Stargate Worlds: Comic Con Combat Hands On Report
The folks at Firesky have been pretty quiet up until now about their upcoming MMORPG Stargate Worlds. At Comcic Con San Diego though, MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood had the opportunity to try the combat system out for himself and he files this report.
At this year's Comic Con San Diego, no MMORPG had more exposure to the convention center-filling crowd than the upcoming MMORPG from Firesky, Stargate Worlds.
Whether it was the well-situated and busy booth, the water bottles or the sides of busses, it was difficult to come away from the convention without knowing that the first video game based in the Stargate universe (and an MMO no less) would launch in 2009.
Advertising aside, Firesky still had quite an impact at the show, demoing gameplay for the first time to members of the press in a hotel conference room near the convention center. MMORPG.com was there and along with some great video interviews that you will be able to see here at the site over the next week, we also got some hands-on time with the pre-alpha game to get a feel for the game's combat.
So, what did we learn from our time with the game? I will start with my impressions of combat and then move into talking about some of the other things that I noticed during my play session:
We have heard almost from day one that the team at then Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment was aiming for an ambitious combat system that would see NPCs and players alike using cover and tactics to a level that we haven't seen before in an MMORPG. In my opinion, if this pre-alpha play test was any indication, they have succeeded.
I do have to start my description of their combat with a disclaimer: No, it isn't a standard shooter. Yes, you have to target your enemies and use your abilities to attack, but they make it work in an interesting way. Let me take you though a typical small encounter:
My Warrior class character, armed with a Jaffa staff weapon (I was human), finds himself on the planet Lucia. For players who don't recognize the name from the TV show, the Lucian Alliance figured into later seasons of the show as a kind of space crime syndicate. On their world (which is being seen by Stargate fans for the first time in SGW), drug addicts, dealers and thugs are the norm. It's a run-down world. The areas that we were playing is had a very post-apocalyptic junkyard feel to it. Said bad guys (mobs) are milling about amongst broken down pieces of metal and other space-looking trash, with poor wooden fences and barricades.
Drawing my staff weapon (which looks and sounds very much like they did on the show), I head out into combat. In front of me is the game's UI (which is fully customizable... we'll get into that a little later). There is one area in particular that draws the attention right away: your health meter. Health is displayed in Stargate Worlds via a circular display. In the center is your cover indicator (to tell you how much cover you have and where your enemies are). Around the cover indicator is a ring. The left side of that ring is colored green. That's my health. The right half of the ring is filled in with blue. I am told that this is my character's focus.
Focus, the developers tell me, is a way of gauging how calm and focused on his or her task your character is. If, for example, you are taking heavy fire, it's harder for your character to focus on what they are doing, where they are shooting and how adept they are at dodging attacks. Once that focus is gone, the damage that your character takes goes up exponentially. This encourages players to make sure that their focus bar stays as full as possible. You can regenerate focus either through a heal, by retreating or otherwise gaining cover (for me it was all about crouching behind an object and then coming back up firing).
Ok, now that I understand the UI, I move my Warrior closer to the Lucian drug dealer. It doesn't take me long to see that he has friends, and I know that this is going to be a tough fight. Not wanting to repeat an earlier moment where I ran into the middle and got caught in a brutal crossfire (curse, spit, yell at the screen, start again), I decided it would be smarter to get the drop on my enemies. Creeping to the top of a small junk hill, I crouched behind two barrels and took aim at one of the drug dealers. So far, so good. No one has noticed me. I push the double shot icon on my UI and I hear that familiar woosh sound effect from the shot. It's a pretty good hit, but it doesn't take the guys down (he still had decent cover). My shots, however, seem to stir the hive and draw everyone's attention as the drug dealers and addicts all draw weapons and scatter. Not impressed that my first target had the audacity to still be alive, I continued my assault. Now I'm being shot at from a number of angles and the cover that I jumped behind to protect me from the first guy just isn't cutting it anymore. I take my final shot at my first target and he goes down. I notice that my focus is almost gone and my health is on its way as well. I need to get to a new position. As I am frantically looking around to find a new vantage point, I hear the sounds of a pistol, and they're close. I don't know how he did it, but one of their guys had snuck up behind me and was shooting at me from an uncomfortable distance and with no cover. As a result, it's time to run. This group was just too big for me to handle without using better tactics.
After I ran like a small child away from the bad guys and regrouped, it was time for another assault. Once again I was able to sneak up to a good vantage point, but just before I can start the whole process again I hear P-90 fire, and I see my targets scatter. It seems I've got backup in the form of one of the other alpha testers in the game. As the bad guys fan out to address this new threat, I actually have the opportunity to better my position. By the time, they have my new friend pinned down... at least until I start firing again from my new ideal position. This seems to throw the bad guys into disarray and frees my new friend up to start firing again. Between the two of us, we manage to take them all down. I am told that even though we weren't in a group that we would share the XP granted by the encounter thus giving even non-grouped players an incentive to help someone out rather than leave them to their fate (which you're also free to do).
Overall, I have to say that I was extremely impressed with the combat. The different uses of cover (which actually does make a HUGE difference) and tactics really brings the combat home, giving it not only the kind of frantic feeling that you want in a combat situation but also moving the combat well beyond the typical button-mashing click-fest that some games can turn into.