Massively takes its turn with Atlantica Online's new patch

As we waited on the conference call for the Atlantica Online developers to start our virtual press tour, a fellow journalist and I chatted about the possibilities of virtual tabletops. I told him about my desire for a real virtual tabletop game, one that would allow players to take turns setting up scenery, adding armies and destroying each other. Little did I know that I was about to see something that would make me feel the same satisfaction as a tabletop does, despite their being different in a few ways.

Atlantica Online's new patch will allow players to participate in the new Tactical Battle System -- essentially a turn-based strategy game of moving pairs of soldiers across a map, avoiding and setting traps, and defeating mighty enemies. During most of the interview, I found myself asking questions that were already covered, since I was just having too much fun playing the game to hear our hosts speak. Frankly, I wasn't embarrassed. After all, isn't becoming immersed in strategy the point of a game like Atlantica Online?

Read on and I'll tell you the details of what I found, including the scoop on the eagerly awaited housing system.

The Tactical Battle System

Atlantica Online exists in an alternate version of real world history. The nation of Atlantis rose up and tried to take over the world yet suffered a collapse. Now, Atlantis is rising again and your job is to stop it. The game is essentially a turn-based strategy game that pits you and your army of up to eight mercenaries against all sorts of enemies. Instead of performing normal "target and click" combat, you are clicking on an enemy and being swept away into a mini-instance to do battle. Your different mercenaries have varying abilities and traits, allowing you to customize your army. Strong soldiers might stay in front, while ranged characters volley from behind.

"To make the bodies of water, however, you will need to fight a certain enemy that will grow angry enough to cause a flood!"


With the new Tactical Battle System, players will have the opportunity to roam freely through a map with up to nine other players, each with his own mercenary sidekick. Essentially, you teleport to a map that features normal terrain and buildings. When it is the player's turn, you click on each of your characters and move them to any grid space within range. Once the characters are moved, you can attack an enemy or set up a trap. I thought that with a party of several people there would be issues with running over each other to get to the prime grid space, but instead I found that if a player had chosen the grid ahead of me, it was X'ed out. Controls were easy to learn and felt shockingly like a table-top game, without the six-hour turns!

Slowly, we advanced across the map, even falling into a fire trap at one point. If our characters were standing in the area affected by the trap, they suffered fire damage. We had the option to set our own trap, however, and simply pulled back to lure the enemy into the area. Payback tasted sweet.

This new system also features weather effects that will actually alter gameplay -- rain can flood areas, drown characters, and debuff fire damage; wind can increase fire damage. It added a lot of depth to an already-strategic game.

Buildings are also featured on the map, allowing players to gain buffs like speed or attack power, or to build vehicles like boats or catapults. Certain maps carry certain objectives and will require vehicles such as a galley to carry your troops across large bodies of water. To make the bodies of water, however, you will need to fight a certain enemy who will grow angry enough to cause a flood! Large-scale story arcs are also being rolled out that will take groups of players through epic storylines. I was thrilled to hear about more items that reminded me of those afternoons filled with a 4x8 piece of plywood, some scenery, and a group of friends.

MyHome

The MyHome system is basically what it sounds like: a home for players to decorate and socialize in. I have to admit that, upon first seeing the model home, I thought that it did not fit at all into the look and feel of Atlantica Online. Later, the devs will introduce other styles of homes, but we were told that they would all stay within the realm of realistic, modern homes rather than castles or caves. Even then, the system will probably suck up a lot of time for many players, and the homes that we saw were assembled with great care. A player can assign her mercenaries to do jobs within the home such as cooking or crafting furniture. The furniture is all functional, even allowing players to host tea parties, complete with a usable spread of food.

Players can also garden, visit each other, and hand out hearts to home-owners whose houses they enjoyed. After I spent some time in the homes, the idea really started to take hold of me. Housing is very popular in most games that have the feature and can be a real time sink -- I will bet that it will be no different in this case. It was also good to know that the items inside the house would be found in-game, instead of being purchased via cash-shop transactions. Overall I would say that, while it is a little odd in appearance when compared to the rest of the game world, the housing system was well-built and easy to understand, and it will probably take up several hours of my time. After all, who could resist assigning one of their mercenaries the task of doing dishes?

The update has a current release date of August 17th, so get your army (and your decorator) ready!

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This article was originally published on Massively.