E3 2005: Level Up
NCsoft Delivers Its Next Batch of MMOs
Product: NCsoft Lineup
Company: NC Soft
Date: 05/24/2005
Avaliable On:

Walking behind closed doors into NCsoft?s super secret presentation rooms, I knew I was in for an MMO bonanza. The first game they showed me was extremely interesting. Titled Auto Assault, it is, at its core, an MMORPG like so many others but with some very unique twists. Developed by NetDevil, in Auto Assault you play as a car. Okay, so technically you?re supposed to be a guy in a car, but you?re pretty much just playing as a car.

The setting of Auto Assault is in a post-apocalyptic Earth. It seems some alien spacecraft crashed into earth, unleashed all sorts of viruses and mutations, and caused quite a bit of destruction. As if that weren?t enough, it seems the ruins of the craft decided it wanted to alter Earth a bit and is slowly transforming it into some strange alien topography. Just take Mad Max and add some alien technology and you have a good idea what the setting of this game is like.

One really cool thing about this game is that it will launch with a fully loaded physics engine and almost all of the environments in the game will be destructible. Since NetDevil is calling this an ?action MMORPG?, that seems very appropriate. While ultimately all combat resolutions will be the usual stat and math of an RPG, player skill will factor in also as you zoom around, targeting enemies and firing. The game itself has a very heavy arcade feel too it. They want you to zoom around running and gunning, so things like fall damage don?t exist.

The cars are as varied and customizable as any MMORPG character. Some are good at running through a crowd of enemies and blowing everything up. Some cars come equipped with stealth fields and, well, you get the idea. There are three ?races? in the game: human, mutant and bio-mechanical and each have their own unique cars. You can have things like Humvees, Vans, Semis, Tanks, Motorcycles, you name it. Auto Assault will be out this fall and you should already be able to pre-order it.

As soon as I found out about City of Heroes, I couldn?t wait to play City of Villains because we all knew it would be next. Sure enough, NCsoft is well on its way to completing this game. The first thing to mention is that this won?t be an expansion to City of Heroes; City of Villains is its own stand-alone game.

The developers have 3 goals with City of Villains: to truly make you feel like a villain, to incorporate a general PvP environment without alienating the PvE players, and to successfully add base building to the game.

The fantastic character creation system was one of the major hallmarks of City of Heroes. City of Villains looks even better, and you could spend all of your time just crafting cool looking villains and still have a great time.

Many games that allege to put you in the shoes of the bad guy fall into a common pitfall, you only fight other bad guys. Just like a great hero needs a great villain, a great villain needs to kick some hero butt. However, City of Villains won?t take place in Paragon City. Instead, you are invited to come to the Rogue Isles, home of many a dastardly deed. But NCsoft promises you won?t fight other villains forever and will get plenty of opportunities to tangle with some of the great heroes, maybe even special raids on instanced versions of Paragon City itself.

The base building features looked really nice and were easily as flexible and powerful as the character creation tool. You will also be able to schedule raids on other groups? bases. You?ll pick a time, they?ll mass their forces, you?ll assemble yours, and you?ll have at it.

This is all well and good, but the most interesting game was Richard Garriott?s own pet project, Tabula Rasa. At first glance, this game almost looked like a third-person shooter, complete with target reticule. The game definitely has a larger action/sci-fi feel to it than most other MMORPGs, but it will still be an MMORPG at heart.

It seems that a mean group of naughty-bad aliens called the Bane launched a pretty nasty assault on Earth, and a nice gang of pseudo-magical aliens called the Elo are helping us out. This warfare atmosphere is extremely prevalent in the design of the game. The battlefield areas are very dynamic, with an ebb and flow, Bane creatures falling from the sky, some really cool stuff.

You can fight for control points on the field. If you manage to keep a point for a certain amount of time, NPC reinforcements will begin spawning at the local base and running to your position. Player missions will all interconnect in the proper and common sense ways. For example, you might have a mission that involves taking down a power facility. If you succeed, some lighting towers at the base entrance might deactivate, allowing players who have a mission to assault a base an easier time.

The combat is really the focus of the game, and NCsoft plans on doing many things to keep it consistently fresh. You will have to consistently use a very wide range of tactics on enemies. One giant creature might frequently charge up and release a wide blast attack that will easily flatten you, so you must run out of range. Another may be a hovercraft with insane shields and guns at its front, so you must hide out while it passes over you and then destroy it from behind.

No release date for Tabula Rasa yet, and we?re told it is probably still more than a year away.

Check back for full reviews as the games hit the shelves.

Alucard aka Stephen Triche

GameVortex PSIllustrated TeamPS2