Will End of Nations Begin an MMORTS Revolution?

New real-time strategy title wants to pack the battlefields in genre that has had few high-end challengers for market share.

The MMO field has become increasingly crowded over the last several years as more and more companies try to cash in on the popularity of a genre filled with the likes of World of Warcraft and other big-name franchises. But, while most continue to build on the RPG formula, few have taken on the challenge of satisfying the cravings of the real-time strategy gamer for a huge persistent world in which to play. Yes, there have been a few notable attempts, but most have been relegated to niche status.

Trion Worlds hopes to fill the big-market MMORTS void with its recently announced endeavor, End of Nations. Developer Petroglyph Games has a firm foundation in the RTS field, with many of its core team having had their hand in the original Command & Conquer games. After seeing the initial showing of End of Nations this past week, the imprint of its distant cousin is evident.

Set a hundred years in the future after the world's economy had bottomed out, players hit the battlefield to oppose those that have brought order from the chaos with numerous strings attached. When the game launches, players will be able to choose to play as one of three types of commanders: Tank, Artillery or Strike. Each commander will start as level one with a certain set of abilities and units at his or her command. Our demo focused on the tank commander, as the others won’t be unveiled in any depth until later in the development process.

When the game starts, players will be placed in the War Room. From here, they can access guild activities and friends list, the Black Market (a store for micro-transaction upgrades), and current in-game events, such as access to all of the battles currently going on in a specific warzone. When checking on your friends in-game, you will be able to see their battles as they progress before deciding to join in. Also from the War Room, players will have access to a CNN-style ticker across the bottom of the screen showing who has unlocked what achievements, won a battle or any of a number other events that are tracked during the persistent game play.

There will be no bases for players to establish when the game begins, as with a traditional RTS. Each player will have his or her own secret base that cannot be seen or accessed by other players. From this base, players will be able to drop their units into any War Zone they choose that is in their level range.

Commanders will gain levels from completing quests and destroying enemy units. War Zones will be targeted to the level of the player, and as players progress in levels, they will have access to new units, more war zones and more advanced technology, as well as the ability to increase the size of their fighting force. The game is based solely on vehicle and aircraft combat, so players will not have to worry about infantry. As with any MMO, players will be able to group up for quests or do them solo.

Players will not be able to take an unlimited number of units into a War Zone.  To keep the play balanced, each zone will allocate a certain amount of points to each commander and these points are spent on units that can be brought into the game. As the player destroys units, they will be able to loot technology, power ups or other items to add to their arsenals.

Certain War Zones will also have a player cap, depending on the size of the zone, but that has not been determined yet. The map I saw had at least 51 players on it, with spots available for more.  Game play moves fairly quickly. There didn’t seem to be any lag, although the demo was obviously tweaked for showing to the press. There was also a small "boss" battle where units joined in to take down a massive battleship-style land unit. The boss battles will be designed with certain puzzle elements to them that may require players to knock out key buildings or satisfy certain prerequisites before engaging the boss to make the battle winnable.

There are still plenty of unanswered questions. The game will have public and private instances, although details are a bit sketchy. There will also be PvP combat in specific areas. Other details, such as manufacturing and trade skills, are also not being talked about yet. The fee structure will require a monthly payment, as well as offer micro-transactions in-game through the Black Market, but again, details are unavailable at this time.

As an RTS fan, I'd like to see the game succeed. Petroglyph has a strong RTS pedigree and has the knowledge to pull off a solid game. The interface we saw looked slick, but there are still a lot of unanswered implementation questions. It is way too early to get overly excited, but what I did see piqued my interest enough to keep me watching this game until release. It's one thing to watch others play pre-determined show points, so I will be anxious to get my own hands on to see how the game plays beyond the promises, even if my RTS skills are mediocre at best.


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