Get your game face on fellow underweight gamer geeks sitting around in your boxers. It's go time!
For those that missed my weekend article, I introduced the basic ideas behind gPotato’s upcoming SciFi Fantasy title for 2012, Sevencore. That of course was just scratching the surface as I have plenty to tell about this title catered towards organized MMORPG PvP enthusiasts.
For those that see the world PvP centric title and cringe at the thought of griefers and gankers riding their back for the first 20 hours of gameplay, Sevencore isn’t a title that’s going to scare you away. In fact most of the open world PvP is based around guild systems so you can always go factionless to avoid the drama all together. Of course I wouldn’t advise it as the guild community is a massive part of the overall experience in Sevencore as I’ll now explain.
The Guild, Politics, and Power
Guilds take on a much more organic and evolving form in Sevencore than most titles of its kind. For one guilds can level up and grow in a manner not far separated from the concepts of an RTS. To explain this I must first introduce “The Turns” System.
Helpful Paint Arrow not included
As players spend time in Sevencore, they will slowly unlock “Turns” that allow them to roll RNG-based dice in order to win unique items (with the rare occasion of cash shop items being given). In addition to these fun freebies you also contribute experience points to your faction each time you take a Turn Roll on your character while in the guild.
Now the RTS element comes into play by offering guild masters one of two options for how to spend their guild experience. Each time the guild levels up, they can choose to expand the maximum capacity of the guild by 10 players (up to a maximum of 100 player capacity at guild level 10). However they can also purchase powerful passive bonuses for all members of their guild that will give members an one-up over non-guild members in various stats and playstyles of the guild masters’ choosing.
This seemingly simple choice becomes quite complex for anyone who knows what’s involved with managing a faction in a competitive PvP MMORPG as factions with more passives are more likely to attract new members with the lure of power while guilds that recruit too many members at one time will be forced to spend their experience on leveling their faction to accommodate more members rather than upping passive bonuses. In the end it becomes a give and take between getting a strong tight knit faction early or settling for a more basic large faction in the hope that the increased member count allows you to accumulate guild experience at a faster rate.
Now in terms of open world PvP, factions can take part in an autoflagging war feature if your guild and a rival faction agree to sign a war pact. While this has been seen countless times before, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they will also have faction alliances implemented at launch, allowing you to request help in a guild war from an ally faction so that they too can join into the open world battle without suffering PvP penalties if they see someone from your faction under attack.
This competitive guild system is perfectly complemented by the territory war system in which the five major regions available at launch will be up for grabs via weekly guild wars (which I’ll expand upon more later). The owners of these regions will gain immense prestige for their position as well as the ability to set tax rates on their local towns as well as prices on goods unique to each region. However this system bases territory ownership entirely on power and tactical prowess rather than popular opinion. How can a server hope to fight against the tyranny of the infamous no-lifer power players once united?
The answer to this lies in the continental presidency vote where in the leaders of the five regions converge to decide on one of the governors to rise up as the president of the entire continent. This president is able to cast restrictions on the governors to block unwanted policies from being enacted on their continent. So ideally if a server wants to protect its rights, they must rally behind the power player factions that hold similar interests and push to try to get a majority of likeminded factions into regional control so they can stack the presidential vote in their favor. I can’t tell you how excited this system has me for the forum drama this game is likely to generate once live.
A More Involved, Tactical Guild War
Imagine you’re at the launch of Sevencore. An announcement is made and the first round of regional governors is called upon. Various factions throw their hat into the ring and the first circle of rulers is selected at random. The time begins to train your troops, prepare your elite members, and decide on battle formations and tactics as in one week the first real test of PvP will begin for your guild. This is it. Your success in the following week can make or break the success of your faction for months to come. This pressure of course has been felt in plenty of MMORPGs before now. Sevencore ups it to the next level with the introduction of Battle Points.
GvG battles in Sevencore are not massive zergs as the recent trend of MMORPGs have aimed for trying to outdo each other on the maximum number of players they can throw onto a single instanced battlefield. Instead they limit you to only bringing 20 members, exactly 1/5th of the population of your maximum capacity faction. Of the 20 members you assign to the battle squad, you can choose a Commander (responsible for assigning the 20 members and spending Battle Points) as well as the Command Officer (who can also assign Battle Points should the Commander find himself predisposed).
As objectives are taken and kills are scored during the battle, these commanders can spend battle points to unlock unique skills, special GvG only mounts, and other powerful bonuses to sway the battle in their favor. Is the enemy overwhelming you with air superiority mounts? Summon a unique GvG dragon and take the fight to the skies after them! Need a defensive boost to get your dps fighters in range of the enemy staging point to deal a decisive blow? Use your Battle Points and make it happen. Raw power will just not be enough in Sevencore to ensure a victory on the territory war zones. Only true tacticians with powerful friends will be able to maintain control of a region for the long run. Although unconfirmed, I did hear a rumor that they may allow allied guilds to send members to fight for a friendly guild to help fill out their 20 fighters. This could add an entirely new element to the war system if it ends up being true. For now though it’s a wait and see on whether it makes it to the final version.
Gameplay and Impressions
So now that I’ve painted a pretty comprehensive picture of the concepts and features of Sevencore, the question remains… how does it play? My first contact with the title was the pet system, causing my PvP focused mind to immediately begin transitioning each word GM Vi offered into tactical decisions. Competitive contact with another player will never be a simple point and click affair.
First off you can expect an opponent to bring 18 hotkeyed skills at you from the start before we even include the pet system. If you’re facing a hybrid character things could get even less predictable as hotkey swapping weapons could rapidly change your opponent’s fighting style on the fly. For instance a magic might CC and deal hefty damage to your with their staff as you attempt to get in range to level them. But once you do they could switch to a wand and begin a game of hit and run, attempting to outlast you and maintain their artillery advantage with dot spells unique to wand users only.
