Technology has been creeping into fantasy MMO settings with increasing frequency over the years. For example, Guild Wars 2 has its engineer class and tech-obsessed asura race, while RIFT sets the introduction of technology on center stage as the dividing line between factions. However, in both those cases the tech has crept into everyday culture and either been embraced or outright rejected.

Heading into E3 2013 I knew very little about Snail Games’ upcoming Black Gold outside of having some very distinct steampunk elements. As it turns out, a major aspect of the game centers on what happens when you add both steampunk and fantasy into the same setting, but create a very literal dividing line between the two.

The game world of Black Gold, Montel, is roughly 300 square kilometers which is a sizable chunk of virtual real estate. On the western end of the map you’ll find a distinctly steampunk setting that plays home to the Kingdom of Isenhorst, made up of the more mechanically flavored races in Black Gold, including Dwarves, Steam Humans, and Vampires.

Black Gold is Pretty

Interested in a better look at the game? Check out our Black Gold image gallery!

On the eastern end of the map the world is still very much a natural or fantasy setting with lots of forests, brighter colors and a predominant use of stonework. The folks who reside in these parts, The Union of Erlandir, include Koshans, Eldritch Humans, and Barbarians.

Towards the middle of the map these two worlds quite literally collide, with the Ellescadia Mountain Range forming a neat split between East and West. This split is significant as this sets up not only a very interesting premise for PvE gameplay, but some interesting implications for PvP as well. During my hands-on time, I got to experience a small slice of each.

Witch vs. Meathead: Fight!

As is fairly common for show floor demos, I immediately got the sense that the Witch character I was playing was a bit more resilient and badass than it might normally be. This point was driven home as I found myself squaring off against a giant mechanical beast called Meathead. The thing was huge and loved doing plenty of AoE and knockdown attacks.

Black Gold

The witch I was playing was a bit of a cross between healer and DPS. As has become the norm in MMOs these days, my options in combat were streamlined into a single bar of skills, with roughly half populated by heals which came in handy as the fight progressed. Given the sheer size of Meathead, try as I might I couldn’t quite get out of range of some of the AoE attacks. Either way, the entire fight definitely kept me on my toes, or more accurately, rolling around in the dirt as I attempted to make ample use of the other recent MMO staple include, the dodge system. Eventually I whittled Meathead’s health down and collected a massive pile of loot for my efforts.

Fantasy vs. Steampunk PvP

What was perhaps more interesting to me was the PvP arena I stepped into shortly after helping Meathead take a dirt nap. Instead of hopping directly in and attempting to beat the snot out of other players the old fashioned way, I was able to instead hop into a very steampunk flavored mech.

Black Gold Characters

At this point the game changed on some very fundamental levels, as you might expect. For starters, combat was in first person view and I was given two new attacks. These were pretty basic, with a left mouse click doing direct damage while a right click lobbed a bomb to do some area damage. Of the various mech types available on the steampunk side, mine ended up being more of a fast moving, light armor type. This allowed me to strafe out of the way of the repeated slowing attacks being lobbed my way by the fantasy side’s Frost creature.

The trick, apparently, isn’t to just destroy the mech or creature of your target, but to get them out in the open without the added layer of protection. In other words, defeating other players directly is largely how you’ll advance in PvP or earn shiny new things for your own character.

First Impressions

While my hands-on time with Black Gold was relatively brief, it certainly piqued my interest. The setting alone has a lot of potential, and is at least unique in the sense that it essentially offers two games bundled into one depending on which side of the fantasy / steampunk divide you opt to play on. I would note that the combat did feel a bit stumpy, but then again, I was at least partially at fault since I didn’t have the luxury of time to learn proper usage for most of my skills.

We’ll continue digging deeper into what makes Black Gold tick following the event, but in the meantime be sure to feast your eyes on the rest of our coverage from E3 2013!

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Sardu 1
Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.