As of this afternoon, NCsoft has lifted the NDA restricting discussion of the Exteel beta, so we thought we'd give you a run-down of our impressions of the game as it has progressed so far, including a gallery full of screenshot love from the tutorial through our first few battles in the open beta.
The basic gameplay mechanics really couldn't be any simpler. Movement is negotiated using the normal WASD scheme, and you can double-tap a direction to boost if you're packing the right equipment. Using weapons is a simple matter of pointing and clicking just like any other shooter; the only real challenge to negotiate at the most basic level is monitoring your weapons to make sure they don't overheat, in which case you'd be forced to swap them out for another pair until they've cooled off. Swapping weapons draws from your energy bar, which is also used for jumping and boosting. Mon
Of course, because the game also draws heavily from anime, there are tons of different weapon types and load-outs at your disposal. Everything from giant cannons to laser swords and shields can be strapped onto your mech and brought to battle. Aiming is a lot easier to accomplish than in a lot of games by virtue of the lock-on system, so success in multiplayer hinges on intelligent positioning and use of boosting. Most face-offs come down to who gets off the first shots and who can make most efficient use of cover.
Exteel has no story and no persistent world, no quests, and no story. Your primary portal to the game is the lobby, where you can access your mechs, buy parts, and view a list of games running at a given time. There are only a handful of gameplay modes, and they are are all far more reminiscent of shooters than they are anything "massive" - the game is largely dominated by people playing Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Survival. There isn't much variety, but what gametypes they have are quite fun.
Still, the game succeeds at its modest charge of being fast, light, graphically-impressive fun. NCsoft is planning to offer the game free of charge, with a cadre of different micropayment options available for new skills, weapons, and visual augmentations. It's a welcome change of pace for those of us who spend most of our time doing fetch quests or rep grinds, and did we mention it's free?
There's still no official release date for Exteel, but the open beta starts today if you want to give a try.