First Impressions: Gods & Heroes

I've seen the gameplay in Gods & Heroes before. I've played games that were built on the same idea with similar lore, and I've definitely tried games that featured the same kind of quests. I've seen a lot, to say the least, so I really like it when a game surprises me a bit. I'll be really honest and say that I don't really even like the ancient Rome setting. It's not fantasy enough for me, sort of like MMOs set in World War II. Or Canada.

Still, I was asked to take a look at Gods & Heroes, and so I did. Up to that point, I had heard a lot about it, but most of it was negative. It's buggy, they said. It's ugly, too. So you can imagine my surprise when I felt surprised when I logged in. Granted, there was plenty of blandness in certain areas of the game, but the estate system and NPC groupmates made me think that this team might just have something.

Click past the cut and I'll tell you more.

As usual, I asked for a higher-level character with which to try out the game. I have to look at a lot of betas, so a high-level character is useful not only to give me a glimpse at the later levels of the game but also to show me if the developers saved all of the good stuff for later. Betas can be very limited, so I try to see all that I can. Frankly, though, I'm not a fan of previewing betas. So many things can change between beta and release, and those same developers will probably want me to look at the game again when it launches a few months later.

Still, I sucked it up and logged in. Wow, I thought, it looks nice. It really does. Granted, it does have a "dated" feel to it, but Heatwave Interactive has put in quite a few bells and whistles while ensuring that the game is able to run on older, less powerful machines. Remember how much of an issue people made out of the fact that RIFT simply ran well? Playability goes a long, long way in these times of required upgrades. Frankly, I think people are getting really tired of having to spend a few hundred dollars on new hardware just to play a game that might potentially suck in a few months. Luckily, Gods & Heroes seems to run pretty smoothly.

My character was outfitted with three minions, waiting for command. I had a healer class, a mage type and a giant cyclops. While I did feel very powerful, in essence my NPC buddies were extensions of me. Mobs and groups of mobs were tuned to fight me and my NPCs, not me alone. So really, what is the advantage of having such an army at your disposal?

Well, the minions look cool. Sure, the developers could have just made my character that much stronger, thrown in some healing abilities, let him shoot fireballs while he swings his sword, and taken away the sometimes awkward mini-army, but c'mon... where's the style in that?

So I spent time running around killing things in terrific fashion. There were some issues, however.

First, the way the minions stay arranged around you, while adjustable, is annoying. As I turned, so did they. As I backed up, so did they. They felt glued to my side like a well-trained border collie. It was annoying when the giant cyclops blocked my vision no matter where I put him. It made my gaggle of sidekicks feel unnatural and robotic. Second, my group became stuck on terrain more often than not. If I jumped down from an incline, forget it -- they were lost. Luckily, this is only beta, so the mob AI is due for more tweaks.

The quests I was asked to perform were the standard kill-10-rats variety, with a little spice thrown in here and there. As an experiment, at one point I literally ignored the quest text, accepted the quest right away, and ran to the pinpoint on the map. I was able to quest like this, non-stop, for way too long. It was about as exciting as slightly burnt toast. Of course, there were a few bugs, some of them working to my advantage, but once again the beta tag prevented me from becoming too upset. Combat is nice-looking enough but generally standard stuff. I imagine the real pleasure will come from grouping with friends and their armies. Imagine a group of four or five players, all wielding three NPC monsters!

The real shining star of my time with Gods & Heroes had to be the estate system. Picture Lord of the Rings Online's instanced housing neighborhoods, but instead of owning one house in the neighborhood, you own all of them. The area of your estate probably equals a LotRO neighborhood in size. In the blank slate of your estate, there are NPCs who give you quests. As you complete these quests, particular buildings are slowly built a bit at a time. It's a really unique take on housing, and an epic one as well. My level 23 character had some of his estate already built up, but I was able to finish a handful of quests to see it built up more. While inviting friends to your estate is not yet enabled, the ability is coming in a future patch. Again I ask you to remember that this is only beta... who knows what will happen soon?

The estate system was thrilling and all by itself makes a look at the game more than worth it. I can imagine the developers including party decorations or furniture in the mix and giving social players like yours truly something to quest for. Yes, the cyclops and other minions are pretty cool, but the estate system really captured my interest.

So, let's recap.

Pros:
  • It's a pretty game, and it runs on slower machines
  • The estate system is probably going to be amazing
  • Minions can be very cool-looking and fun to watch
  • Ancient Rome is a fairly rare setting in today's fantasy MMO market
  • The mobs are awesome-looking and nicely animated
Cons:
  • Quests are standard stuff
  • Minions can become stuck on almost anything
  • Some terrain is annoying to get past
  • The setting might feel mundane if you want something more fantastical
  • Questing is too easy

This article was originally published on Massively.