End of Nations, from Petroglyph Games, is a new genre hybrid that mixes elements from massively multiplayer online games with real time strategy titles to create a MMORTS that is just as confusing as it sounds. In the very brief time that we got to spend with the title, it seems as though Petroglyph is working hard to incorporate mechanics in to End of Nations that people coming from the MMO and RTS circles will both enjoy and be familiar with.
The demo we played was on a four-player co-op map called End of the Line. End of Nations’ largest maps can support up to 50 players at once, but this time around me and only three others were charged with liberating a fortress that was surrounded by lasers, turrets, and other nasty weapons that were trying to keep us out.
The game controls similarly to other RTS', where you can highlight a group of units by holding down your left mouse button, boxing them, and then telling them where to go by right clicking. Even though it's still in its early stages, I didn't think that End of Nations controlled very well. It was hard to click all of my units or even see where they all were on the mini-map. Plus, there was no way to hotkey my units to easily access their abilities, a mechanic that I find to be incredibly useful in other RTS games like StarCraft 2.
After jumping in to the map, the first thing I noticed about my units was how different they were from my companions' units. That's because in End of Nations, one of the MMO aspects of the game has you choose a faction, either the Shadow Revolution or the Liberation Front, and then you get a Commander; the combination of these elements will determine how your army looks.
The Commander is your personal character that stays with you throughout End of Nations' persistent world and is essentially the way that you level up and gain abilities. The more you level up the more items and abilities you'll unlock for your Commander. Plus, your Commander and faction will help determine what type of units you'll use in battle, so naturally everyone's units looked very different from one another.
How you spend your Commander's talent points will also shape your units into one of the three MMO archetypes: tank, healer, or damage dealer. My Commander was more of a healer archetype that had a lot of defensive units, so I could make repair bots that would scurry around my tanks and fix them. In general, Commanders get tech abilities that allow them to call down certain units and initiate hard-hitting abilities like a nuke, whereas units get individual abilities that do things like buff nearby ally damage or shell opponents for bonus damage for a certain period of time. My comrades who were the damage archetype were using abilities like a corrosive acid, which spewed poison on oncoming enemies and melted them.
Another way that End of Nations brings in MMO elements is through the use of objectives. In traditional RTS titles, the game generally focuses on building up a force of units by gaining an economic lead and then destroying your opponent's base. In End of Nations, at least for the demo we played, we were given a list of objectives to complete and once we did that we would earn experience and be able to continue on to the next mission if successsful. It's a bit awkward at first, not having to go straight for an enemy's base and their units but rather to take various points on a map over and over again to gain a strategic advantage to attain victory instead.
In its current state, End of Nations seems to be trying to do a few too many things at once, leaving even seasoned RTS players a bit confused as to how the game is meant to be played. The game wasn't exactly tough during our demo, but I can imagine hardcore players getting on board later on in the game when players are not only managing their Commander abilities but their units’ abilities and trying to carry out objectives in a huge free for all environment. We’ll have to wait until the game launches later this year to see if that ends up being the case.