MMORPG.com Gods and Heroes In-Depth Preview Day III: Squad CombatWelcome to the third installment of our week-long preview of Perpetual Entertainment’s upcoming MMORPG, Gods and Heroes. Today we are going to take a closer at perhaps the most interesting feature in the game: The squad system.
While pets are almost a given in MMORPGs these days, commanding a whole squad of AI characters has the potential to offer a drastically different experience than controlling a single avatar and his pet bear. This system promises to be unlike anything currently on the market, and should add great depth to gameplay if implimented correctly.
When trying to envision Gods and Heroes' squad system, take a step outside the traditional MMORPG framework and look instead towards the classics of the strategy genre that wed RPG character development to tactical gameplay. A squad isn’t just something bought and paid for, never to be thought of again. Instead, you must groom your squad into perfection. This process can be a game unto itself, a mini-army management system more like Romance of the Three Kingdoms than Everquest. It’s also one of the most exciting things about Gods and Heroes.
As the saying goes, amateurs talk about strategy and professionals talk about logistics. Managing your squad, keeping them in weapons and armor, keeping them happy and fighting, well, it’s all a little more complicated than slipping them some gold and never hearing a complaint again. Rather than managing individual squad members, each squad you manage is subdivided into units, organized around specific roles (which brings a whole new dimension to “role-playing” as a concept). Equipment can then be tweaked by unit, based on the role each unit plays within the squad. For example, ranged fighters can be equipped with either slings or bows, melee fighters equipped with swords and armor, and support troops have their own varieties. In addition to equipment, there are also new feats and orders that become accessible as your squad levels up.
Squad management isn’t the only part of the hireling meta-game. In Gods and Heroes, underlings aren’t simple automatons, hired on to kill people and break things and suffer abuses silently. Gods and Heroes also includes a morale system. You not only have to keep them alive, you have to keep them happy too. Minions with low morale will be more likely to flee from battle when things get tough, and generally will not follow orders as desired. Minions lose morale for a variety of reasons, including not being paid, being left out of battle too long, losing battles, and of course being killed. As you would imagine, there are also a variety of ways of improving Minion morale, including being well paid, fighting, winning, and trips to taverns and bathhouses. Management of your minions’ moods is almost as important as running around and killing things.
We weren't given a specific final unit list, but sneaky probes here and there revealed cavalry units, both light and heavy, various flavors of infantry (including barbarians), ranged fighters like slingers and archers, and priests and other support types. Someone has to talk to all those gods. This squad system is going to force longtime MMORPG players to adjust as they play. No longer will the highest echelons of gameplay involve single heroes running around whacking vorpal bunnies and selling their skins for a pile of silver. Instead, tightly integrated, carefully tweaked and tuned squads will roam the battlefield, cutting down foes left and right.
While there are a diverse mix of troops to choose from, squads will be limited to a fixed number of roles, which keeps things from getting too out of hand and adds another layer of depth to the squad system. Having your personal troops consisting of only light cavalry might fulfill those Genghis Khan fantasies, but you’re going to be in a world of pain when you run into another hero with spearmen in his troop. Of course, if you’re adventuring with another player and their squad, it might make sense for you to control all the melee troops while he devotes his entire squad to ranged and support.
But how do you tell all those troops apart, you ask? Each hero will be able to pick specific heraldic colors, as well as devices (or emblems, if you prefer) for their shields. These customization options also pass down to the armies, giving each one an overall look that reflects the appearance of their leader. But here’s the best part: You’ll also get “signa”, which are basically flags for each “role” in the army, which their troops will carry and display for the world.
With your squad assembled and uniformed, you’ll be able to deploy them in battle in a variety of standard formations with the click of a mouse. The Column and Phalanx formations are what you’d expect, but even Rome: Total War fans will be impressed with choices like the Quincunx, a historical Roman checkerboard formation.
RTS gamers will also feel right at home when they see the custom formation screen. Players will design their own formations representing different mixes of units in different positions. These formations – representing different offensive and defensive strategies - can be added to your hot bar and called during combat as you react to the tide of battle.
Squad combat is one of the most exciting things to happen to MMORPG development in years, and Gods and Heroes is at the very tip of the spear on this one. This is one of those new movements in MMORPGs that has the potential to catch on and redefine the way we think about these games we love. Let us hope it turns out as good as its sounds!