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E3 2006 Preview

Dana Massey Posted:
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Find out what's how the game works, how involved Sony is and more

Gods & Heroes is an action adventure online role-playing game set in a mythological version of Republican Rome. Players are the sons and daughters of deities. They travel the world and build their own personal army as they take part in a mixture of group and single combat.

“We love myth based games,” said Chris McKibbin, the Co-Founder and President of Perpetual Entertainment, before rattling off a list of games from all genres that had inspired him.

Players have six base classes and twelve gods to choose from during character creation. Each class allows the player to choose between two gods to follow. The chosen god grants powerful magic in the form of God Powers. These are special, extremely strong abilities that players can use on special occasions. Regardless of the chosen class, as sons and daughters of Roman gods, players can ask for their help, provided they’re on good terms.

“[We want to] present things that people understand at a basic level,” explained Designer Director Stieg Hedlund of their class system. The base classes and deity associations are as follows:

  • Solider (Mars/Minerva): The defensive melee option.
  • Gladiator (Jupiter/Fortuna): An offensive, high damage and low defense, class.
  • Rogue (Mercury/Nemesis): A sneaking, stealth class.
  • Scout (Apollo/Diana): The archers of Gods & Heroes.
  • Mystic (Bacchus/Trevia): The magic users, offensive.
  • Priest (Juno/Pluto): Defensive magic users, think clerics.
“You’ll know the difference between classes,” added McKibbin, who insists that each one will have its own distinct look and feel, as well as a lot of diversity within the group. What’s more, the primary and secondary colors chosen for the character’s clothes will extend down to all the player’s NPC minions.

Hedlund understands that this class list is not exactly revolutionary, but like any realistic project, developers need to pick and chose when to try and break the mold. The God Powers and tactical group combat (described below), are two of those areas.

What makes the classes unique is the distinct Roman style. Gladiators can use spears and nets – I’m Sparticus – and even fight in unarmed combat, something few if any MMORPGs have done effectively. Why did they do this?

“Because I like it,” responded Hedlund simply. The former Lead Designer of Diablo II, who also worked on StarCraft among other Blizzard projects, brings a wealth of experience from outside the MMORPG developer clique to the game.

As players progress, starting at level five, they can earn or hire characters to join them. These NPCs are stored in an instanced camp, which also serves as an area for players to build, add to and decorate over time. Each character has its own personality – some are generated, some are hand crafted – and gets especially annoyed when they get killed.

Players hire them, trade them or earn their loyalty through quests. They come in three brands: infantry (melee), skirmishers (ranged) and spellcasters (magic). Beyond that there are also heroic minions earned through quests. These minions, who are not all human, are more powerful, although not as powerful as a Hero.

Individual minion classes also exist in two brands: light and heavy. Player characters can only hire heavy minions of the same type as themselves. This means, a Priest cannot surround himself with heavy infantry, a decision which will ensure a variety of group compositions among players. The current plan is to allow Gladiators and Soldiers to have access to heavy infantry, Rogues and Scouts to hire heavy skirmishers, and Mystics and Priests to hire heavy spellcasters.

Players can have eighteen minions in camp at any given time. The minions level and advance with players and provide an entire “Pokemon aspect” to the game. The numbers players can take out on adventure with them at any given time varies from zone to zone, but the maximum is currently eight.

Actual control of the group is done initially through the squad creation window. Much like a chess board, players define their formation and have control over the personalities of the minions as befits the situation.

The game also features unit roles and group feats. For example, players can order their infantry unit to form a shield wall and block an incoming enemy charge until they are overwhelmed.

Single combat in Gods & Heroes is more or less what most would expect from an average MMORPG, at least in terms of base mechanics. Players have an auto attack, which is extraordinarily ineffective, and a series of special moves they can do. The monsters have the same. Visually, it all comes alive though. The combat looks like two people are fighting as they jump around, impale, trip, etc. Every monster has at least one special move and players have special moves they can do based on the size of their enemy.

This means a Cerebus might well pick the character up by the leg, while a smaller foe can trip one up and jump on their chest.

They achieve all this without any huge restrictions to player characters in terms of size. They luck out, in a partially historical game, all player characters are human, but can be big, small, fat, skinny, male or female. All of these animations line up perfectly.

Visually, the only low point of the game was the UI. It looked serviceable, if uninspiring. The team wanted to stress, however, that it is still very much a work in progress. One solution though is XML modifications. Before anyone gets upset though, this is purely a visual kind of modification. WoW-style macro mods will be forbidden.

When Perpetual announced that Sony Online Entertainment would be the publishers of their upcoming MMORPG, many were taken aback. The game had been silent since last summer and since then, SOE had made a lot of unpopular moves.

That year allowed Perpetual to truly make Gods & Heroes a AAA product, both in terms of graphics and mechanics. Now, a year later, they’re back on the scene under the Sony umbrella and much to the relief of many, their feature list is completely unaltered by their new associations.

“Sony is the packaged goods publisher of the game,” explained McKibbin. “We have a very good working relationship with Sony.”

Simply put, Sony’s role is to burn CDs and sell boxes. Perpetual retains 100% creative control over the end product and will operate their service on a day-to-day basis. Nonetheless, they are a company that prides themselves on being open to feedback and they greatly value the experienced outlook Sony provides them. McKibbin insists that this is a good overall partnership.

The association with Sony though does raise the question: does Gods & Heroes have a future on the PlayStation 3?

“The game design lends itself to consoles,” admits McKibbin. However, he went on to add that they’re currently only thinking about getting it right on the PC. He also noted that Sony only holds the North American PC publishing rights, so if they do make a move towards consoles, they are not tied to any single platform.

Also, keep in mind you can check out the E3 HD Trailer exclusively on our site.

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Dana Massey