The Firing Line: 16th century fragging edition


What do War Thunder, World of Warplanes, Leonardo da Vinci, and Tribes: Ascend have in common? Not a whole lot aside from their respective appearances in this week's edition of The Firing Line.

Won't you join me after the cut for a rundown on some recent and notable online shooter news? If you're feeling particularly ornery, you can point and laugh at the fact that I'm still not in the War Thunder beta.

Renaissance FPS

So Leonardo da Vinci and online shooters. Yeah, pretty weird combo, eh? I mean, the guy does provide Ezio with weapons in Assassin's Creed from time to time, but who knew he was also fragging up the streets of 1500s Italy along with 11 of his heavily armed bros? I'm talking about the newly re-christened Renaissance Heroes here, which is ChangYou's 16th century shooter formerly known as Da Vinci Online (yep, really). Thankfully, the publisher has wisely scrapped that unwieldy moniker as it sets its sights on Western audiences.

And you read that right: The title is a shooter set during the Renaissance (albeit a Renaissance that's been heavily re-imagined). Still, though, points for originality, amirite? It's got the Unreal Engine 3, a free-to-play business model, and what ChangYou is calling "old school arena-styled FPS gameplay."

Twelve-player matches are standard, as are the usual FPS modes like deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture-the-flag. There's a ranking system, hundreds of achievements, progression in the form of experience and in-game currency, and a unique roster of shooter weapons that includes crossbows and battle hammers.

Renaissance Heroes
is the brainchild of a Korean company called Bridea, which is staffed by veterans of the ill-fated Huxley MMOFPS. The new game's backstory features an alternate history in which da Vinci has invented a machine that could change the world. After his death, plans for the contraption are lost, and rival factions fight pitched battles to recover them. ChangYou says to expect the game's closed beta this summer. Plenty of gameplay footage is available via the latest trailer embedded above.

Tribes: Tartarus

What would a Firing Line news edition be without a blurb on Tribes: Ascend? Incomplete, that's what. Hi-Rez has updated its free-to-play shooter yet again this week. The latest patch is called Tartarus after one of the new maps, a sprawling CTF affair with huge landscape features that bear some gameplay resemblance to Katabatic and Drydock.

Hi-Rez's new dev preview video emphasizes Tartarus' organic design (as opposed to the hard sci-fi so prevalent in Tribes' previous maps). What's in a name, though? Well, the Tartarus is a 1000-year old ship wreck that sits near the center of the map, and it holds some mysterious something that Diamond Sword and Blood Eagle types are willing to kill for.

The patch also features a new arena map called Hinterlands, which continues the organic theme and even kicks it up a notch thanks to various types of bio-luminescent plant life. Gameplay-wise, the map lacks inventory stations (yes, that's on purpose). Finally, Hi-Rez has added a new loadout feature for those of you who want to hot-swap between custom class perk and weapon presets. Each loadout will set you back 40 GP or 5200 XP.

The Tartarus patch also brings about several balance changes. You can read about those via the full patch notes on Hi-Rez's help site.

Oh, and before I forget, Hi-Rez has also sent word that it's ramping up Tribes' e-sport schedule for the summer. The company is partnering with several third-party networks (including TwitchTV and NASL) to sponsor tournaments totaling $30,000 in prize money. The first of these events happens tomorrow at CSN. Hi-Rez is also planning to bring Tribes match livestreaming directly into the game client, and I'll have more info for you on that as soon as it becomes available.

World War II flight sims

In World War II flight shooter news, released the first heavy fighters information for World of Warplanes this week. The info dump came in the form of a new video that shows off several of the heavies (which are currently limited to the game's German tech tree).

Also noteworthy are the first screenshots of War Thunder's bomber aircraft. Wait a minute, what's War Thunder? You might remember it as World of Planes, an upcoming simulator from a Russian dev studio called Gaijin Entertainment and the heir apparent to the seminal Sturmovik series.

War Thunder's bombers thus far include the Russian-made Tu-2 and Er-2, and Gaijin has front-loaded the game's web gallery with seven gorgeous screenshots of the birds in action. War Thunder is taking a more realistic approach to online World War II flight action (as opposed to World of Warplanes' arcade style). It's also expanded its original aviation-centric design and branched out "beyond pure aerial combat."

The title is also flying well under most Western gamers' radars, but that's not for a lack of trying on The Firing Line's part. One of these days I hope to bring you guys some reports from the closed beta, but for now I'm relegated to pressing my nose against the glass and screaming "let me in!"

Until next week.

The Firing Line's Jef Reahard has a twitchy trigger finger, a love of online shooters, and an uncanny resemblance to Malcolm Reynolds. OK, maybe not, but at least if he ever kills you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing him, and you'll be armed.