Jumpgate Evolution Hands-On Report: Can It Convert Old MMO Gamers?
If Codemasters and NetDevil were looking too appeal to the perfect
demographic at Jumpgate
Evolution Gamer's Day in San Francisco, they
shouldn't have invited me. For the past six plus years, I’ve
been hitting auto-attack on various dwarf and orc melee characters,
which is about as far from Jumpgate
as you can get. Jumpgate
Evolution is billed as an action-based spaceship MMO with
first-person-shooter-esque controller responses. At first sight, I felt
like a fish out of water.
But then I played the game.
Ten Ton Hammer's writers were definitely impressed with Jumpgate Evolution.
To create Jumpgate Evolution you need to take one part X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, and two parts MMO, add a dash of EVE with spicy action, and season with PvP to taste. This recipe can serves thousands of FPS, traditional MMO and consoler gamers due to its minimal system spec requirements. NetDevil may be onto a recipe for certain success, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s get some more of the basics out of the way.
The graphics in Jumpgate Evolution are very well done, but in this day and age they had better be! The ships look great and there are a wide variety of planets that show a real depth of artwork. The jumpgates themselves look amazing, especially when you go flying through them. Don’t forget to check out on of the stars up close and personal, because these churning balls of fusion are nothing short of magnificent. Wear some sunglasses so you don’t burn your retinas.
The MMO basics that everybody comes to expect (but many developers forget) like a mail system, auction house, and guild mechanics are all included. In addition to text chat, the Dolby Axon voice chat will be integrated into the game. And it has to be, because the action is fast and furious and it is impossible to communicate via text chat for battle situations. You need your hands on the controls.
The voice chat system will allow players to join into easily formed groups when they enter a co-op friendly environment while still maintaining their guild voice chat. There's essentially a way to listen in to different chat channels and then toggle which ones you will be speaking in. So if I’m in a zone with a group quest and join up with another ship (check out the “No KSes here” section below) we can chat via voice while I’m still listening to what my guild is up to, so I won’t miss anything. Pretty slick set-up, if you ask me.
No KSes here
The NetDevil team is keenly aware that there could be an issue when there are many ships in a single area looking for a single target or set of targets. The Jumpgate Evolution system is designed to auto-group ships on the same quest to facilitate objective completion. Once grouped, players may stay together and continue to quest or go their separate ways, but either way they get credit for what they did together. It's almost like a more realistic version of public questing!
Producer Michael Rowland was heavily involved with Lord of the Rings Online, and it definitely shows through in some of the "deed"-type Combat Medals players receive in Jumpgate. Combat Medals are awarded for various endeavors and open up abilities or provide other rewards. It's just another type of system that the NetDevil developers have been working so long to create.
Plenty of Room to Grow
Speaking of content creation, the game has an immense variety of ships and hundreds of upgrades and specialties that can be applied to those ships. The completionists and min-maxers will have plenty of material to chew on if they delve into this MMO. For the rest of us, the combat is easy to “jump” into (sorry I had to!) and yet the amount of complexity under the hood should provide enough depth to keep our interests high. With the use of space and Jumpgates, the amount of growth is limitless for the game as well.
There's plenty of room for growth in Jumpgate's universe.
But Is it Too Fast and Too Furious?
The gameplay in Jumpgate Evolution is amazingly tactile. The responsiveness of the ship is very good with a mouse and I imagine that it's much more fun with a joystick. The physics response is interesting as well; when the ship begins a turn it starts off gradually and then speeds up just as one would imagine a space vehicle doing. The concern I have for the game is that the frenetic combat could wear out the older MMO players (like me!) who are used to some downtime. I may have to train my mouse fingers to be able to handle this much excitement.
If you're looking for even more excitement, the game has consensual PvP zones in addition to all out PvP zones, so there is plenty of room to get your griefing on. In addition to the zones, there will be scenario/battleground type locations with specific PvP objectives that players can fight over.
I used to consider myself quite the carebear, but WAR changed a lot of those feelings. We did get to view the vastness of the galaxy maps with multiple zones within each, so the amount of content appears to be quite large. Some of my lingering questions include the balance of PvE and PvP content and if both sections will be compelling ways to level up. For that, we'll just have to wait and see.
So What Exactly Did You Do In There?
New players will be launched directly into the missions.
Your ship is in midflight and on a mission. The mission provides ample information for training the new recruits how to fly, target and of course destroy other ships. Knowing what to do was easy, but keeping the aiming reticule on the bad guys took some time. My FPS skills are a little out of date (last shooter played was probably Half Life…the original). Ten Ton Hammer's executive editor, Cody Bye, made fun of me as I chased the bad guys and shot harmlessly around them. [Editor's Note: You were supposed to shoot the bad guys not the asteroids around them. Duh.]
No bad guys were injured in the testing of my skills, but I did eventually get the hang of it and got through the first mission to earn my initial medal. The second mission was to investigate a space vessel and then fend off bad guys. The increase in AI skills was noticeable between mission one and two, but the NetDevil developers took out the fangs on those enemies and thankfully they didn't do much damage. I got shot a lot, but made it on to the next mission just fine..
Right Down the Middle of the Fairway
To be frank Jumpgate Evolution isn’t revolutionizing the way MMO gamers play and I don't think the NetDevil developers wanted to go down that path. It feels like a culmination of experiments from Auto Assault, WoW, WAR and LOTRO. The team took the features they enjoyed from each of these games and incorporated them into a very pretty, sexy, insert-shiny-term-here game. The team is very passionate about Jumpgate Evolution and it showed from the people greeting us at the door to each of the devs showing off the game.
And they have a reason to be proud. The starting zone that we had access to was very polished and a blast to play.
Since my time at the press event was limited, I saw only one tiny portion of the starting area for one of the three factions, so it is impossible to make any kind of "final judgement" on Jumpgate Evolution. But from that starting area of that one faction, I can say, with a degree of certainty, that I will be purchasing this game. The fun factor definitely grabbed me within the first few minutes, and I want to see how I can improve my ship, what other ships I can fly, and what the universe of Jumpgate Evolution holds for me. The teaser of a starting zone left me wanting more, and I can't wait to have it.