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Sean Dahlberg Posted:
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The jury's out on whether we call this an MMORPG, you decide

Believe it or not, this is one of my E3 2006 reports. The magnanimous Senior Editor gave me a bit of an extension due to some of the craziness going on over at Shadowbane and Stray Bullet Games (look, Dana, another plug!). This report is over one of NCSoft’s upcoming 3rd-Person MMO shooters titled Exteel. Now, I won’t lie, I hadn’t heard of Exteel prior to E3. In fact, I went over to the NCSoft’s booth to see some familiar faces on the various development teams. I ran into Amy Crider, one of the Head Game Masters at NCSoft, whom I use to work with and she showed me the game.

Before I get into that, let me give you the quick marketing blurb on what Exteel is. Straight from the official website, "Exteel is an online 3rd person shooter where players take giant customized mechs into combat to compete for supremacy against other players. The game features easily accessible gameplay and a blend of high-speed tactics and team-based strategy. The mechs are highly customizable, and can select from a large arsenal of deadly weapons. Mechs can also select special maneuvers that allow them to deliver devastating attack combinations inspired by the wildest Hong Kong cinema action."

Now, for my take on Exteel. At first I just rode a few shoulders to see how the game played. A few testers said it felt like Half-Life 2 to them. Personally, I saw the game and thought of Gundam and Robotech. After a few minutes, I sat down and tried it out for myself. Unfortunate (for me), I had to face off against not only Amy but also my very own co-worker; it wasn’t a pretty sight and reminds me of a colorful catch phrase Danielle (aka Sachant) said later that night… “LOS, n00b!” In actually, she didn’t say “n00b” but I do not think Dana will print the other colorful term she used.

The first thing I’ll say about Exteel is it is very easy to get into. The learning curve is not steep and the controls are very end-user friendly. And yes, they use keyboard movement (WASD). What I planned on playing for a few minutes, I ended up playing for at least 15 minutes. You basically have two weapons sets to use (called “loudouts”), ranged and melee. Depending on what weapon you are using, you have a variety of special attacks you can also use. What I enjoyed the most was the jetpack that not only let you burst around terrain much quicker than normal, but also let you do some great (yet short) airborne maneuverability.

Firing various rifles and pistols was great, but melee is where it’s at. If you can close that gap between you and an opponent and learn some of the special moves with your melee weapon, you can inflict a ton of damage in a short amount of time. Then you can watch your opponent blow up or try to run away… which is a good time to whip out the ranged weapons and finish the job. I was using some kind of spear and it, in combination with the jetpack was extremely fun.

A nice thing about Exteel is you do not need at top-of-the-line computer to play it. The graphics look good and yet it isn’t going to make your CPU or graphics card weep in pain. Weapon and particle effects were very nice, too.

While speaking about look and feel, the mechs in Exteel are very customizable. Players can upgrade their mechs by replacing various parts, including: head, core (aka torso), arms, legs, and boosters. Players can also choose their weapon sets, such as melee weapons (such as sword and shield, spears, etc) and guns (such as quick-firing pistols or large hand cannons that pack a punch), which can be swapped by a simply tapping a key.

Now, for the rest of the important information. First, Exteel has not yet started Beta. If you would like to help test it, keep your eyes peeled on the official site. What’s the pricing scheme? This is still being worked on but from some talks with people over at the NCSoft booth, it is very likely it could be free to play and you just have to pay to unlock certain areas or gear. This, of course, could change between now and its launch date.

Finally, there are a variety of “Battle Styles” or map-set rules. You have your standard Free-For-All but you also have a Strategic Team Battle, and a King of the Hill classic match-up. In addition to the rules, you will fight across a variety of terrains, from futuristic cities, to bleak deserts, to exotic spaceships. Your character will persist and can improve over time (through customization and upgrades) and, most importantly, there will be a detailed ranking system to allow you to see where you stand against the competition.

Exteel is just what a game should be; fun! It may not have the depth of other MMOs, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you only have a short time to play and looking for heart-pounding action, Exteel just may well be for you! At the very least, I would at least look at their E3 trailer.

To learn more about Exteel, visit www.exteel.com.

Editor's Note: Sean "Ashen Temper" Dahlberg currently serves as a Designer and the Senior Community Manager at Stray Bullet Games and works on Ubisoft’s Shadowbane. For more information, you can visit his personal website at http://www.ashentemper.com/.

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Sean Dahlberg