seemingly down for
the count, it’s tempting to think that Black Prophecy
is a worthy stand-in. To view BP
in that light – just as a second-rate space shooter
substitute – is to vastly underrate the time and care that
Gamigo is putting into this project. From top-notch cutscenes that mask
zone loading, to high quality, fully localized voiceovers (the game
will launch in German and English), to a fully orchestral soundtrack, Black Prophecy
is unmistakably top tier.
And it plays well too. Unlike pew-pew space sims, Black Prophecy
is skill-based and will require you to be good on the stick.
Don’t expect to pilot massive dreadnoughts crewed by
thousands of faceless minions; in BP
it’s just you, your single seater, a small assortment of
tactics (or combo abilities – short keystroke based in-flight
maneuvers a la Snoopy Fighter Ace
and pure skill.
As Gamigo’s Dennis Hartmann created a character with the same
sort of photorealistic palette you’d expect from a game like EVE Online
he explained a bit about the backstory. Humanity, as seems to be our
sci-fi destiny, is searching for a new home. The twist is that part of
humanity, the Genides, saw fit to twiddle with human genetics to aid
the search. The opposing player faction, the Tyi, only relies on
technology – i.e. cybernetics and implants. A third,
non-playable human faction, the Sapiens, isn’t augmented in
any way, while a fourth, the obligatory bug-like alien race, will
oppose your every move.
Dennis started out in the opening stages of the game, a short tutorial
mission arc dubbed the Prologue. To accentuate Black Prophecy’s
skill-based nature, Dennis showed me the three perspectives available
to players – typical MMO-ish third-person view, a
surprisingly robust cockpit view, and a first-person view. Dennis
expressed a preference for first-person view, and I agreed –
this view offers the most real-estate for the game environment and
helps you keep your focus at the center of the screen.
Gamebryo has been used on lots of video game projects, from Oblivion
to Fallout 3
to LEGO Universe
It’s a versatile engine for open-world games, but this marked
the first time I saw it used in a space game. Projectiles chipped off
asteroids, missile vapor trails hung convincingly, spacecraft seemed to
respond with that comfortably non-Newtonian take on physics which is
all we can or should hope for nowadays.
In the look and feel department, I might have done with a smidge more
of that over-the-top rumbling, screen blurring boost or weapon damage
effect more common among arcadey space shooters, but now I’m
nitpicking. Making space visually interesting is one of the perennial
challenges of creating a game like Black Prophecy
and it’s one that Gamigo appears to be tackling.
Player progression occurs along levels and eight point-bought
attributes. Put more points into explosives and you’ll be
able to equip better missile launchers and missiles. Increase your
points in shields and more powerful, faster regenerating shields will
be unlocked for your use. Other categories include energy, mechanics,
ship, weapons, and hull, but tactics is worthy of a second mention.
Tactics is how you’ll unlock new combo moves –
everything from the simple - tapping W twice for a special
speed boost – to the complex, such as popping an immelman to
quickly end up behind and above your enemy.
Core gameplay in Black Prophecy
happens through missions. Three types of level-based missions are up
for grabs: PvE, PvP, and (with a nod to Aion) PvPvE. Players can fly
missions solo, in groups of up to 10 people, or in clans of even larger
size. Clans will have their own logos and ship decals, and can also
control Clan Stations – a limited number of discoverable
stations that offer better quality missions, crafting, and living
quarters. These stations come at a huge price, and maintaining one
means capturing and holding a small number of resource stations.
Crafting, using blueprints and components found in wrecks, is something
you can do aboard any station, not just clan stations. Plans
for an auction house are less certain. Without one at launch, players
will likely be relegated to competing with gold ad spammers for the
shout channel to hawk their goods. The item shop, however, will be in
full effect, offering paints, cosmetic items, and convenience goods
like experience boosts while omitting advantage items like new ships,
At launch, stations will be little more than graphical menus offering
no avatar interaction, much like those in EVE Online
But, like CCP, Gamigo has plans for a walking-in-stations project
But first comes beta, and Dennis is hopeful that US servers will go
online later this month. Until then, we’ll wait patiently
with dreams of x-wings and TIE fighters and the Wing Commander
series dancing in our heads. Thanks Dennis, and no pressure!