End of Nations Hands On
Developer: Petraglyph / Publisher: Trion / Platform: PC / ESRB: Rating Pending / Release Date: TBA
embedded by Embedded Video
The concept makes total sense, like PlanetSide made total sense. Take a huge, popular genre and wrap it within the embracing arms of massively online functions, then sit back and reap the rewards. The persistence of character progression–that sits at the heart of the RPG back to the earliest table-top days–is what drives MMO loyalty and commitment. Of course, fiction, style, features, community, support, and so many other factors contribute to who winsand who loses in this hugely competitive market. So how about taking the real-time strategy genre, which in the multiplayer space has largely been confined to one-on-one chess-like face-offs, and providing the persistent gloss that will generate and retain an audience in the hundreds of thousands? How about making it free-to-play?
First, good luck with that. There’s a reason the genre hasn’t been tackled so far, and that’s because balancing, figuring out procedures, game designs, community interactions, and so many other challenging questions are fundamentally tough to answer. But if you’re going to give it a whirl, who better to aim for the stars than a bunch of guys who created some of the industry defining RTS games at the former Westwood Studios? Based out in Las Vegas, Petroglyph is made up of several game design veterans who include names like Dune II and Command & Conquer (the good ones) on their resumes.
As for the cost mechanic, Trion kept these details under wraps for a long time. You’ve got to think a core purchase price plus monthly upkeep would have made the powers-that-be more comfortable about some immediate and then consistent return on their investment. However, other free-to-play games have earned significant sums in incremental purchases from an enthralled audience. You’ve got to imagine that the theory is straight out of Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come.
So how does the RTS experience work in this MMO environment? Well, in our gameplay session, the main takeaway was how familiar it played as a core RTS game. None of the fundamentals of the genre have changed, so it’s instantly familiar even if the last time you touched a PC RTS can be counted in multiples of years (left-click to select a unit, right-click to point where you want it to go, control-click to select multiple units, and control-[number] to assign them to a group).
What’s not so familiar is the number of other players on the battlefield, and how you may sync up your chosen loadout of units to take on a particular challenge(which you craft using set points to balance or weight the force you opt to lead into battle).
See, your role is one of a bit-part (but potentially influential player) in a global conflict. It’s you and every other real player against the oppressive AI-controlled Order of Nations. But two factions have differing philosophies on how to take the fight to the overbearing bad guy in this world, so you choose to be a commander for either the hard-hitting Liberation Front or the stealthier Shadow Revolution. These two factions now squabble over territory to control resources needed for a major offensive against the Order. Unable to resolve their differences, these players will be both your battlefield brethren and hated enemy.
Each of the two factions also fields two different classes with their own tech trees, providing variable options for specialization depending on your play style and faction requirements. Of course, you’ll be able to create a few different commander types, and then bring to a particular battle the one that best suits that faction’s needs.
Another key facet to generating ownership of your persistent virtual world is customization. How you look is important on a personal level, but can also help define your commitment to your faction. So the developers at Petroglyph, supported by publisher Trion, are committed to a broad suite of customization options to help you establish a personal aesthetic. Aside from broad color schemes, you’ll be able to deck your contingent out with decals that identify your side, your allegiance, even your real world affiliations (through flags, and more).
This collaborative, cooperative game is only part of the End of Nations experience. PVP assaults should really separate the men from the boys in this global war of attrition. Across the purported 50 maps you’ll battle with other real players in “seasons” that will, when a winner or loser is established, reset so the war can start again. This helps balance the potential for players to enter the war, witness who’s winning, join that side, and then coast to victory.
Regardless, your personal role in the battle will show in your loadouts and buffs, with participation in key story moments rewarded with additional buffs and mods for your units. These can be temporary but significant carrots to keep pulling you deeper into the conflict.
From the War Room you can see the world map, your clan, and your friends, and the developers are ensuring that you will always be fed information on what’s happening in both a macro sense of the world conflict, and a micro sense in your friends’ activities. Leveling up across the four different classes will allow you to choose various roles in the bigger conflict, and trot out whichever you either feel like playing, or what your generals might require to secure a key piece of territory.
As this reveal of a brief hands-on session takes shape, it’s clear that there are complex issues under the hood in End of Nations. It’s up to the team at Petraglyph to solve those, not for any RTS fans to worry about. We saw a real-time strategy experience delivering all the hallmarks of the classic genre style, but presented amid a much broader, potentially much more compelling global conflict than you’d achieve in small-scale battles. But we’ll find out for sure when End of Nations makes itself available for free–and who won’t give it a go at that price point?–later this year.