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End of Nations Hands-On

Trion Worlds impressed the MMO community with Rift earlier this year. As such, their next title – the Petroglyph developed free-to-play End of Nations – comes with high expectations. For those that don’t know, Petroglyph is made up of many former Westwood Studios employees, probably one of the finest RTS developers to have graced our hard-drives (most famously remembered for their work on the now EA-owned Command and Conquer series).
So, what is End of Nations? In essence it takes the classic RTS controls and gameplay that we all know and love while scaling everything up with big battles featuring lots of players. It was interesting to note that it was recently announced End of Nations will be a free to play title, something we were not expecting. 

Considering the background of the development team it comes as no surprise that there’s a strong Command and Conquer vibe; even the unit design reminds us of the C&C universe prior to it being crapped on in the later games. In my eyes, this is a huge plus.
Let me stress though that this is not standard C&C, things here are quite different. End of Nations is primarily an online game where players battle each other and the AI in a fight over territories on a global map. Players attempt to dominate the map over ‘seasons’ which will likely run for up to three months – although Petroglyph said that that could change. This online multiplayer component is where the longevity of the game lies and, as such, was the key focus of the Gamescom demonstration.
Another notable difference between End of Nations and most other RTS games is the drop-in/drop-out set-up of multiplayer sessions. While there are co-op and single player missions, the world map is split into regions and players will select units and jump into the world map zones to battle other players over a variety of key map objectives.

Over the period of a season the global map will be constantly changing depending on how either the Liberation Front or Shadow Revolution, the two playable factions in the game who are fighting the now corrupted Order of Nations, are doing at any given time.
With the easy access nature of the online multiplayer game,  it means there’s no hanging around to find games, simply select an on-going battle and augment your faction with your units to help your side win.  The game can be super-quick paced, faster than some RTS players may be accustomed to these days.
On one map shown during the demo the objective involved controlling a central point on the map and the battle was absolutely mental with around sixteen players taking part, there were bombs and bullets flying everywhere prompting the question “it’s a bit busy isn’t it?”
Not every game will be like this though, it really depends on the map and objectives on the map. When asked about the length of games, the devs stated that they can last from anything up to fifteen minutes to an hour an half depending on the zone and objective types which means there should be something for everyone to suit different time restraints or play styles.
The objective is to keep players playing and throughout the battles and even on the menu screen a news ticker scrolls along the bottom updating players on the current status of battles on the world map. The ticker will also update players with information on their friends. If one of your buddies needs help in another game, you can simply click the link in the news scroller and you can immediately join their battle help. Think of it as quick redeployment.

The demo we were taking part in  was actually a live demo which included players who were taking playing on the show floor so it gave a good taste of how real players will react in a heated battle. Watching a few different maps being played it became apparent that there are going to be some pretty intense battles when the ‘super weapons’ come into play.
Dropping a nuke or releasing an airstrike could turn the tide, and these weapons are not only devastating, they are also visually impressive to watch. I can see many a player screaming at their screen when a nuke drops on their units just as they are about to capture or destroy a key objective like a power plant to take defences offline. Fun times!
A key component that was shown was the ability to customise units when selecting your weapons of choice before battle, this includes armaments and even the colour style of units. There are also pre-made skins available for units, so if you fancy a nice striped tank or chopper, then you can have one. The development team are making sure that players have a good amount of customisation to help make their army feel unique.
As  we all know now, the game is free and End of Nations will be monetised by offering up boosters to players but details were a little sketchy at the moment as to what these will involve. However, it is good news in general for fans of the RTS genre because it’s not often a game like this comes along which is also free.
End of Nations is starting to look the part and it’s starting to tick all my RTS  boxes. As to when it’s coming out? Well, I did poke Petroglyph on that point but no answer was forthcoming other than “sooner than some may think.” Predictably, it also stated that it would be advisable to sign up for the beta right away.


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