Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Demigod: Intial Impressions

I've played a lot or RTS games, starting with Dune 2, and proceeding through a plethora of others including Warcraft, Command and Conquer, and many more. But in recent years, it seems that the emphasis has shifted towards more and more micro-management and base baby-sitting, which I don't get a lot of enjoyment from. One of the best variations (and one of my favorite games of all-time) was the Myth series. One of the best features of this game was that it focused on controlling you troops. There was no base building, and when a unit died, it was gone for the rest of that match. This allowed the player to focus on the strategy and action of the game. Alas, the company behind this game pushed out one too many games in an attempt to cash in, ended up folding under, and no one since (that I know of) has tried to resurrect this type of gameplay.

Bu now, along comes Demigod! Demigod is an RTS game, and there is micro-management, but you're not worrying about sending peasants out to harvest gold or making sure that your Space Marines are securely nestled into their bunkers. That's all piddly stuff, beneath the notice of one who is aspiring to ascend to godhood. Instead you focus on your character (who can easily carve their way through waves of soldiers without breaking a sweat), crushing the pitiful mortal forces arrayed before you, clashing with enemy demigods, increasing your power and skills with battlefield experience and acquiring powerful artifacts as you and your team try to emerge victorious over the lesser contenders!

It may sound confusing and overly simple at first. "All I control is one character?" I can hear the laments even now. But, despite its seemingly shallow gameplay, once you get into it, you realize that Demigod is a complex game with enough variations to make sure that no two matches are ever exactly alike. Each Demigod has their own distinct playstyle, and even then, your strategies and options vary based on which skills you choose to focus on.

Gameplay is based around already developed bases that each side controls. Each base has a number of defensive structures, a shop to purchase basic equipment, portals that spawn computer-controlled soldiers (who are nothing more than fodder for your elevation to godhood), and a citadel where you can purchase upgrades for your entire team. The objective is to break the defenses of your opponents and destroy their citadels. In between the bases are various flags and capture points that provide a range of different bonuses to your team. Only the demigods can capture these flags, which creates an interesting dynamic as you frequently have to decide between aiding your troops or taking a detour to try and grab a nearby resource flag. There is a surprising amount of back and forth on the maps. The presence of one or more demigods in an area can radically shift the balance of power on that section of the map. And having your defenses broken does not mean the game is over. In a recent match I played, my team was not only assaulting our enemies' citadel, but we had captured both of their spawn points, which cut off all non-demigod reinforcements for them. I figured the game was a lock, got careless and died. Ten minutes later, they were in our base, doing the same thing to us, and my team eventually lost. I was both astounded and delighted to see such a major swing of momentum when playing with nothing but AI opponents. I imagine that multiplayer matches get even crazier!

So far I've only played the single-player game (though since all the maps are designed for team games, there were numerous AI-controlled Demigods who do provide some decent competition). I wanted to get a feel for the game, try out all eight Demigods and become more knowledgeable about a few of my favorites before diving into the maelstrom of fighting other players. And apparently, their multiplayer setup has been having some major difficulties. But that's alright. I'm fine with honing my skills against computer opponents while they work out the kinks in the system.

The number of maps are pretty limited at the moment, but I'm sure that list will expand in the near future. The developers have also stated that they plan on having free releases in the future that will include new Demigod characters. Demigod is easy to learn (which is good since there isn't a tutorial). I was able to dive right in and start playing. The basic controls and UI layout were very intuitive, and I pick up more advanced strategies and tricks every match I play.

All in all, I've found Demigod to be a very entertaining game that helps to grow the RTS field in new directions (though technically, the free player-created mod for Warcraft III, Defense of the Ancients, has had similar gameplay for a number of years now). This game should be enjoyable for anyone who loves RTS games, and also for those who found the genre, but disliked the amount of micro-management generally required to play most of them.

Here are a couple of related links about the game that you might find interesting and/or useful.

Tom Chick's overviews of each Demigod character

Demigod wiki

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to Acquire RvR gear with tokens in Warhammer Online

Another in my series of WAR guides, attempting to explain Mythic's poorly documented RvR schemes.

The latest RvR system change comes at us with recently released patch 1.2.1. As of this patch, there is now an additional way to acquire the RvR set gear. These items can still be found in gold reward bags from keep/fort/city captures, but now you can also collect the new medallions, and use these to purchase the gear.

The are several sources for these medallions: drops from enemy players; rewards from keep and fort captures; rewards from keep and fort bags; and rewards for T4 zone captures.

Enemy players now have a chance to drop one or more medallions as loot when they die in addition to their normal loot. The type of medallions players drop is based on their renown rank. The highest level medallions can only be found as drops from players with a renown rank of 71 or greater! Loot bags from keep/fort/city captures now give you an additional choice of taking a lump of medallions instead of the other rewards. If you don't win a loot bag at a fort or keep capture, you are automatically awarded Officer (or Conqueror for forts) medallions which will appear in your backpack. Being present in a zone when its captured will also automatically drop a number of medallions into your pack. Successful defense of a keep, fortress or city invasion will award medallions also. And finally, there is a repeatable, chained series of RvR quests in each warcamp for which the final quest rewards 4 Officer medallions.

High-level medallions can be broken down into numerous smaller ones, but they can not be reassembled into larger pieces, so take care when breaking down a medallion.

So what do you do with all these medallions you have collected? Well, you use them to buy armor! All of the RvR set gear, from Obliterator on up through Sovereign now requires these medallions to purchase, with prices increasing as you go higher up the ladder. You can no longer buy any of the RvR set items with gold alone. The vendors in keeps still only have a limited selection of the RvR armor sets, but there are not several new vendors in the Viper Pit that sell all the pieces.

Note: RvR set boots still have a chance to drop as loot from players based on their renown rank, so it is still possible to acquire the boot armor pieces without ever winning a loot bag or a single medallion.

Edit: As of April 24th, Mythic applied a hotfix to the servers which now gives a chance for gloves from all the RvR sets to drop from appropriate level players. So you can now acquire two pieces from each set without using any tokens.