- "Ready thine arms... For Nosgoth!"
The time has finally come. Nosgoth has now been officially announced and the new website www.Nosgoth.com is officially up and running .As many of you may know, for some time we've been following the reports of new Legacy of Kain title Nosgoth and by now the big pieces of the puzzle should have begun to click together for everyone. For reference here is the FAQ on the Eidos Forums and the news that appeared earlier today.
So now that we all know, I can now reveal that a little while ago the lovely folks at Square Enix Europe kindly invited a few of us down for a Nosgoth Community Day. A fantastic experience for all where we got a detailed introduction to the world of Nosgoth, a trailer video (which is awesome) and of course, they let us get our grubby mitts on Nosgoth and meet up with the team and some of the other big fan names. I could gush for pages about how great it was to meet everyone and how fantastic everyone in both the team and community was, but that's perhaps not why you or I are here – needless to say it was a truly awesome day and I have to say an enormous thank-you to the team for inviting us down and to everyone involved. If you would like to read more about the day, Raina should be cooking something up in the Ancients Den and I will be adding links to other accounts as they appear. One thing I will say though, is that having met the team I do feel that the series is in good hands – the guys behind Nosgoth are Legacy of Kain fans - they know their stuff and are very serious about respecting the canon and lore already established in the series.
So what exactly is Nosgoth? Well as you may have already heard, Nosgoth is a bit of departure from the usual Legacy of Kain gameplay – this is not Soul Reaver or Blood Omen – this is Nosgoth, and Nosgoth is just a bit different. In many ways, Nosgoth feels like the first step towards an 'expanded universe' – Something that has frequently been previously mentioned in relation to the the world of Legacy of Kain, but has not come into fruition as yet. Nosgoth is a chance for the world itself to be expanded beyond the stories of Raziel and Kain, for all to peek into some of those unexplored corners of the realm and explore the true depth of our mythology and lore.
In terms of genre, Nosgoth is – well - a third-person competitive online multiplayer... Okay, having played it, I can see why they're resisting the genre comparisons because Nosgoth quite literally flies in the face of a few rules - push it and maybe something like Unreal Championship 2 or Left for Dead 2 are decent comparisons, but Nosgoth itself does seem to be something a little bit different and a little bit unique. At its heart, Nosgoth is an 'arena'-based deathmatch-style third person battle between two teams - one vampires, one humans – with vastly differing play styles and abilities that really effect the entire feel of the game – but more on that later.
Nosgoth will be free-to-play and not pay-to-win: which basically means that you you won't have to pay to play it and everything that effects gameplay can be unlocked through skill, though certain features may be purchased immediately if you can't wait and there will be custom gear that can be bought , but these will not be 'supremacy goods'.
A lot of history and background was explained to us and I probably couldn't do much of a better job than the backstory that was read out at the event:
Then, not long after Kain cast Raziel into the Abyss, Kain disappeared. Gone, in search of a way to restore Nosgoth to the world it was before, Kain left the world in the hands of his lieutenants. Riven by jealousy and conflicts, it wasn’t long before the vampire clans began fighting amongst themselves. With the vampires focused on their internal squabbles, Nosgoth’s human population seized the chance to grow stronger. Cities were rebuilt, skills relearned and humanity’s power recovered to the point where they could launch a devastating attack on their vampire masters. This attack reunited the warring vampire clans in the face of a common enemy. Now, each race is pitted against the other.
With Kain absent from his throne, the war for Nosgoth has begun again – a war for the survival of each race."
So, Nosgoth takes place a few centuries after Raziel's execution. Kain has abandoned his empire, which has begun to fragment (with one clan in particular in persecuted, tortured and mutated and enslaved to the service of the others). With the vampires overconfident and in disarray, the humans seize their opportunity to strike back and free their race from Vampire rule. Venerating and rediscovering the skills of their illustrious predecessors the resurgent humans build into a potent threat to the Vampire empire. As the centuries progress, all out war erupts between the two races for control of the land and the fate of both races hangs in the balance – We'll know how it ultimately turns out hundreds of years in the future, but for now, a new War For Nosgoth has begun. One thing to note especially here is a timing issue – previously a few comments from a Blood Omen 2 Q&A were all we had on the time that Raziel spent in the Abyss (with a round-about explanation of 500 years) – instead the Nosgoth developers have followed deleted dialogue from Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and used the “millennium or a moment” line as a guideline to time Raziel spent in the Abyss – so it's now confirmed as closer to 1000 years then 500.
