While the rest of the Empires community was waiting in anticipation for that countdown to reach zero, Steamfriends had been invited for a testplay. So what do we think?
A Whole New Domain
First off, we can say with complete confidence that this is an original, worthwhile experience. Combining elements from both First-Person Shooters and Real-Time Strategies, ‘revolutionary’ probably isn’t the right word to use, but it’s definitely something fresh and new to the average Steam user. While one player takes the role of Commander, playing the map with a ‘Command & Conquer’ style interface, the rest of the team follow the Commander’s orders, FPS style. The Commander gives orders by selecting troops and then choosing areas that he wants his troops to enter, or enemies that he wants them to engage.
As well as ordering the squads around, the Commander must also construct buildings, some essential to the team’s cause, others to pull the victory closer to grasping distance. Most of the buildings are your standard RTS types, including a Refinery to add much needed resources to your team’s wealth and a Barracks from which your men will spawn. The Radar building provides the team with research facilities, which over time give upgrades to just about everything – your men, your vehicles, your weapons. The research element of the game is structured really nicely and can eventually determine whether a team wins or loses.
The Story itself is the typical ‘two factions struggle to take control of the land from one another’ anecdote – just think Command and Conquer’s original NOD v GDI malarkey and you’ve got the general gist of it. Each of these factions contains 4 different types of character that players can choose to take up and, of course, each class has their own abilities, roles and weaknesses. After gaining points by completing objectives and killing the enemy, players gain ranks and can use these ranks to acquire new abilities.
The Engineer is the most important class to begin with, as they have the ability to construct the buildings that the Commander places with great speed using their construction tool. Not only can this tool build, it also gives the Engineer the ability to destroy enemy structures.
They can also use this tool to build their own small buildings without needing help from the Commander, including turrets and radars. Once an Engineer has ranked up, he receives such abilities as being able to upgrade his turrets to be super-uber turrets and even the ability to revive fallen team-mates. Equipped also with a light submachine gun, a pistol and seismic grenades which do great damage to enemy structures, the Engineer is a formidable opponent.
The Rifleman is the perfect choice for infantry combat. Packing a powerful rifle, grenades or sticky bombs and a full suit of body armour, he’s the kind of enemy you don’t want to meet face to face on the battlefield.
Sticky bombs can be planted on enemy tanks to give devastating damage, so tanks need to beware too! After upgrading, Riflemen also get such skills as Dig In, which lets them take damage to their stamina instead of their health when crouched.
Armed with an RPG, the Grenadier is a tank’s worst nightmare. After firing a rocket, the player can either hold the fire button down to lead the rocket in the direction they want, or let go to send it off in a direct line.
He can also set the RPG down on the ground and use it as a Mortar cannon, which, when coupled with the Scout’s artillery call ability, can be shattering. He also carries mines, which can be placed down on the floor and will detonate when either an enemy soldier or vehicle come a-wanderin’. Once upgraded, the Grenadier can use a range of special abilities, including the Mine Defusal Skill, which allows them to walk onto enemy mines without danger and defuse the mines so that teammates can pass safely.
The Scout provides the stealthy approach. Armed with either a short-range machine gun or a long-range sniper and well as a choice of either smoke grenades, concussion grenades or sticky heat bombs, he is very well-rounded and good in most situations. He also has a set of binoculars, with which he can look into the distance and call for artillery strikes on areas. However the Scout needs to upgrade before he really shines. Once the Hide ability is selected, the Scout can then crouch next to a wall and become partially invisible. Depending on how many walls he is touching, he will become even more cloaked, making him an extremely powerful adversary.
The differences between these 4 classes make for complete different gameplay experiences and a team without at least one of each will certainly have a hard time. We found it all a little confusing at first, but soon began to realise just how well this all works. Each class works so well in it’s own right and no there is no one class which every player goes for – playing on a server of 32 players, it’s easy to see that everyone has their own method of play.