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The Beginning of the End: Our First Hands-On Preview of End of Nations - Page 2

Updated Wed, Aug 18, 2010 by Ethec



Oman
We moved on to Oman, a level 50 PvE area in the Middle East that put our newly learned skills to the test. While the unit mix didn’t seem all that different (we were playing with pre-made templates) we had a lot more abilities, and enemy units seemed to respond much more intelligently (by fleeing towards allied units when low on hitpoints, for example).

In Oman we also encountered tougher unit types, such as Shadow Brigade units (which had substantially more hitpoints and offensive capability than comparable units - sort of EoN’s take on elite or heroic mobs), and a Panzer Hulk, a mammoth war machine with dozens of individual hitpoint bars.

End of Nations image
Light assault awesomeness.
Oman in general required much more group coordination for success than Magadan, and that makes a whole lot of sense. I would have been disappointed had this co-op RTS experience been do-able at high levels with lone wolves. That said, I’d have rather seen it as a demo because like any endgame encounter approached with a stock group of newbs, Oman was flustering. Without much in the way of unit saavy or group cohesion, our group spent most of its time chasing itself and being torn up by actively patrolling enemy groups.

By the time we actually rallied, our unit sets were ragged ghosts of their former selves.  I watched my units picked off one by one more than once, and when my set was totally wiped, I’d respawn at the starting point and have to go group chasing yet again. Thankfully, Gary explained that group-friendly systems like mission sharing are on the way.

PvP
We finished out the day with some 5v5 PvP action on the rainy Ground Assault map. PvP is a separate beast from the ongoing war with Order of Nations on the World Map: it wouldn’t do to have Rebellion forces wasting precious resources fighting each other. Lore-wise, PvP is a chance to hone your skills in simulated battles against opponents, and as occasionally frustrating as high-level PvE was, PvP was just as fun.

Ground Assault was a standard point capture map: two teams fought for control of five objectives, and scores tick upward faster corresponding to the number of objectives (and size of the objectives) a team holds. Visually it was a winner - tank headlights reflected on the saturated ground and rain streaked over the airfields, bunkers, resource areas, and sprawling center fortress.

For a twist, a nuclear weapon randomly spawned at one of the resource bases and, when used, was just as spectacular as you might suspect. Clear across the map, the screen went white, and a billowing mushroom cloud formed over the remains of someone’s unit convoy. Win button? Pretty much, especially if the same team happens to come across it a few times in a row. But the nuke can be a game-changer if the losing team can grab it and use it judiciously.

Hopes and Fears
End of Nations image
You want tanks? You got tanks!
Graphically, End of Nations is already a stunner. It’s become cliche to say that environments tell the story, but in EoN, environments tell the story of a what the next world war might look like, should the superpowers stop just short of pressing the big red button. Crash sites, bomb craters, beached battleships, ancient fortresses modernized with turrets and anti-vehicle dragonteeth emplacements, rundown airstrips, decrepit windfarms, and many more recent relics dot the landscape. And the level of detail is exquisite - rolling tanks leave tread marks which fade very slowly and tank headlights flick on in rainy or dark environments.

The UI is a point of concern at the moment, but it nearly always is at this point in a game’s development and should improve drastically with beta, given Petroglyph's attentiveness to even our early feedback. That said, there are major problems here. The buttons are far too small, and the icons, while distinct, fail to readily describe the effect of the ability. On the map, yellow select boxes appear beneath your allied players’ units and also AI-controlled allied units, making it difficult in passing to see whose units you should aid. Objective arrows appear and disappear for seemingly no reason, and both the minimap and full map are fairly inarticulate about mission objectives.

On gameplay, End of Nations faces the same problem that most run-and-gun style online games on big maps face: it’s incredibly hard to stick together and effectively work together as a group. With enemy groups attacking nearly constantly, there’s little time to rest and use one of the rejuvenate abilitiess (to bring back destroyed units) or use repair drones, then chat about what to blow up next. As a consequence, some form of voicechat will be required for EoN, as might a group of trusted friends for higher level content.

One thing is absolutely certain from my experience of End of Nations: as a co-op large scale MMORTS and as an accessible online PvP game, its got some rough edges, but it definitely works. Targetted for a 2011 launch, Petroglyph and Trion Worlds have plenty of time to focus on the game’s current quibbles, and I know I’m not alone in saying I can’t wait to see more of the game as it progresses.


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