Hands On At E3 2014
Allods Team is, unsurprisingly, most known for their work on Allods, the cult-hit F2P MMORPG from a few years back. This time around, the studio has enlisted the help of veteran RPG developer Obsidian Entertainment to bring Skyforge to Western Audiences. Not only that, but Obsidian is working very closely on class design and all other sorts of content as well. In this sense, the development is very much a true collaboration between the two studios. This week at E3, we were able to go hands-on with the alpha build of the new MMORPG, and get a feel for the combat and Ascension Atlas: the progression tree for Skyforge’s characters.
There’s not much the devs are really able to say about the story just yet. Suffice it to say, the universe is under a great threat, and as a fledgling god, you’ll work towards ascension in order to protect your people and your home. The devs showed us the Ascension Atlas, their answer to your typical class skill trees. Essentially, in Skyforge’s level-less system as you progress you gain access to more classes and with them their many skills. Skyforge is opting for something akin to FFXI’s Job System where one character is all you really need, as you can swap between classes and gear at will.
The Ascension Atlas trailer.
After a brief demo of the combat and Ascension Atlas, we were allowed to finally go hands-on with the game (which doesn’t have a release date but looks relatively far along, we must say). I wish we could have had more information given on crafting, questing, PVP, and all of the other MMO staples, but hey… they need something to talk about at later dates, right?
For our hands-on we dabbled with the two-handed Berserker, as well as the Cryomancer, and even a brief stint as the Gunner. The first is, as you’d expect, a melee character focused on PBAoE attacks and direct target damage. Like TERA, the combat animations are a shining example of what can be done with a great art team as every swing and strike had weight behind it. Impact was felt, and our hero looked powerful. We were around the mid-level range, so I’m sure that helped (we weren’t dabbling in starter zones, after all).
The Cryomancer was really a lot more interesting to me, though. Usually I don’t get on board for caster classes, but the giant icebergs, snowballs, and frost storms you’re able to conjure made me feel like my bad-ass looking mage was just as powerful as Elsa in Frozen. I realize that sounds like a lame comparison, but any nerd watching that movie who didn’t want her powers needs to hand in their geek card.
Combat is handled a bit like a cross between Guild Wars 2 and WildStar. There are some attacks you’ll just lock on targets for, but plenty of others that use skill-shots (no telegraphs, though). For instance the Cryomancer’s slow-moving but powerful giant snowball must be aimed to make contact and enemies can get out of the way if you haven’t already locked them down with other snares.
That’s another thing about Skyforge that gave us pause at first, until it was explained later by the designer we spoke with (whose name we sadly didn’t get, but he recently worked on WildStar’s classes). There are no traditional healers in Skyforge. Every class has heals, and we immediately started to worry about the Guild Wars 2 mentality. But as the class designer explained, this design is intended to let players choose to be healers, DPS, tanks, or support. Every class can do all three simply by swapping their skill bars. Support also means support in Skyforge: snares, crowd control, buffs, etc. Heals are a part of the game, but much less important than other support mechanisms. We’ll have to see how well that goes over in the end, but Obsidian’s devs were careful to say it won’t make the fights feel like just another zerg on the boss.
Lastly, the Gunner. You can see glimpses of him in the video above, and we only played him for just a little bit. But any class whose ultimate spell is heat-seeking projectiles, whose secondary fire mode is a Gatling gun, and who shoots mortars as a standard skill has our vote.
Like I set during MMOFTW, Skyforge plays really well. Its combat is spot on. But so are a lot of MMOs these days. What we didn’t see is how the world and its content all ties together. You have disconnected zones, dungeons, and PVP areas from what we could gather, all accessed via a “lobby” communal town zone in the stars. So a seamless world this one is not, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing if the content is engaging and well-wrought. For now, we’re marking Skyforge as on our “Watch List”, and we’ll wait and see if all of its other pieces come together to give Allods Team and Obsidian an MMORPG of which to be proud.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.