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Roadhouse #4

Laura Genender Posted:
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Laura Gets To Take Auto Assault For a Spin

After three weeks of teleconferences and a week of play testing, the final AutoAssault roadhouse, an in game tour, was a bitter sweet occasion — on one hand, I was getting an awesome tour by the makers of the game… but on the other, this was the last of the roadhouse sessions.

The NetDevil team split into three groups, one of each race, and met us to convoy up at the exits of our race’s starting towns. As a Biomek Agent I started out in Fort Logan, the militaristic Biomek starter town. Here I met up with Hanlin, Lead Content Designer for the Biomeks and Booker, Lead Systems Designer and “crafting prince.”

To start us off, Hanlin gave us a closer look at the Biomek history and town. The Biomeks were founded by the Trio, the first real leaders to arise after the human Betrayal. The leading member of the Trio was Alexander Billings, with Jasmine Jade and General Dunlap backing him up as seconds in command.

“You will get to know the main NPCs much better.” Hanlin told us. “If you follow the right course of action, you may even find yourself part of their inner circle.” I had experienced this a bit during my play test time the week before, where running a couple of quests for General Dunlap earned me my own small housing unit.

Hanlin then showed us some of the Biomek stores, including the newly built Nanite Replenishment Facilities. Much of the Biomek’s technology relies on Nanites, and at this store you can buy Nanite Repair Packs as well as other consumable Nanite buffs.

Once done with the town tour we headed out into Scrap Valley, a huge highway zone full of many enemies and buildings to destroy. While the targets here were a bit below our level (we had been boosted to 20 for the tour) it was good target practice and we got to meet and learn about some of the starting enemies.

Our main target was the Pikes, a race of miners obsessed with the buried god Hamalzah. We mowed down foot soldiers and fellow drivers with ease, getting to know our new cars and new controls. Also in Scrap Valley players can find mutated plant and animal life and, in the harder areas, black robots that pack quite a punch.

After our tour of Scrap Valley we INC airlifted to Cinderfall to visit a crashed alien pod. I had a bit of trouble getting around the wreckage here — my Agent car was small enough to drive under one of my fellow teammates, a Constructor, and I had to use the ‘B’ key to bounce to get onto one of the pod platforms. In this zone we fought a few tougher enemies but the main challenge would be coming up next in The Moat.

Hanlin described The Moat as his “pride and joy” and we could certainly see why when he led us speeding at a cliff to jump into the abyss of the Moat itself. On landing we were immediately swarmed by orange con enemies (suggested levels for this zone will likely be 20 to 35/40) and were it not for the two Constructors in our party I would have been a goner.

This is where I really got to see my Agent skills shine. My arsenal included Stealth, a few of viruses, a self buff and a direct damage skill. I quickly learned to stay in Stealth mode near one of the Constructors when hurt; not only could they repair me, but their turrets could stun approaching enemies long enough for us to pick them off.

My self buff created another reason to stay near the constructors. The buff boosted my combat rating only when I was near other Biomeks, and when I fired it off near my party members I was able to increase my combat by 6 to 9 points!

I had four viruses at my disposal: Slow, Stop, Gimp and Disarm. I didn’t use Slow (slows target’s move speed) very often as I had Stop (stops target’s move speed) instead, but Gimp (lowers target’s damage) and Disarm (disables target’s weapon) were both infinitely useful. After a few minutes of play I figured out to lay all of my viruses on one target then avoid killing that target until they had spread the nasty contagious debuffs. It’s good to be the Agent.

Though we spent most of our time in The Moat defending our one little corner of safety, Hanlin hinted that the area will be “Unique in the MMO experience.” He pointed out the enemies we were fighting, a race called the Biomutes, and said “I am certain that they will raise eyebrows, as will the things you do to learn more [about them].” As is customary for developers, he refused to say more.

When we got back to town we had a bit of extra time before the other teams were ready to meet us in the Arena. Brian Booker, my other guide for the evening, now took the lead in giving me a tour of the game’s crafting system. This was no small task to take on; I will fully admit to being dense when it comes to game crafting. My first question was, of course, “How difficult is it to master crafting in Auto Assault?”

“There is a bit of a learning curve at start,” answered Booker, “But there is also a light bulb point where it all clicks and makes sense. Of course that point depends on experience with crafting systems, so it varies. There have been people that have played it where it just makes sense right off, and other it takes a small amount of dabbling.”

Brian then led me through a crafting tutorial, showing me how to unlock a discipline and how to reverse engineer and memorize new items. It took me about ten minutes to reach that so called “light bulb point.”

By then the Arena was ready for us and I was able to put my stealthy skills to good use against other players. I figured out that if I remained in stealth mode until they got close, and then fired off all my attacks and restealthed, I hardly got a scratch. I also soon learned to look for the goodies hidden around the arena such as speed boosts and health replenishment points and I learned to avoid traps such as fire pits.

It was time to go, and I logged off of my Agent with much thanks to my hosts, both for the tour and for the new semi-understanding of crafting — I guess I’m not an entirely hopeless cause after all. I would once again like to thank all the NetDevil and NCSoft people who gave their time to the Roadhouses, and I can’t wait to see the game on the shelves.

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Laura Genender