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Massively's hands-on with Trion's End of Nations

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Trion World recently unveiled a wealth of new information on three of their current projects, including the MMORTS that so many fans have been wondering about. End of Nations is the newly revealed title of this game, and Massively enjoyed a firsthand look at it.

End of Nations promises to be a great blend of traditional MMORPG action play and MMORTS strategic play, something that could be tricky to deliver. Can they succeed in offering fans the best of both worlds? Follow along after the jump to see what we found when we played End of Nations.

So what makes End of Nations stand out from the crowd? "We're all about delivering information." A near-constant information feed about what's happening in the world and in your friends list is one of the salient features of End of Nations. You can track your friends at the top of your screen -- see what they're doing, join their games, and so on -- in an information source similar to that of XBox live. Furthermore, you will have access to your friends accomplishments in real time via an ongoing status update feed.

Speaking of accomplishments, want a bit of recognition if you reach a big milestone? A world news ticker along the bottom of the screen broadcasts the biggest achievements to everyone in game, so you may just see your name in lights.

"A world news ticker along the bottom of the screen broadcasts the biggest achievements to everyone in game, so you may just see your name in lights."

How about information beyond yourself and your friends list? The world map in End of Nations will show you everything that's currently happening in the world, around the clock. At any time, you can view all of the battles currently taking place (including specified information about where your friends are fighting), and jump into any of those battles. You'll also be able to look at RTS game replays as well as live games in progress, thanks to a client-server architecture. The team at Trion considers this a big advantage over the strictly peer-to-peer setup which has been standard in most previous MMORTS games.

The various information feeds keep you up to date on the latest information as you plan where and what to play, but your game will start in your secret headquarters. This aptly-named area is your home base, where all of your battles begin. You can build a variety of structures that influence your tactical gameplay and send you into battle with the strategy that you think is best suited to you. As you level up, your headquarters will become larger and more advanced, allowing you access to more technology. You can manufacture and research here as you grow and improve your army.

Vehicles are, of course, a huge part of your battle strategy and a place where players can have a bit of fun with customization. Vehicle sets are customizable on a large and small scale, from browsing available collections to see what you want to add to your arsenal, right down to vehicle color. Having trouble finding just the right component as you build your troops? Try looking outside the proper channels: players will have access to an in-game black market where they can buy goods for their army.
Once you've got your troops and vehicles, it's time to venture out of your headquarters and into combat. Joining a battle will give some realistic effects such as "area of awareness". You may look around and think the instance looks pretty empty and there's not much going on. Looks can be deceiving, however -- your enemies generally won't be standing around yelling "here I am, come get me" in real or virtual battlefields. A battlefield that appears deserted can in fact be packed with enemies, and you'll have to have the right equipment and technology to find the enemy units lurking about before they find you.

So what can you bring into battle to help out besides tanks and soldiers? End of Nations features a handy little tool called deployable structures. The Commander Control Center communicates with the base to send reinforcements from any deployable structure the player has built at headquarters. If a player has an airstrip, for example, they'll be able to communicate with their base to launch airstrikes on the battlefield. A large part of success in End of Nations depends on planning ahead and having a strong base to work from.

While planning, strategy, and preparation is where it all begins, venturing into battle in End of Nations will take you way beyond dry "move tank number three forward ten yards for your turn" gameplay. Once you've got your army built and ready to go, it's time to jump into actual combat, which is exactly what we did. We entered an area that contained a story that was well underway: a warship had run aground and the local populace was making heavy use of it. The locals were building around it, scavenging it for resources, and even using it for shelter. A work camp had been established by a faction known as the Order of Nations, who brought in scientists and engineers from all over. The entire area sets the stage for a rich collection of group missions such as liberating those in the war camp.

We explored the Order of Nations a bit more while we were at it. They're a high-tech faction and boasting technology such as research facilities, rocket facilities, and plenty of intimidating assets that are just begging to be sabotaged. As we ventured into their territory, other players joined us in varying stages of progress, jumping in and out to help as needed in true persistent MMO fashion. You'll find some other familiar MMO elements as well, such as bosses with respawn timers -- you know any boss with "Panzer" in the name is going to be pretty epic -- and puzzle elements. The game welcomes player groups of varying sizes, offering a variety of available maps depending on group size and level as well.

It's early days for End of Nations, and there is still a lot of work, progress, and polish to be made. However, the game is in full production, and the game has got a very clear direction and setup as far as where it wants to go.

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