End of Nations - The Beginning of the Next Great RTS Era
When I had my first opportunity to play End of Nations last summer at E3, it was much more of a hybrid RTS/RPG title. In the time since, Petroglyph has made some fairly sweeping changes to that formula to the point where EoN still retains some core RPG elements, but the game is now much more of a true RTS enthusiasts wet dream.
One way of looking at it might so something like this. Imagine taking the best single- and multiplayer that the RTS genre has to offer, but placing it into a persistent world so that you can experience all aspects of gameplay on maps with dozens of other players at any given time. Then remove the drudgery of building up a base and taking a nap while you build up enough resources to actually engage anyone in combat, but still allow players to customize the unit load-out they want to use on a given map.
End of Nations neatly bundles each of these things into one killer gaming experience, making it a much more clearly definable MMORTS experience than weve seen in previous iterations. A minor downside here is that for non-RTS players there will still be a bit of a learning curve to overcome. A good example would be EoNs UI and control schemes which now much more closely fit with what RTS players are accustomed to. Even taking that into account, EoN still offers the kind of persistence and character development that makes MMO gamers' socks go up and down. Unit customization is also par for the course, and at any time players can opt to join in either PvE or PvE maps.
I was sad to see that the ability to build up and customize a non-combat home base was removed from the game, but as I learned at PAX it was ultimately a bit too far down the RPG rabbit hole than Petroglyph wanted to go. Considering that EoN is already attempting to push the RTS genre into massively-multiplayer territory, it does make a certain amount of sense that Petroglyph would want to shy away from muddying the genre waters to the point where gamers werent quite sure what to expect from core gameplay.
As noted above, the UI in EoN has been completely revamped to account for this shift, and has become far more accessible as highlighted in earlier event appearances this year. While my RTS-Fu was a bit rusty during my hands-on time with the game, the PvP match I participated in on the PAX show floor certainly left a very positive impression on me.
The map we played on was very reminiscent of standard MOBA maps, in that each team needed to build up the defenses of its base while attempting to push across the map to take out the base of the enemy team. Spanning the gap, a number of capture points presented us with a number of tactical options. Two of these points would allow your team to set a new respawn point closer to the enemy base, while other points needed to be captured to allow your team to build up resources more quickly.
Resource usage represents yet another layer of tactics in EoN, as it will be your means of bringing defeated units back into the battle, as well as giving you the ability to place an assortment of turrets, or even drop nukes on the heads of your enemy. Additionally, you can spend resource points on upgrading your bases defenses and turret capabilities which is something most teams will want to coordinate early on in matches.
All great stuff, and well organized teams will no doubt come up with all sorts of wacky methods of securing victory in the live game on this map type. As with traditional RTS, unit selection will also factor heavily into combat scenarios, but in End of Nations you wont ever get bogged down with having to build specific structures to use associated unit types.
As my demo match progressed, my team managed to push our way to the enemy base, but our efforts proved to be too little, too late. In a smart tactical move, the opposing side allowed its base defenses to hold us at bay long enough to flip the respawn and resource points mid-field before doubling back to wipe us out. By the time we were ready to mobilize for another big push across the map, the enemy team began boxing us into our base, ultimately securing victory for their side in the process.
It isnt often that I walk away from a show floor defeat in high spirits, but by the time my team had been defeated Id gotten a much better feel for the core gameplay and was left with a strong sense of wanting more.
The Hype Factor
The recent announcement that End of Nations will be free-to-play certainly helped pique gamers' interest, and it was interesting to see the thats awesome reaction to the business model from PAX attendees when theyd learn about it for the first time.
End of Nations is going to appeal to hardcore RTS fans in a big way, and will no doubt also inject new blood into the genre thanks to its massively-mutiplayer hooks. The game has come a long way over the past year, and was easily one of the highlights of PAX Prime 2011.