Dark or Light

E3 2006 Preview

Dana Massey Posted:
Previews 0

We get a peek at what Simutronics has been working on over the last year

The Simutronics crew had a tough act to follow one year after their MMORPG.com Best of Show Award. One year later, the graphics were even better, and while the demo felt a little less polished, it was real.

For the first time that I’ve seen it, Hero’s Journey was more than a collection of cool features and had become a coherent and entertaining game demonstration.

David Whatley, the CEO of Simutronics, sat us down and gave us a run through.

Wyr – the system through which they plug special abilities into people, items and abilities – is, according to him, “the heart of the game”. Players can collect wyr, which are like an evolution of City of Villains enhancements, through quests, monster bashing, trading, etc.

Rather than simple buffs, wyr are give and take and the major way players customize their items and selves in the game. For example, one wyr added fire damage to a sword (and some cool flames), but decreased its cold damage. They’re tradeoffs. What’s more, when combined with special other wyrs, they can combine to form a special ability. In the example we saw, Val Zeair’s strength and Val Zeair’s luck combined to not only enhance the sword, but also provide the player with a special bonus to their jumping ability. Players are not expressly told which wyr combine in ways like this, Whatley considers part of the process of discovery.

The biggest change from last year’s show was the UI. The graphics had evolved and remain spectacular, but the UI has joined them, both in terms of art direction and how you can tell from a mere glance what to do. For example, there are multiple wyr slots on objects for different levels (rarities) of wyr. Each one is shaped differently. To plug a new one in, you simply drag and drop the icon (shaped the same as the socket) into the item. Boom! You have bonuses.

Hero’s Journey has a hybrid class system. There are nine classes (Warrior, Gearknight, Rogue, Ranger Wizard, Necromancer, Cleric, Bard and Healer) and players select both a primary class and secondary class. The combination chosen and which is primary and which is secondary creates a new class. Thus, a Cleric/Necromancer is an Occultist and a Necromancer/Cleric is a Diabolisist. The two trees merge, with and slant based on those choices.

The title, which has joined the long line of AEGIA physics users, retained much of its interactivity from last year. In one common area, the player came up only to see monsters firing catapults at him. He responded by activating catapults of his own and knocked down their fortification before running across the killzone to engage them. And he did all this while a dragon, which flies around the lands trying to light people on fire, swooped and snorted overhead.

Contrary to some belief, the game has a lot of common areas and non-instanced content. They have a seamless world players can travel around to hunt monsters and gain experience. As a nice tough, once you’ve been to a place, you can use their teleport network, to travel back and forth quickly. Thus, the travel times should not be too severe.

The world itself brims with life. “It’s not a deer hunter game,” they told us as the character ran by a herd of deer. “Not everything is meant to be killed.”

Whatley’s demonstration character was primarily a Gearknight. They’re the most unique class option to Hero’s Journey. Primarily a melee class, they utilize technology to help. For example, he had the ability to fire a mortar. He’d select the skill, quickly expand his circle to the desired area of effect – the large the circle the more you can hit, but the less damage it does – and let go. Immediately, his character grabbed a stylized mortar tube, set it on the ground, shoved something in and knelt with his face away. Boom! The bomb shot and lit the enemies on fire half way across the map.

Last year, what impressed us most, was the character creation. This year, it’s even better. At the moment, they have three races: Humans, an Ilvari (elvan) and a feline race. The screen has a triangle where you can play with a morph slider. The closer you move to each corner of the triangle, the more you look like that race. Thus, you can be half-Human/half-Ilvari, etc.

Will it repeat as Game of the Show? Time will tell, but the demo was most definitely not a let down.

You can comment here.


Dana Massey