Sins of a Dark Age takes on the worlds of both RTS and MOBA by combining the two in a Free-to-Play gaming adventure off to conquer the kingdom and save the industry from itself.
From the very beginning, the developers seem to be out on a mission to put the fun back in competitive gaming while making it safer easier for beginners to get a handle on the game. No one is dead weight. Fun, fast, and all for free; tell the dragons to beware because we’ve just found our shining white knights.
Today I got to watch a little bit of the five-on-five battle that’s typical of the MOBA-style of gameplay. Developers promise bots for beginners, replays, and spectator mode right at launch. Beasts of all shapes and sizes filled the screen awaiting your pick. Less cartoon and more Salvidor Dali, the art style reminded me of something closer to a Midsummer Night’s Dream – with blades and giant insects of course. Beyond the standard stats, a lower bar showed you the difficulty level of mastering a character. Something that takes timing in order pull off the move might rank higher than something just pours out the damage. All characters balance out, only some require a little finesse. In the end, they choose an ogre-looking creature.
So far, fans of the MOBA series should feel right at home picking out their hero. Here’s where the free-to-play aspect kicks in. You pay for new looks or to use characters outside the ever-rotating group of free characters. Flipping through the new outfits and designs for each character, the character changed more than just a shade of color as headdresses changed completely or moth wings turned into that of a butterfly. You can’t shell out any money for power or boosts in this game.
Out of the five, only four of the team members take a hero character. Our fifth member of the party plays the role of the commander. Here he picks one of several commanders before heading out to battle. For the commander part of the game, you play the RTS portion. Collect resources, manage troops, and move people around the board. As you mine for gold and minerals, the other four members share in the wealth. And when they kill enemies, you share in their wealth.
Troops the commander builds act like typical units, but can be attached to each of the hero units. Archers keep to the back as the hero rushes in. Soldiers form a line in front of the softer targets. As the commander, you coordinate plans with your troops by setting different markers such as attack or defend on the map. If needed, you can mark out a path of an individual hero in case you’re like me and get lost very easily.
With only last trick up their sleeves, the different commanders utilize different powers. In the demo, our hero stumbled into a group of archers. The heal spell did little to easy the prickly situation. With enough crystal mined from the near by resource, the commander dropped a massive dragon on the field to clear the area. With teeth, fangs, and great detail; he ripped through the line before disappearing moments later. Each of the commanders performs their own ultimate attack if you have the resources to pull it off.
Back to the heroes again, one of the added features to Dark Age lets you see the popular equipment builds for the character you’re playing. No more checking online for the latest builds, you get a weekly update of the latest and greatest at the top of your store before spending that hard earned gold. Speaking of which, the game rewards all those help out with the kill instead of just the last hit. Now support class units can see a bit of the shiny stuff without having to attack.
The Sins of a Dark Age developers even found a way around people dropping out of a game – bribe new people to join. By joining a game already in progress, you earn virtual money to pay for characters or skins. Win that game for the team and you’ll see even more virtual green. They call it positive reinforcement. I just call it a good idea.
Everyone starts on the same level in this game. There’s no metagame where you need to level or collect items for your avatar character. You just pick up, play, and hope to Zulu that you find yourself a good team. Sins of a Dark Age may just be the game that makes you strap on some armor to take on the MOBA horde. Look for the commander to call on you for the summer of 2012.