Now we did get to see an all new official map of Nosgoth and I can say it has a lot a familiar locations on it, but I'm not sure which of those will ultimately be playable. However there were two early arenas we got some experience – the playable debuts of familiar names Freeport and Valeholm. Freeport is a dark wooden shanty town hemmed in by high cliffs on the shores of the Great Southern Sea, whereas Valeholm in a brighter stone brick area with a notable central furnace building. Both are fantastically rich and detailed with so much going on in the background you could spend hours just staring at it, but most importantly both seem to fit the atmosphere of the era, harking towards the beginnings of the desolate wasteland of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. One map which should be in the mix later, but we didn't get to see is another playable debut of a familiar name – Provance. What I can tell you about the maps and the graphics is that they are beautiful. I've spent the last few years picking out maps and layout for previous games and I was struck by the level of detail and things to see in Nosgoth, even in the background of the scene. There are certain art assets which might seem familiar if you've been looking through the Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun news, but this is by no means the same, Nosgoth feels totally different to those shots – it's darker and it really does feel like a place that is taking its first steps toward the wasteland we saw centuries later in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.
Okay so it's a third person arena based team -deathmatch, humans vs vampires but the twist is that the team you choose totally changes the game and the way you have to play it, with the two teams having vastly differing strengths and weaknesses, play styles and abilities – to the extent it's almost like two different games. Undoubtedly one of the strengths of the game is that the two teams play totally differently and stand in stark contrast to the others, but yet there is a very strange sense of deliberate Rock/Paper/Scissors balance between them despite their vast differences, and it works really well. The humans will seem familiar to first person-shooter fans, attacking with ranged weaponry and with strength in numbers, a host of vampire hunting elements and equipments, and the ability to heal each other at special points, but with little or no melee attacks it can become virtually survival horror trying to keep the vampires at bay. On the other hand you have the vampires, whose appeal is totally different – its about being powerful ruthless and cool. With no weaponry the vampires instead use their claws as melee weapons in combination with their vampire abilities, allowing them to climb up the walls of buildings, skip over the rooftops and swiftly descend to attack the humans below. Vampires cannot heal and require the time to execute and drink the blood of a downed opponent to recover health, though in a cool touch a dead opponent can be dragged away to be fed from in a quiet corner if necessary.
You might have spotted the picture – these are your new best friends and that is the basic appearance of each of the classes (though a lot appears that it may be customizable later). Left to Right theses are Tyrant, Sentinel, Reaver, Hunter, Alchemist and Scout. For dramatic reasons I'm going to tackle those in a different order to shown above.
- Hunter: (also known as The Ironguard)
- What they say: - “last of an almost dead force that have battled vampires throughout history, the Vampire Hunter has trained from youth to be a frontline fighter in multiple martial and weapon arts.”
- What I say: - "your basic all round human fighter – armed with a crossbow, he's the king of rapid fire attacks and will appeal to those who like assault rifles or similar on FPS games. A solid, dependable and familiar feeling class that is useful at medium to long ranges and can hold his own in most fights."
- Alchemist: (also known as The Red Sisters of Anarcrothe)
- What they say: - “member of a female-only order of medieval chemists, whose concoctions produce a variety of effects ranging from explosive cocktails to transformative potions.”
- What I say: - "pyrotechnics and potions! Comes with a familiar sounding Hand cannon which fires Grenades like an FPS grenade launcher and has a massive penchant for fire and burning attacks. Takes a little while to get the hang of, but a very dangerous foe for the vampires in the right hands... and of course you probably spotted the implied veneration of an old States guardian whose name we could never spell (and the hilarious continuation of that arrangement)"
- Scout: (also known as The Watchers of Dark Eden)
- What they say: - “skilled with distance weapons like the bow and throwing knife, the Scout is well used to hit and run tactics.”
- What I say: - "Oh my, snipers! The range experts on the field, familiar to anyone who has used a sniper rifle on an FPS. They have a long-range bow and arrow that takes a while to charge, but will cause carnage if it hits. This is a class you really want to keep at range and move on quickly though, get trapped up close and then you will find yourself being ripped apart."
- Reaver: (also known as The Dumahim clan)
- What they say - “a stealthy and agile vampire warrior, using his razor-sharp talons and fast strikes to eviscerate enemies”.
- What I say: - "Yes we're getting to the familiar names, the sons of Dumah have not devolved yet, but they are the starting to show their gifts, strong and fast-all rounder that is a mainstay of Vampire attack and has a rather cool crouching prone and jump attack which can take you a great deal of the way across the map and leave you sitting on a human ripping his face off – very fun."
- Tyrant: (also known as The Turelim Clan)
- What they say: - “a heavy-handed instrument of enormous size who aims to cause as much havoc and destruction on the battle-field as possible.”
- What I say: "Children of Turel and the big bad boys of the game, no TK to worry about just yet and maybe a little slower than their brethren, but they are big and strong and powerful. Have a dangerous charging move that's fast and will flatten enemies in your path like a steamroller."
