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E3 2013 Preview

Michael Bitton Posted:
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We stopped by the Snail Games booth at this year’s E3 to check out Black Gold, an interesting title coming early next year by the developers of the wuxia-themed MMO, Age of Wushu. The game was playable on the show floor and we did get a short couple of minutes with it, but what we’ll be talking about today will primarily focus on what was shown to us live by the developers.

Most MMOs tend to fit into a certain theme, but Black Gold mixes two. You’ll find both steampunk and fantasy themes in the game and it’s these themes that are representative of Black Gold’s two factions. On one side, you have the steam-powered Isenhorst, and on the other, the fantasy-based Erlandirs. While these two factions are different in many ways, they are similar in their desire to secure control over the vital resource of ‘Black Gold’. With only so much of this stuff to go around, it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that these two factions are locked in conflict over the resource and it’s this conflict that serves as the focus of the game.

In Black Gold, you’ll select from the two aforementioned factions and pick from one of three races each. The steampunk Isenhorst offer Dwarves, Humans, and Vampires, while the Erlandir feature shapeshifters and two other races we didn’t have a chance to see. There are three unique classes available to each faction, though some classes are restricted even within your faction (ex. No magic users for Dwarves). While three classes sounds sorely lacking, each class also features three sub-classes and, again, they’re all different from one another. Classes aren’t mirrored and each class and subclass has its own visual identity, weapons, and skills to choose from.

‘Mounts’ are an integral part of the Black Gold experience, too.  You can even get vanity pets that later transform or grow into mountable creatures or vehicles. We were shown a robotic steampunk puppy and were told by the developers that the puppy could eventually end up as a steampunk motorcycle for you to ride. It sounds weird, but hey, why not?   I put mounts in quotes earlier, because there are also flying mounts and PvP vehicles. PvP vehicles can’t simply be put away once deployed, they must be safely returned to their garage once used or other players can freely scavenge them for usable parts. These vehicles come in the both ground and air form and run the gamut from lumbering mechs to soaring multi-person airships.

Like Age of Wushu, Black Gold puts an emphasis on PvP, and to that end, Snail Games will be offering players numerous ways to kick the other faction’s face in. We were shown some brief arena PvP action, but we were also told the game would feature a MOBA-style PvP mode (complete with laning phase) and a sort of meta-game revolving around acquiring resources from capturable territory. From the trailer we were shown (and available now) it looks like there is some serious potential for explosive PvP in Black Gold. While ground vehicles are one thing, seeing foot units, air, and ground units all doing battle together in an otherwise traditional looking MMO was certainly surprising.

Black Gold’s combat isn’t quite TERA “action combat”, but it isn’t your garden variety tab-targeting either. While you can lock onto targets to orient yourself, it’s possible to physically dodge some attacks, though the full extent of this remains a bit unclear. Guilds are also an important fixture in Black Gold. Players can band together to create factories that other players can work in, which is an intriguing feature to say the least.

While we were only given a brief sampling of Black Gold in our demo, it’s clear to us that like Age of Wushu, this is a nuanced game that MMO aficionados (especially those interested in PvP) should keep  a close eye on. Black Gold will enter beta later this year and is set for release in Q1 2014. 


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB