Eurogamer Expo 2011: End of Nations Hands-On Preview
End of Nations is the latest game to enter the new fangled genre of MMORTS, building on the success of the seven month old Rift, Trion Worlds are hoping for another MMO smash hit. Our first encounter with the genre came with Age of Empires: Online, where we experienced a mixed bag of game mechanics. Our Age of Empires experience was a little awkward at times and left us with the feeling that the genre required some streamlining.
We were treated to an End of Nations gameplay and developer session at this year’s Eurogamer Expo.
End of Nations certainly has a different take on MMORTS, the basic premise is that a government know as “The Order of Nations” have taken over the world using trickery and deception, pretending to help people but only using them to gain power. The “evil” government plays the role of the computer and acts as the focal point of any PvE missons or encounters. Once released, PvE missions will allow player to join forces and take the enemy on through co-op, but unfortunately PvE was not available at the Expo, instead we were treated to some PvP between the two playable factions.
The playable factions consist of the Liberation Front, an alliance of the old power consisting of what appears to be the USA, UK and Western Europe. The Liberation use a mix of tanks and mechanical units to fill out most of their army. The other playable faction is known as The Shadow Revolution, a mixture of small, dark factions joining together in the hope that they can win the war and control the world. The Shadow Revolution don’t mind stealing and do it so that they may have some of the most high-tech units in the End of Nations.
Before entering a matchup we were shown a Risk style map of the world where continents had been divided into territories. When the full game releases players will be able to click on any territory and join the battle. At the Expo, only Australia and its three territory’s were available for play.
Loading into Battle
Player must join a queue before entering battle, the system is implemented to ensure matchups are as fair as possible, nobody wants to see three opposition armies instantly join and ruin a competitive battle. Once in players will be greeted by their preconfigured Call of Duty style “load-out” except instead of guns, attachments and accessories, the End of Nations load-out will consist of units. The load-outs appeared to be pre-configured and consisted of roughly 5 mixed units of both ground and air vehicles. We cannot comment on limitations but in theory you could choose a load-out of say 5 tanks or 5 helicopters; not that you would want to, diversity is a strength of any army.
Micro vs Macro
End of Nations sits heavily on the micro end of the RTS scale with little to no base building required and macro elements which fall under micro control. As mentioned, your load-out greets you at the start and is instantly at your command. Units all have basic attacks and are easy enough to control, throw a few points into your talent tree and you can unlock some special abilities to do some extra damage as long as you have the RTS fidelity to pull them off.
Units are not the only things that can launch attacks though, players or commanders (as they are known in-game) have a number of abilities ranging from bombing runs to nuclear strikes that can be launched anywhere on the map, as long there is line of sight. Whilst there is no macro in EoN, there are buildings. Buildings can be instantly dropped into battle and are usually used to defend a base, or point of interest.
Crawl to Victory
The main goal of each battle is to destroy the enemy base which is situated on the opposite end of the map. Players can rush if they wish but are likely to fail doing so, the combination of static and mobile defensive units is likely to trump a group of mobile attacking units. Instead a slow crawl across the map is encouraged. Units, abilities, and buildings all cost money to use and the only way to gain cash in End of Nations is by taking control of resource points. These points of interest are strategically placed on the field of battle. The idea is to take points of interest such as resource points, defend them and push onto the next objective. If or when your units meet a grizzly demise you will have the option to respawn them at a cost or if you wish, continue the battle as a support commander by helping allies out by placing defensive structures and calling in air strikes to help turn the tide of battle.
Resource points are not the only capture points up for grabs, some maps will apparently feature structures, that once captured, can be used to attack the enemy from a distance. Other points were alluded to at the developer session but were not actually shown.
Pay to skin, not pay to win
Much like Age of Empires: Online, End of Nations will be free-to-play, albeit with a differing business model. Community Manager Lance James was on hand at the developer session to explain that End of Nations will make money by charging for micro-transactions and went on to specifically talk about army skins as the main product available for purchase. Skins, yes skins, a vanity item that will make your units look a little different! When questioned further James admitted that other items such as a “1 hour XP boost” will be sold along side the skins. It seems like Trion are still working out the whole transaction thing so watch this space.
It is clear that Trion are looking to capture a large audience by catering for both the causal and hardcore RTS player, but in the process seem to be sending out a mixed message. Community Manager James explained during the dev session that a player that has been playing for a considerable amount of time can lose to someone that has just picked up the game, a statement met with confusion from the Expo crowd. James then corrected himself explaining that players that have been playing for a good amount of time will have unlocked more units and improved those units so will have an advantage.
It is all rather confusing, End of Nations is targeting two sets of players and is in danger of missing both. Any statement which is meant to appeal to the casual, seems to alienate the hardcore and vice versa.
End of Nations is certainly an RTS with a lot of promise, we can only hope that in the coming months (which includes a Beta period) are handled well and Trion focus their efforts in one direction.
End of Nations is a PC exclusive, it does not yet have a release date.