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PC Preview - 'Heaven vs Hell'

by Reldan on May 23, 2005 @ 5:07 a.m. PDT

In the mid-25th century, human technology has become so advanced that they have learned to manipulate the natural order of the universe and begin meddling in God's design. Humanity's arrogance infuriates God, so he plans to cleanse the Earth of mankind and start anew. The Devil, fearing his own loss of power wages Armageddon, the war to end all wars, for the remaining souls of men.

Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Publisher: TBA
Developer: TKO
Release Date: 2006

God is Pissed. And when God gets pissed, Satan gets cranky. And when Satan gets cranky, humans tend to die. So goes the premise of TKO's upcoming RTS, Heaven vs. Hell. Set in the not-so-distant future, God is finally fed up with his prized creation, man, abusing technology to mess with the fabric of creation and attempt to "play God" themselves. However, he has an idea to get the Divine Plan back on track – wipe out creation and start over. First, however, He needs to save all the humans on earth and take them up to Heaven.

Satan, as you may well imagine, isn't so keen on this idea. A lot … well, let's not kid ourselves … the vast majority of the souls on earth were heading to Hell before God decided to step in, and Satan's not going to let them go without a fight. Caught in the middle of this are the humans themselves, many of whom aren't so trusting of this "God," and certainly not of this "Satan." They don't really want to go to Heaven or Hell, and they've got the technology to challenge both sides. This all adds up to be one hell of a fight for control of all creation.

TKO has been working on the game engine for HvH for over a year now, and I must say that I was more than satisfied with the current state of things. The graphics and gameplay are both smooth even in the early version of the game I saw, and with the tentative Christmas '06 release date, TKO will have plenty of time to tweak and tune what is an already impressive engine. I look forward to seeing what they can come up with.

Camera control is completely under the control of the player, allowing for free rotation and zooming, granting the ability to view the game from any angle or distance they may wish. Units are well-detailed, even when significantly zoomed in, giving battles a sense of coolness that's hard to define. The terrain looks great and provides more than just a pretty backdrop for the action.

Each side – Heaven, Hell, and Humans – can completely change the tileset of the terrain for territory which they control. This controlled territory can provide benefits for the controller and detriments to any attackers, depending upon your faction and tech level. Hell's domain is full of jagged pools of lava and volcanic rock, while Heaven features pastoral greenery with flittering butterflies and fluffy bunny rabbits (well, maybe not the rabbits). The dynamic terrain control both looks very cool and may provide for an interesting game mechanic.

The basic resource in the game is brimstone, which is used similarly to money or gold in other RTS games to build buildings and recruit units. Brimstone occurs in patches reminiscent of the crystals in Starcraft, and appears to be collected in much the same way. Additionally, players build farms in order to increase their population cap, allowing for larger armies and more buildings. What's interesting and innovative here is the third resource – Primians, Neanderthal-like humans exiled from normal human society. Each side can "harvest" Primians in different ways (Hell tempts them into servitude with Succubi), and then can attach the Primians to their buildings, boosting up the buildings and the units produced by them in various ways. This has the effect of allowing players to customize the units in their armies to a degree not found in other RTS games.

The game will launch with a powerful editor allowing for diverse and detailed player-created content. It's a common idea that 90% of player-made content is absolute garbage, 9% might be good but never gets finished, and really only maybe 1% comes out golden in the end. However, history has shown time and again that given the right tools, players can produce some remarkably impressive content all on their own, content which at times can rival what even the professional developers come up with. Furthermore, TKO hopes that HvH will develop a strong mod community, and plans on fully supporting them when that time comes.

Multiplayer gaming will come in the form of LAN, peer-to-peer (probably TCP/IP), and over a proprietary gaming network that TKO plans on developing to support this game. Multiplayer game types may vary significantly, you most likely will see some sort of Capture the Flag mode among others, and of course there will be the standard game.

Definitely check back on this one over the course of the next year. Waiting a year and a half for this title may require the patience of a saint, but this game promises one hell of a ride.

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