E3 2014: Hands-on with Black Gold's PvP

It can be hard to demo an MMO at E3. Some studios stick a bunch of journalists together and have us try an instance, which can be fun or, if the worst of us ends up taking a key position, it can be rather frustrating. Other studios let you into a questing area but, to be brutally honest, these usually feel pretty stale compared to the nearby console games that let you do more than kill 10 goblins.

Snail Games broke from the mold by letting us PvP in its upcoming Black Gold Online MMO, and while there were some issues, I felt a bit more confident about the title than I did last year.

Steampunk vs. fantasy is the main draw here, but the classes don't quite match up. For example, both sides have an off-tank , but one side has more of a caster off-tank while the other gets an assassin off-tank. The mounts are still one-to-one in matches, and each one has a sort of rock-paper-scissors mechanic that players need to consider when picking a vehicle. Once your craft is destroyed, you have a short amount of time to rebuild it before you lose it and have to start from scratch. It sounds rather painful, and it probably is, but for me, it means a healthier economy and a bit less zerging.

Speaking of zerging, Black Gold does push PvP a lot for its endgame. Yes, there's crafting and exploring, and yes, you can level up by PvP alone starting at level 15, but I was candidly told that that's not the optimal progression path.

This was somewhat disappointing, but at least the PvP itself is interesting. First, there's factional warfare. Over the weekend, factions fight for territories containing black gold, the game's main resource. One a faction claims a territory, the factions battle to control the flow of the black gold. The leader of the winning guild gets the rewards do distribute (or not) as she sees fit. What this means is that players can form alliances or hire mercenaries and pay for the services immediately.

It's not some sort of achievement system or passive buff that only helps the guild (though the black gold does power guild bonuses). However, one slight flaw is that currently, if a mega-guild were to simply control the whole map, they could unlock all the guild bonuses and provide them to their own members. Maybe it will happen, or maybe egos will prevent that. I suppose we'll see as the game enters open beta (no wipes, by the way).

For those worried about potential translation issues like those found in Snail's Age of Wushu, so far, so good. I took my time reading a few quests and dialogue boxes to check on this, since it was one of the things that really prevented me from enjoying AoW. The lack of a Wuxia setting probably helps in this case.

The cash shop still uses kind of a complex system that I barely understand, but I don't feel pressured to use it anyway, though that could change if I like the finished game and have a weekend free to grind dungeons.

Finally, it looks like crafting is still group-oriented, and it requires you to work with others or have multiple characters/accounts, but not nearly to the extent that AoW does.

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!