E3 2014: Hands-on with Skyforge, World of Speed, and Armored Warfare

I won't lie: I went to an E3 meeting with publisher thinking only of Skyforge. I'd heard about Armored Warfare and World of Speed, but I didn't expect much from either title. I'd seen tank games and racing games trying to move into the MMO sphere, and while they were sometimes interesting, I didn't pay a whole lot attention.

And ultimately they weren't as interesting to me as Skyforge, but I did walk away thinking they are titles that will appreciated by a portion of the MMO audience.

Armored Warfare

Almost as soon as I sat down, I saw an Obsidian employee talking to another journalist as we were being prepped for our demo. I called him over and asked the most obvious question. Why is Obsidian, a company that does RPGs, making a tank game?

The answer I got was fairly simple: the team is a fan of many genres, so they took the opportunity. I laughed and dove into my demo, playing as an artillery tank (think snipers). The obvious comparison here is World of Tanks, and AW has tanks more as classes rather than... well, some sort of historical recreational thing in tiers with cluster customization. Instead of upgrading various guns individually, you just upgrade the look and effect of all your artillery.

Even though the demo didn't let me customize my tank, the option to visually change so much-- from camo to personal satellite defense systems-- made me feel like my tank could be mine, as long as I made it play as its class role. That may sound restricting, but as someone new to the genre, I wanted something I could understand, and as a modern MMO player, I understand classes. It certainly made it easier for me to figure out what to do during the battle, as did the objectives list that I got specifically for my role. An artillery satellite view made things feel almost like an RTS, but in a good way. Other players spotted for me, and I blasted from afar. What was really interesting was that the game has PvE modes, unlike the competition.

Armored Warfare is currently in alpha, so when I asked about guilds or power-ups, the team was pretty tight-lipped. Same goes for monetization. The current idea is that players should be able to at least earn various types of customization options for free while premium options could still exist for those with cash, but everything is still up in the air.

World of Speed

I tried The Crew last year and was reminded that, well, I'm not very good at realistic racers. I like the idea of the genre growing, though, and WoS has some interesting ideas that I can get behind. It doesn't have a persistent world like The Crew, but it still has other objectives besides winning a race.

There are "car groups" instead of guilds, and the game will include a way for said groups to take over territory. What that means for players is a question that can't currently be answered, but it's an interesting concept.

In terms of handling, I felt like WoS is far kinder to a newbie driver than sim-oriented titles. I raced two versions of one car and while I still wouldn't be insurable in this game, my car didn't flip over and catch fire nearly as easily as it did in The Crew. World of Speed isn't meant to be ultra realistic, and as a casual racer I prefer that! Being able to choose any spoiler or giant hood-ornament that I want is pretty appealing, too!


Last but not least, I got my hands on Skyforge. The game's still in alpha, so a lot of my questions couldn't be answered, but what I saw and played was a bit better than I expected. My character was more powerful than he needed to be for the content I was given, but I got to see a bit more of the game's style as a result.

While combat's been done all to hell in this genre, the one thing I really like about Skyforge is its flexibility. For example, the Cryomage played similarly to what you'd expect from Guild Wars 2, with a handful of moves and an ultimate ability. It was fun and stylish but I'm more of a tank guy, so I tried the Berserker. He was tanky, he had kind of a chainsaw move, a whirlwind attack that drew mobs in, and a leap ability.

The controls were pretty different, though. Instead of GW2-style combat, I got DC Universe Online combos, which made me chain moves together using right and left clicks in a certain pattern to change my attacks. This was both jarring and refreshing. Jarring in that I'm used to having to switch games to change styles, but refreshing in that.... well, let's be honest, this genre's controls are becoming simpler and simpler, though not exactly easier. Supposedly, every Skyforge class will play very differently from every other. For example, one class (I think it was the Gunslinger), had two different weapon modes he could switch between.

Having multiple yet simple controls for different classes helps freshen things up within a single game. That's great because potentially, if you decide a family and a job aren't for you, you could unlock every skill of every class in the game if you played long and hard enough. There are no levels and no need to reroll, and those are two things I can get behind.

Things are interesting even before you get into the combat, though. Before choosing a planet to fight on, you get a god's eye view of the world. That is, you get to see what events are going on and how long until the next event opens up. You'll be able to sort by type (i.e., PvP only, if you wish) and then jump into whatever kind of activity suits you best.

We still don't have the full details, but crafting in Skyforge isn't supposed to be as simple as it is in many other MMOs. I was told was that it ties into your followers. But let me back up. You don't start out as a god in Skyforge, that's simply your aim.

Initially you're just immortal (I'd settle for that, but maybe I'm too easy to please). Through your deeds, you'll gain followers who "believe in you," which is how you'll eventually attain your godhood. At that point, your followers can become more powerful themselves. Obsidian says that those followers will tie into the crafting system, and that the complexity is enough that the team wants to visually show it when it's ready, since words alone would make it seem too complicated.

In terms of customization, Skyforge is rather robust. We changed classes on the fly, within the same dungeon (though only out of combat). Changing classes changed our weapons, but our character's appearance didn't really change. If you want to be a robed wizard and then a robed berserker, you can do that. If you think you only need to wear half a shirt when standing toe-to-toe with mobs or when dropping mortars, you can do that. What you can't do, however, is pick and choose talents from anywhere in your tree. Like many games, there's a certain order you have to follow to unlock moves.

The game also has fatalities for when enemies are low on health. You can't spam them, and they just finish off something that's maybe one or two moves away from death, but it's nice to have on low-end mobs. One interesting thing about the fatalities, though, is that they grant your character a buff. It wasn't something I was expecting and it was a nice addition. The combat felt demanding enough that I wasn't falling asleep, but it wasn't so hectic that I would have been afraid to type. Since it was a demo with a powerful character, though, that's subject to change.

At the end of a Skyforge instance you get a stat screen, kind of like at the end of a battleground. It will show completed bonus objectives, various rewards, etc. It made the game feel a bit more like a console title, but the action-oriented combat already had a healthy dose of that, so in some ways it makes a lot of sense.

Again, Skyforge is in alpha, and Obsidian is mostly showing off its combat. But as someone who's done combat to death, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. For more on Skyforge, don't forget to take a look at our E3 screenshot gallery!

Massively's on the ground in Los Angeles during the week of June 10-12, bringing you all the best news from E3 2014. We're covering everything from WildStar and Landmark to Skyforge and H1Z1, so stay tuned!