End of Nations has undergone some fairly radical changes since it was first revealed. Originally it blurred the lines between RPG and RTS a bit too much, resulting in a very cool game, but one that complex enough that gamers didn't quite know what to make of it. Over time, some of the RPG elements have been downplayed, while the RTS hooks have been refined to the point where I would describe EoN as being an RTS-Lite experience.
To expand on what that means a bit, consider it this way. Part of why MOBA games such as DotA and LoL have struck such a big chord with gamers is that they game type distills RTS gaming into the more action oriented components, leaving the repetitive and redundant process of base building on the cutting room floor.
In a similar way, End of Nations turns many standard RTS conventions on their ears, and cuts directly to the part where youre having awesome combat experiences. Not only that, but youre never going to hit that point where you realize you should have scouted better and just wasted 20 minutes building up an army that isnt viable against your opponents troops.
Checking in with the game at E3, it was interesting to see just how far the game has progressed since I had the opportunity to play it last summer. At that point the gameplay felt solid enough, but the UI was still in a pretty awkward place. On the one hand, shortcuts were readily familiar for hardcore RTS fans, but the overall UI was simply unintuitive for people who lack experience with the genre, or have only dabbled in that style of play.
Now, however, things have been polished up and tightened to the point where Id even go so far as to say the entire interface is not only incredibly slick, but hints at a direction I wish the rest of the genre would take notice of.
The layout of key elements are formed in hex patterns a visual queue that carries over across other parts of the game such as map regions and even the advancement systems. The on-screen display during matches is still a bit larger than what MMO players may be used to, but streamlined enough that it provides just the right amount of visual feedback to keep you focused on the action rather than playing the UI. Typically I find it pretty irksome to play the UI in RTS games, but dont really feel that will be an issue in End of Nations.
Things have been polished up and tightened ... Id go so far as to say the entire interface is not only incredibly slick, but hints at a direction I wish the rest of the genre would take notice of.
According to Petroglyph president Michael Legg, End of Nations will be entering beta in a few weeks, and from there its simply a matter of making any necessary balance tweaks and polishing things up in preparation for an August launch. Based on what we were shown this week, I definitely thing the game is in pretty good shape at this point, and cant wait to see what the larger gaming world makes of it during the beta.
Another thing that stood out for me is how far the Armory interface has come along since this time last year as well. Last summer the armory felt a lot more like an oddball take on player housing found in fantasy MMOs, albeit with a very distinct military flavor, and one that encompassed multiple structures rather than a single interior.
Now the armory looks and feels a bit more like the docks and fitting screen found in EVE which I consider to be a good thing. All relevant aspects of your units, upgrades and customization can be accessed from a single source, with larger display of highlighted units in the center of the screen. So as you excitedly apply the awesome bacon skin to your troops you can get a real sense of what an amazing spectacle a bacon tank truly is.
As always well be keeping a close watch on End of Nations heading into the summer. Its easily one of the best examples of thinking outside the genre box Ive seen in quite a while, and would recommend it to anyone who likes RTS on a conceptual level, but would prefer a lot more action and less micromanagement.
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