Fans grown tired of waiting for an MMOG based on the Fallout
franchise might have reason to rejoice. Grimlands,
a Gamigo-published title under development by Drago Entertainment (makers of
the successful yet Eurocentrically marketed RTS Earth 2150
series) made it's debut at gamescom 2011. While Grimlands
might not have the licensing rights to Bethesda's runaway success, the
games looks to preserve much of Fallout 3's
flavor and quasi-sandbox spirit and (despite some polarizing
concessions to the Borderlands-inspired
cell shaded look) significantly improves upon its graphics.
Shown in pre-alpha state at gamescom, Grimlands is centered on the American southwest. Some might prefer a post nuclear scenario - radiation is a useful plot device in a dystopian game - but Drago opted for a civilization-unravelling megaquake. That doesn't mean that natural disasters won't carry their own level of grim interest: gamigo’s Mathaüs Glinkowski hinted at weather effects such as acid rain caused, presumably, by widespread volcanic eruptions.
Crafting isn’t limited to the mammoth scale. Mathaüs explained that crafting is a way of life in Grimlands. Just like in Fallout, you find trash and make cool stuff out of it, but unlike Fallout, recipes are folded in with items. Pick up an item and you’ll learn what Players will be able to craft everything from weapons to upgrades to “buggies, trucks, jeeps, and even possibly tanks.” The latter vehicles will allow multiple players to jump in, and crafting gets pretty in depth – right down to a tradeoff between max and effective range on individual batches of bullets. In the larger sense, the economy will be based mostly on barter, just as you’d expect in a post-apocalyptic setting.
Grimlands going off the beaten path in terms of setting, but the gameplay looks to be pretty novel as well. The game has no levels and is entirely skill-based – if you tend to take a lot of damage, your character will (painfully) learn how to absorb it. If you slink around, you’ll get more stealthy and agile. if you pick up a shotgun, you’ll learn how to use it well, but if you pick up a pistol and use it primarily, interestingly, your shotgun skill will start to degrade.
Even more interestingly are two bars along the bottom of the UI that track your noise level and visibility. Firing a gun raises your noise level tremendously, while sticking to the dynamic shadows lowers your visibility. Grimlands might be the first mainstream MMO to incorporate a stealth system that works on both AI and player enemies. PvP will be a core part of the game, obviously, but if players don’t want the player killing experience, they can toggle off the PvP flag. The game will also feature a arena PvP, according to Mathaüs.
Fallout, however, the environment is what piqued my initial interest in Grimlands. Broken down windfarms, shantytown settlements, unexpectedly mood-setting vestiges of civilization’s golden age (things like, say, a gas station), and a fairly pristine, less-brown-than-usual desert were the highlights of the brief demo session.
Grimlands is also surprisingly close to launch. The Poland-based development team is aiming for a December closed beta with release in Q2 2012. My hopes for the game are manyfold – I love the setting and the game will appeal to those who liked the Fallen Earth concept but felt that maybe there weren’t enough community hooks or graphical appeal. But so are my concerns; RAGE might raise the post-apocalyptic bar uncomfortably for a game that looks very good but lacks the tight direction, single-player emphasis, and mammoth pocketbook of such a game. Still, Grimlands is definitely one to keep your eye on in 2012.