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.
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.
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
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.
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