Be sure to read Adam Tingle's Second Thoughts: Gods & Heroes - Magister Mundi Sum.
I remember beta testing Gods & Heroes while it was still under the direction of Perpetual Entertainment. Sure I could make a few jokes about just how perpetual they really ended up, but that’s neither here nor there anymore since Heatwave Interactive picked up the code and license and ran with it. I’ve been waiting what seems like forever to play a finished version of Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising, and I’m afraid I’ll be waiting for a while more. Though Heatwave’s first foray into the MMORPG space is not completely without merit, it’s plain to see that the game they sought to flesh out and polish in a mere 18 months is still several more “moon cycles” away from being ready for primetime. Underneath the bugs and shallow nature of the title, G&H has some truly compelling toys to play with. But unless you’re the most diehard fan of Roman mythology and culture, I’d recommend waiting a while before picking this one up.
Gameplay – 6/10
The core of G&H’s gameplay is designed around the “minion” system retained from Perpetual’s original vision, and tuned up a bit for Heatwave’s final release product. You play a hero whose entire family was slaughtered by Telchine cultists, and you’ve been granted a chance by the Gods to seek revenge. It’s a pretty cliché but effective story, and so long as you don’t mind reading quest text, there’s a good bit of meat to the “lore” behind Gods and Heroes, even if a lot of it was sort of already pre-written by those crazy Romans thousands of years ago. There are four classes at launch with the promise of two more to come in future patches, and they range from your basic healer to your tank and DPS: Gladiator, Mystic, Priest, and Soldier. I’m betting you can figure out which is which.
The bulk of your time with G&H will be spent roving about the countryside, killing mythical, human, and wildlife creatures all in the name of the glorious “Quest”. If you’re not a fan of the traditional quest grind these days, I’d say back far away, because G&H has them in spades. Your map will become a treasure trove of quest-helper icons and location markers, as you trudge over hill and under bridge collecting viper blood, killing bandits, and stabbing satyrs. The only real problem I have with this is that the quests are almost entirely of the collect this or kill that variety, and in an age where MMO questing is beginning to change, G&H’s formula feels… formulaic.
Additionally the combat is somewhat unresponsive, as often the game seems hesitant to register your proximity to an enemy for the first few seconds of a fight, and you’re left hammering a hotbar key to no avail. The animations are top notch for a lot of the more choreographed moves (which we’ll get to later), but because of their complexity they often get bugged out and your character can get locked facing one direction when you really want him to turn around. The minion system is the game’s true innovation which happens to be what we’ll discuss next.
Innovation – 6/10
The real caveat to the gameplay, and likely the only thing that will feel new and refreshing to an experienced MMO player (aside from the Roman setting), is the Minion System. Early on during the tutorial zone, you’re introduced to the squad management system and how to find and recruit minions. They’re littered throughout the game, and often come packaged as rewards to various quests. Some will be mere humans with abilities akin to the game’s classes, and others will be mythical creatures with more attractive skills and benefits. Depending on your character’s chosen god, you’ll even have access to things like minotaurs or centaurs as your minions.
And while the minions themselves don’t always act in the most intelligent fashion, it quickly becomes apparent that you’ll be able to have a full party of computer controlled characters in no time. My Gladiator roved about with both a solider to tank and a healer to keep us alive, and it worked wonders. The only real question is whether this affects the social aspects of the game, and though we’ll cover that later, I can freely tell you that solo play is pretty prevalent across the game with the main exception being dungeons. Why party with anyone if you’ve got a full group in your pocket?
Polish – 5/10
This is probably the area where G&H is the most lacking. When Heatwave said they hoped to have the game launched in about 18 months, I raised an eyebrow. In the Perpetual days, I remember rubber-banding and bugs galore during the G&H beta. And while thankfully those server-side issues seem to be resolved, the game is still quite messy in terms of polish. The animations during combat are beautiful when they’re working properly, but all too often they get bugged out and you end up looking as though you’re trying to sodomize the enemy. The terrain is filled with tons of tiny un-traversable molehills, there are parts of the UI that actually are labeled “NOT WORKING”, and in general G&H just reeks of Live Beta Test. The UI even warns you when you set your settings to higher visuals, because they’re perfectly aware that it can destabilize the entire client. There’s a great PVE game hiding under the bugs Heatwave is up against, but it becomes frustrating often enough to just throw your hands up in the air and log out.
Aesthetics – 7/10
G&H is a dated game, but it’s not without some good looks. When turned to the higher end of the scale, the lighting, shadows, and ground covering foliage are all very attractive. The animations, as stated previously, are sublime when they’re working, and the entire game’s Roman myth feel is fantastic. As a big fan of the time period, I love the look of the armor, the architecture, and of course all the ancient creatures. Where the looks falter though is in the textures and geometry of the landscape. Often a muddy mess, the textures are just poorly done. Additionally, the lighting at night time in many areas is so dark to make the game difficult to see, and there’s no obvious way to turn up the gamma via the options either. Lastly, G&H’s UI is serviceable, but also quite old looking. The whole thing has a red and gold veneer to make it “Roman” in flavor, but it’s not very sharp in terms of resolution or design. And while it works for what it’s supposed to do, it will no doubt feel a little clunky and old to many gamers.
Social – 6/10
There’s a great community in Gods & Heroes, and the Heatwave folks themselves couldn’t be more conducive to maintaining open streams of communication if they tried. There’s something to be said about their independent nature, as the “Little Guys” always seem more apt towards talking about the issues and addressing player concerns. That said the community in game is a bit different. Folks don’t talk much, the servers are still mostly on “Light” duty, and grouping is mostly non-existent outside of dungeons and guilds. The chat is easy to use, and as long as you take the initiative, you can get some great conversations going and find help when you need it thanks to the Global chat channels.
Longevity – 6/10
The level cap in G&H is set at 30, with many more to come as unfinished zones open up. The curve is actually steeper than most gamers may be used to anymore as well, so it’ll take some time to get all the way to the cap. Still once you’re there, there’s just not much to do. You have an Estate or “Home” to call your own which you’ll rebuild and add to as you play the game, but there’s not much real point to the system yet and it’s not especially something to keep someone tied to the game for long. There are some end-game dungeons to run through and some special gear and minions to obtain, but beyond that there’s no economy to speak of, no crafting, and no PVP. Gods & Heroes is feature-light, to say the very least. And while the team at Heatwave has been very forthcoming about their plans to add all of this in the near future, the fact remains that right now there’s not much to do in G&H besides quest and level up and be done with it.
Value – 7/10
Gds & Heroes is a traditional boxed-MMO with a price-tag of $50 at launch and the customary 30 days free game time. Once that’s through, the subscription is a budget $9.99 a month as opposed to the $15 usual price so there’s that working for the game. But in truth, I just can’t see an instance where G&H as it stands right now is worth the price of admission. Unless you’re a diehard Roman myth nut, I’d give Gods & Heroes a good solid six months before diving in whole-hog. I’m not about to suggest they need to go free-to-play, as the game’s obviously not designed for it, but I think a lower subscription and no box-price would make the title more attractive to folks looking for a new game to try.
In the end, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Gods & Heroes just yet. There’s a lot of great questing to be had, and it’s plain to see that there’s a good game lying underneath all the bugs and lack of polish. But as a player, I think Heatwave’s still got to get a few more patches under their belts before G&H has what it takes to earn a spot in my lineup of go-to games. The setting and minion system are great ideas, but all the other features that make an MMO worth paying for monthly need to be added in stat to keep folks past the first month. All is not lost, that’s for sure, but keep an eye on this one for now and let’s see if Heatwave can live up to their promises of more and better content.