MMORTS games aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, and especially not by a AAA developer like the folks at Petroglyph, whose team members are some of the people who brought us RTS classics such as Dune II and the Command & Conquer series. With that said, we were excited to see what Petroglyph had in store for us in San Francisco, as Trion Worlds invited us out to check out their upcoming fantasy MMORPG Rift: Planes of Telara and their MMORTS End of Nations.
End of Nations is an MMORTS that puts players in the role of one of three commander classes, artillery (long range bombardment, great for groups), strike (hit and fade guerilla warfare), and tank, which is fairly self explanatory. From there, players develop their commander character as well as their own armies as they progress through the game world either cooperatively in PvE or against others in PvP. Base building isn’t done on the battlefield, instead, players have their own personal bases where they can create structures to churn out new units, advance their tech tree through research, and even customize their units with decals and colors.
Players enter battle by either selecting the Quick Match option from the War Room interface or by browsing around the game’s world map where they can choose certain scenarios to embark on. These scenarios often offer a variety of quests that are pushed to you frequently and can be completed cooperatively with many players.
Following a short introduction by Trion senior producer Gary Wagner, we jumped feet first into the game and created level 15 template characters to check out one of two PvE scenarios we were to be shown that day. The first scenario was set in Magadan, Russia and I opted for an artillery commander. I didn’t find that to be such a great choice as it seemed more geared towards group play than solo play and I basically roamed around the quite large map and did quests for the contacts there. Quests ran the gamut from placing a flare down to mark a location for helicopters to secure, to investigating the downed wreckage of a Chinook helicopter and dealing with the enemies that were inevitably waiting there.
Controls were fairly simple and familiar to anyone playing an RTS, but where things took a different turn is in how you actually play the game. RTS gameplay is generally categorized in either micromanagement or macromanagement style play but I didn’t really find it to be distinctly one or the other. You can only bring a certain number of units into a particular battle as each unit has a point value and so you can spend those points on numerous cheaper units or a small few very powerful units. You don’t really micromanage the units as they don’t have abilities of their own, however, your commander does, and he has a great deal of them. In fact, for our template I felt a bit overwhelmed by the many abilities I could use, though Gary assured us that new characters would be introduced to abilities and units at a slow enough place to get familiarized with them.
Combat basically plays out by commanding your units to attack a group of enemies and then making tactical use of whatever commander abilities you have at your disposal. These abilities can be anything from a heal, to a move speed buff, to superweapons such as bombing runs and nuclear bombs, or even consumable items such as repair drones, armor or special ammo types. These abilities often have lengthy cooldowns so knowing what to use and when is extremely key in a fight.
Once we were done putzing around in Magadan, the developers had us create new level 50 template characters to check out another scenario taking place in Oman. I went with artillery again because I’m a glutton for punishment and I got to check out a higher level scenario. Oman, naturally, was a desert scenario and I found myself working for some Middle Eastern characters, which was also the first time I noticed that the quest text was voiced, a pretty neat touch. The objectives here were a good deal more difficult, I wiped many times and even the random adds around the map took a big bite out of me as I moved around.
What was really interesting about the Oman map was the fact I got to make use of some neat superweapons such as the artillery bombardment ability that helped me get through some particularly nasty situations where I was greatly outnumbered, and of course, the Panzer Hulk, a giant boss enemy that looked like he was more at home in the old Metal Slug games than anywhere else. That’s a compliment by the way; the thing was massive and had many hardpoints to attack. Unfortunately, I was solo and I was only able to whittle down one of the hardpoints before being wasted, but I never got a chance to see him again. Perhaps next time I’ll bring friends.
Be sure to check back soon as we’ll be looking at PvP in End of Nations.