Feats (and healing is a feat) use power;
  • Combo move points – which are built up with regular attack moves;
  • Favor – which allow you to use special attacks granted by your God(dess); and
  • Standing – which controls the amount of Favor your have to use and shows how much your God(dess) likes you.

We then ran through character customization at my request. First, you pick your class. Then the next thing you do is to select your deity. Each class has two to choose from, and each provides unique Feats, Favor abilities and special myth creature minions that may be attained.

Finally we come to looks. As with other current games, Gods and Heroes provides a great deal of customization in the looks of your character, with slider bars for many physical features, including elongating the character’s head and establishing the thickness of your upper, middle and lower body. A random generator is also available for those of us that like using that or starting there.

I asked if I could make a fat character. Richard grinned. “We’ve had ugly character contests in house.” Yes, it is possible. We started a female character and proceeded to try to give her squinty eyes, as big a mouth as possible, and thunder thighs. For those that care, the women are not overly endowed and the upper body thickness slider does not increase the size of the endowments. Do I hear two cheers?

You also pick two colors for your outfits – a primary color and a secondary color. Choose wisely. This will affect the trim on some armor as well as the colors your minions will wear.

Another aspect of customization that will be available to players is the camp. Each player will have their own camp although the ability for player customization is planned to be a post launch feature at this time with style of tents, trimmings, decorations and perhaps pets.

Being that this is the Roman Empire, I asked about mounts and chariots. “Nope, no mounts at launch. If we have mounts, given the setting, we’ll of course have to think about mounted combat and I think that’s going to probably be in an expansion.”

Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising won MMORPG.com’s Best Graphics award for E3 2006 as well as our 2005 Reader’s Choice for Best Graphics. How does it look now? Combat animation still looks fantastic, especially with the grappling and throws in the game. The idle stance looks very natural for each kind of character and I was amused when an infantry man idly lifted a foot and used his sword to scratch it while the caster puffed out his chest and stamped his staff into the ground. Creature detail and animation is also very nicely done and diverse.

“We’ve used the entire pantheon of Roman mythology. Name a mythical creature,” challenged Richard. “If it’s even remotely associated with Roman mythology, I’m sure we have it in game.”

Gods and Heroes is an outdoor world. Most zones are outdoor zones and Richard ran through a few to show off the diversity. I asked specifically to see a dungeon, but they were not yet ready for demo. The cities are large, spacious and heroic in scope with soaring, solid roman architecture. Travel between them cities and zones? The favor of your God(desses) allow you instantaneous travel through gates.

“Care to leave the fans with any encouraging words at this time?” I asked. Richard smiled. “We will be sending out more beta invitations in the coming months.”


Carolyn Koh

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.