Enter the pet system! Just as you’re starting to acclimate to opponents utilizing multiple weapon styles against you, things get a bit trickier with the introduction of pet types and different modes that can be rapidly switched on the fly. Say you’re fighting that same mage and just when you get them on the ropes, they merge with their turtle mount and begin spamming potions while utilizing the merged turtle defensive bonuses to mitigate your damage!
On the reverse side, imagine trying to kite and escape a warrior with his raptor pet tracking and CCing you independently. Should you actually manage to escape him long enough to get off a devastating spell or two, he can hop onto his raptors back and chase you down then separate once in range and unleash a killing double team combo on you. GM Vi even demonstrated his wolf’s ability to split into multiple wolves to further overwhelm his opponent’s with pressure by numbers. Despite using standard point and click mechanics, gPotato has implemented enough on the fly decisions to keep battles incredibly dynamic. The decisions only grow as you throw more players into the fray each bringing unique builds, items, pets, and racial passives to the equation.
What is this? GMs never fight fair...
Beyond the PvP I found the towns to be quite complex and impressive. Although the skinning on the buildings weren’t exactly top notch, I was caught off guard with the fact that you can actually enter into buildings and shops in town. Beyond just being quest hubs, towns act as community builders with all the usual features including crafting centers, auction houses, and if you know where to look, risky black market merchants that can get you some unusual and rare goods if you’re willing to risk some RNG in your purchases. The crafting system seemed basic and simple and I believe the developers understood this as they’ve streamlined the system to make it easy for you to learn a craft so you can get the equips/consumables you want and get back into the action faster than some other recently released MMORPGs. Resources are broken up into three types and gathering ability levels separately for each one so at least dedicated crafters that put the time in will still be valuable contributors in a guild community… probably. You can never tell with these kinds of things until the economy develops after launch but I still have high hopes.
Delos City's Black Market Manager Spotted!
PvE and Dungeons
The final piece of the puzzle shown to me during my press tour was the PvE and dungeon raids. Of course my first question was what are the driving factors behind PvE? One of the first features I stumbled across was an announcement that flashed after initiating a combination with my pet turtle. Various random and/or challenging events unlock titles that offer special stat boosts to further help differentiate who you are in the MMO world.
After mindlessly crushing a few of the weaker open world mobs and testing my class’ unique overdrive skill, I decided Sevencore feels just as you would expect a modern F2P MMORPG to feel (with quest monsters filling the holes between towns, occasional world bosses dotting the landscape, and diverse regional looks and regional monsters to keep things fresh). The raids on the other hand actually offer quite a bit of platforming adventure that takes the usual training wheels off.
Rather than invisible walls or flight giving you easy mode when battling on narrow bridges stretching over deep gorges with dangerous creatures waiting below, players can freely fall from these ledges, take fall damage, and then be forced to fight on their own to reunite with their party members. In the chaos of dodging monster skill shots, watching out for your person mana and hp and your pets hp and energy bars, and maintaining proper positioning, it was all too easy to take one wrong strafe step and tumble off these cliffs.
Watch your step, it's a long way down!
Beyond this, the monsters seemed intelligent enough to not be fooled by more simple pulling techniques. Our group simply had to split our pet attacks with our own and maintain a balance of agro between mobs to push further into the dungeon. While in a tank and spank trinity title this might have been a simple exercise, but in Sevencore’s world that lacks a dedicated tank or healing class, you will find your team kiting, potion spamming, and carefully timing each shot to come out on top. It’s always difficult to get an exact feel for how tough a title’s PvE content is while on a preplanned press account, but I definitely felt more pressure than average.
This was even more apparent when I was suddenly thrown into my first boss battle. The foe we faced was a slow stalky looking monster that mostly focused on GM Vi’s warrior while the gPotato marketing manager’s mage and my gunner were safe to fire off round after round of dps heavy attacks into his back. Just as I started to relax and be lulled into a false sense of safety, pillars of fire erupted behind me and to both of my sides and the boss started to throw random aoe shots at me rather than focusing his full attention on GM Vi. These fire pillars not only hurt like hellfire but were able to move around at about 75% of my characters standard movement speed. At this point I realized the folly of bringing my tanky turtle pet with me on this battle as a faster dps pet could have offered me a ride to safety had the fire been too fast to escape from.
In the end we managed to barely take down the boss without any deaths though I won’t lie, I only survived with the help of the autopotting system. I’m not a fan of such systems but in the case of Sevencore I can see that the game is a bit overwhelming for newer players and you’ll be glad it’s there from time to time while learning the game. The part I did find nice about the autopot system is that you can control at what % both mana and hp pots for both yourself and your pet are activated, as well as have an easy to click icon next to each bar if you are facing a suddenly extreme situation and know you might very well lose half your life in one attack without the autopot feature ever kicking in.
Speaking of novice friendly features, try hitting F1 the first time you get into the game. Boom there is a manual level description of where everything is and what everything does. Possibly the best tooltip I’ve come across in an MMORPG to date.
To be clear, my excitement for this title may not be shared uniformly across the MMO world. Players looking for more of a PvE raid focused title might not find Sevencore complete enough in its launch state to satisfy them. Players looking for mind blazing graphics may also not find Sevencore to meet their standards. But if you are a fan of instanced PvP mixed with open world PvP, community drama and politics, a detailed and crazy character customizer, and an intricately designed pet systems, then Sevencore’s design philosophy is catered towards you. I’ll leave by saying there weren’t many titles on my radar for the end of 2012 after the summer of blockbuster titles comes to a close, but after my brief taste of Sevencore I’ve decided to leave the client installed on my PC to see where this baby goes post-launch.
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