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First Look:
Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising marks the first entry into the MMO market by Perpetual Studios, the company who announced they acquired the license last year to bring Star Trek online to the MMO market. While the studio is new, it is housed by industry veterans who have worked on numerous titles which all of us as MMO gamers are familiar with.

Earlier this year we got our first look behind closed doors at what is going to be one of the exciting games to make a release based on historical elements in the fall of this year (2005).

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising - Div Devlin (09-06-05)

Rome at Dusk
Our initial introduction to Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising took place at the E3Expo concourse hall on our first day where we walked past a group of Roman soldiers stationed to promote the game. These Roman soldiers were the actual historical re-enactors of the time period with actual hand crafted armor and weapons. A game company that wants to ensure that every detail, down to their "booth babes" is accurate already has a leg up on the competition. So, when our scheduled appoint arrived, we were already looking forward to seeing the game.

As we arrived we were ushered into the private booth where Perpetual had setup their temporary camp. Decked out with maps and weapons adorning the walls, and the doors covered in drapes we felt that we had stepped back in time and had entered a Roman Military Commanders war-tent. Seated within we were greeted by Chris McKibbin, the President of Perpetual along with Steig Heidlund who is the Lead Designer for Gods & Heroes, who also was the lead designer for Diablo II and Christine McGavern as the Director of Development.

As the introductions concluded, Chris McKibben gave us our first showing of the game with a trailer, because they had made a trailer. In true Hollywood style we got the teaser, and tease us it did. The trailer was comprised entirely from in-game footage. One of the first items you may note when viewing the trailer for the first time, especially if you may be unfamiliar with the game, is that characters were running and falling into formations as they traveled across landscapes or moved into combat.

We asked about that, and got a chuckle as Steig noted we were absolutely correct and then asked us to hold that question. The trailer is a must-see-video for anyone which will draw you into the premise of the game, we highly recommend you downloading it from the official website and watch them for yourself, you will not be dissappointed.

Right away you notice how important the writing and storylines are within the game. Set in Rome sometime around 300BC (to avoid historical confusion with fantasy) players are scions descended from one of the twelve Roman gods and swear allegiance to the Republic while serving the gods; with an emphasis on high-action adventure and combat within a quest based system, while not imposing restrictions to the storyline and allowing players the free will to enjoy their own style of play.

Character creation brings you directly into the storyline after you design how your avatar will appear. You can customize your nationality type on how you will appear with facial mapping, body scaling, along with combinations for clothes, armor, shields, weapons and magic items. For female gamers, you can choose your body proportions and not be told how you should look according to the game artists.

After choosing from one of seven character types consisting of Gladiator, Healer, Rogue, Scout, Soldier, Priest and a Mystic, you are thrust into the game within a state of adversity. An example which was shown to us was the Gladiator as a being a victim of circumstance within a prison camp. Plebe! As you learn the game mechanics, you advance until you free yourself. For those familiar with Guild Wars, the most easily identifiable comparison would be pre-Ascalon.

Overtime characters will dedicate themselves to one of the twelve gods which also walk the land. You will gain special powers and abilities for not only serving the Republic but for fulfilling quests given to you by your chosen deity. Perpetual has over 1200 planned quests to be available at launch with a series of epic quests in the system to tie characters together with locations and motives with an end game at level 50.

The number nine is a magical number for large scale warfare. Rome Rising is a game built with a combat emphasis. You are the hero of the story building an army to defend Rome during its early stages in history, although, because the coliseum is such a cool historical monument, it will have already been built. You are surrounded by enemies on all sides, and from within the fledgling Republic. Instead of teasing players with their own housing, players will be given an instanced zone easily accessible anyplace. Instead of virtual banks, you now have an entire zone to build fortifications, populate with buildings, crafters and of course you're ever expanding army.

At higher levels players can engage in squad versus squad combat. You and eight of your soldiers will embark from your camp at higher levels to battle other units on your quest to glory. While questing, all content will be in instanced areas. There will be no need to camp zones awaiting your turn at the mob spawn to fulfill your quest requirements.

Because the game is based on the myths and the legend aspects of history, all types of creatures and monsters will be included which make sense and fit. Gorgons, Cyclops, Furies, and Centaur's along with Minotaur's are only a small sampling which we were treated to. Another aspect of the creatures is that you can also bring them into your army. So you could have a Centaur regiment or a frontline of Minotaur shield-men. Fury archers may only be wishful thinking on my part due to the overpowering effect it could have if available (you know that whole flying thing and shooting bows without being able to attack back).

Off with his head!
The Perpetual team draws upon a talent pool which have mastered real time strategy games with troop combat and formations along with character progression (advancement/leveling) which could make this to be an enjoyable game, bordering on a great game from what we have seen and know so far.

The only dissapointing aspect, which will not take-away from the game is that they have no plans to launch with Kingdom versus Kingdom warfare until their first expansion pack introducing the Carthaginians. This could have been the sequel to Shadowbane that the Player versus Player crowd has been searching for, with a great story back-drop known for politics, espionage, and intrigue. We are looking forward to a possible allegiance system to be incorporated so that as a player, you could become Caesar with a guild system for support.

Until then, when in Rome... You know, and I'll be there as Diviticus Devlinicus (if they put some naming system in place with a minimum number of letters which prevents me from being Div Devlin), preparing my armies for conquest of the known world and serving the Emperor (until I can stab a dagger in his back and take up the laurel crown)!

Discuss: It's all about the raping and the pillaging and the conquests, right?

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