Developer: Perpetual Entertainment
Release Date: TBA
When Stieg Hedlund, lead designer of Diablo 2 and a designer that worked on Starcraft, makes a new game, you had better sit up and take interest. And that (making a new game, not sitting up) is exactly what he's doing at Perpetual with the upcoming MMORPG Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising. Set in a classical world of myth and legend (roughly 300ish B.C. in ancient Rome), players will become elite Roman heroes literally descended from the gods themselves during the rise of the Roman Republic.
Expect this game to be heavily quest-driven, beyond even the current benchmark for a quest-based MMORPG World of Warcraft. Questing is fun, and when done properly can provide a level of immersion into and connection with the game world that other forms of interaction fail to provide. Combat is going to be the primary focus here as well; no trade skills or professions of note are planned at the current moment. Combat has a twist, though – as a hero of ancient Rome, you tend to attract followers. In the game, this means that you'll be able to recruit troops to help you, from simple soldiers to mythical beasts such as minotaurs or skeleton warriors raised from the dead. These followers form squads with you and fight at your side (or in front of, or behind, depending on your mood; formations are highly customizable). Up to eight followers can be in your squad at any time, meaning that if you get some of your buddies together and they all bring their entire complement of squaddies, you could very well have a small army.
This focus on squad combat provides a fresh and interesting (and dare I say innovative) approach to MMORPG combat. On the downside, the individual combat I saw in the demo was not particularly exciting, consisting mainly of auto-attacking and using a few special attacks that seemed to be a lot like auto-attacking but slightly more damaging. Hopefully, either the squad combat will be complicated enough to make the fighting interesting and strategic, or the individual fighting will be bumped up a notch before release.
Characters can be one of six classes (Gladiator, Soldier, Rogue, Scout, Mystic, or Priest), and though all characters initially must be human (and Roman to boot), there are plans to have additional choices made available in later expansions. Customization will be significant, with almost an infinite number of variations of look (due to a multitude of slider bars for most facial/body features). On top of this, the color of clothing and armor can be either completely or partially changed according to user preferences. Even more exciting, your followers will reflect the colors on your main character, allowing your own little personal army to have their own distinctive look. Very cool indeed.
Advancement follows three different paths simultaneously, a first for any MMORPG. There is the standard leveling and raising of skills and ability in your chosen class. However, on top of that, you'll also be advancing your God Powers and Leadership. As the son or daughter of the gods and goddesses, you have the ability to wield divine might, depending on which of the 12 deities you choose to affiliate yourself with, serve, and worship. As a hero, you'll lead your followers as they form squads under you. These followers will exist inside your personal encampment until you have need to call them forth to fight with you, and the followers themselves, along with your ability to command them, will improve with time and effort.
A major element of this game is the idea of dynamically instanced zones. It's understandably quite hard to be a hero in an MMORPG, what with all of those other pesky "players" who have got it in their heads that they are heroes too. Let's face it, being the 17th guy in line to slay the dragon and save the village (receiving their eternal thanks and gratitude, yada yada) doesn't feel all that heroic at all. Nor is it all that great for the villagers either I imagine, who then have to kiss the collective asses of every wannabe hero on the server, multiple times an hour.
The solution? Dynamically instanced zones created for players and groups. These zones (your encampment is one example) can be tailored to contain any sort of scripted events or randomly generated content that the devs may wish, allowing you or your group to be the heroes (of your own little microcosm, perhaps, but hey, it's a start!). While the idea of instanced content is nothing new to MMORPGs, the scale on which Perpetual hopes to take it with this game is beyond what's come before. Imagine instanced gladiatorial arenas set up for duels between players or groups. Imagine any number of things the developers can come up with to provide fun (the #1 goal) to the player base. By keeping things flexible, content can easily be created/generated, keeping the game relevant for much longer than it could be otherwise.
The quests should provide a ton of content for players to work through, but the devs understand the need a lot of players have for a strong PvP system to provide a backbone for the PvE content, especially at the endgame, where the PvE content usually starts to wane a bit. This doesn't mean that there won't be plenty of PvE stuffs available, but for those of us natural born PKs out there, it's nice to know they are at least thinking about us and our desires.
Personally, I'm looking forward to this one. It looks good, and the developers aren't afraid to acknowledge when other MMORPGs (such as WoW) are doing things right, and they also aren't afraid to take element that have worked well in the past and incorporate them into their game. Innovation is a funny thing – you need it to give people a reason to choose to play your game, but Occam's Razor and the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," still apply as well. With Gods & Heroes, I feel they are innovating by building a strong foundation and building new, interesting concepts on top of it. All too often, I see games where the concrete foundation gets replaced with sand simply in the name of being different, and then people wonder why the house they build on top won't stand up.
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