- Sentinel: (also known as The Razielim Clan)
- What they say: - “a mutated descendent of Raziel, he has developed large wings that allow him limited flight abilities and uses this mobility to scout and strike unsuspecting enemies from above.”
- What I say: - "Holy f***! - The descendants of Raziel, still surviving for the moment but heavily persecuted by their brethren and devolving fast – perhaps the most difficult of the classes to get the hang of, but the most rewarding. They have grown wings and can jump off rooftops and fly around the skies of the maps and have an awe inspiring dive-bomb which allows you to target and humans from a distance to pick up and do with as you please, though you're quite open to sniping as you do this."
The Controls and Gameplay:
Like other deathmatch games there will be a wealth of perks and customizable options to consider and manipulate your abilities before you get started. When you get in the arena you have a basic HUD with a somewhat familiar red draining globe representing your health in the bottom left along with two small boxes representing your custom 'abilities', at the bottom-right is a small map and boxes at the top represent your team mates and their health. Controls will be on mouse an keyboard to start with, although controller support is coming, and you can change the controls if necessary. Of course, with the difference between the teams they play a little differently, but you do have basic shared stuff – generally you have your usual move and strafe controls on the keyboard and 'look' on the mouse, your general attack (fire weapons for humans, melee for vampires) is on the left click, special attacks or ironsights on right click, there are also buttons for custom 'abilities' (special things like firebombs, smoke grenades, a cloak, arrow rain), reloading, dodge/countering, interaction (things like using health points and dragging opponents away for feeding) , sprint/traverse (that's running for humans and climbing walls and rooftops for vampires) and your usual online multiplayer stuff (like chat options and scoreboard) along with special controls to execute an enemy for vampires and a basic melee for humans.
As you may have gathered, the gameplay is enormous fun and yeah it basically involves killing the other team, but there is a lot more to it than that with the different team and class attributes and abilities. If you're a human you need to be quick and alert. You know they're coming for you and you need to quickly target and catch them using your ranged weapons as they do, because if they get in close you're in trouble. Stick with your team to give you defence if the vampires attack and stop yourself being easy prey, find the health points to refill your health and learn to counter the vampires attacks and combo yours. Play as a vampire and you want to be traversing the walls and the roof tops, stealthily stalking your prey and trying to isolate them and catch them off guard before swooping in with your special attacks and using your melee up close. Get spotted and you're at great risk of being finished of by a flurry of arrows, so get in fast, combo your attacks and quickly execute your prey, dragging them away to a quiet place to feed.
I may be getting repetitive but it really is a strange and well worked out balance to the cat and mouse teams with even the individual classes providing excellent foils for each other – case in point: the Razielim vs Watcher battles really remind me of the real old-school rocket launcher vs sniper rifle battles of the games of yesteryear, with the Razielim's swoop matching the charge-up shot of the watcher – my favourite play of the day was a Razielim spotting a watcher for a victim and started swooping, as he did so the watcher looked up and noticed and started charging the shot – it was so close we saw the Razielim's eyes before the headshot went off – truly a thing of last-second beauty. And of course one obligatory thing to note is that it is quite a gory game and all the environments get dirtier as you play – so all the bloodstains where you dragged someone off or smashed them into a wall will remain for duration of match.
Okay so if you haven't gathered so far I really liked Nosgoth. It is a genuinely fun experience with so many little entertaining nuances. Yes the gameplay genre is somewhat different to your usual Legacy of Kain experience, but it does retain that Nosgothic feel to it. Nosgoth looks stunning and appropriate, the game is playable, enjoyable and cool to appeal to the newcomers and yet there are so many little references to keep the old fans happy without treading on the toes of any major canon issues. And as a game ,it does strike me a very good one, and one that is trying to do something a little different and unique. After a decade away Nosgoth may have been different from what we were initially hoping for, but it looks to be a worthy addition that expands upon the history of Nosgoth and adds another string to the collective bow of the series. Lest we forget that this was how it began almost twenty years ago - with a slightly off-beat developer coming up with something a little different that changed our lives forever.
Part 2 of this article will follow later with a my own more personal description of the day. In the meantime here are some other relevant links, more will be added as they appear:
- Nosgoth Site
- Nosgoth official twitter
- 'Square Enix London– Nosgoth Community Day 2013' at The Ancient's Den (by Raina Audron)
- 'Game: Nosgoth (PC) (Pre-release review)' at Lucinvampire's Lair (by Lucinvampire)
- 'Nosgoth Community Day' at The Lost Worlds (be Ben Lincoln)
- 'My visit to Square Enix London (Legacy of Kain related)' at NeoGAF (by Mama Robotnik/Divine Shadow)
- 'Umah Visits Square Enix Europe' at As the Chronoplast Turns (by Umah Bloodomen)