Nosgoth – Vampires versus humans? That could be pretty awesome.

Competitive gaming style title screen. Says a lot immediately.
Competitive gaming style title screen. Says a lot immediately.

I should really give credit to TD for this one. He found it, we played it, and I decided to review it. This was probably a wise idea on his half, since it’s taken me a long time to get round to a point where I feel I can take the plunge and actually give an opinion on this game.

So, Nosgoth pits vampires against humans in sets of two, five man teams going head to head in shooter style combat. Only, both sides seem to be taking part in an alternative Victorian steampunk style world. Humans are armed with crossbows, guns, are various types of launchers, whilst vampires are armed with the gifts the bad lord gave them, including climbing walls, spewing goo, and mauling you to death.

Despite being bow-based, the action is still very fast paced.
Despite being bow-based, the action is still very fast paced, with your typical life being very short.

Vampires might be a strong word to use here. Recently, we’ve had so many different types. The traditional Dracula style, blood sucking, cape wearing, castle residing person is not present in this game. Nor is Twilight’s poncy self-hating angsty teenager vampire. Not even Underworld’s alternate Gothic, leather spangled vampires make an appearance. In fact, what we end up with is positively not what I would consider a vampire to be in any light.

Rather, Square Enix went down the path of creating a few beasts, not seeming to find a better name for them and using “vampire”, since they can regenerate health by feasting upon corpses. But honestly, there is nothing here I’d consider a “classic” vampire. You have guys that leap for miles, engaging hit and run tactics. You have big muscle men that can charge through and act as your tank. You even get deadly, lightning fast winged beasts which can swoop down and pick up a lone human to drop him from a great height. These are not what I consider vampires, but alas, Nosgoth does.

Some pointy teeth and a lovely flowing cape would suit you nicely, sir.
Some pointy teeth and a lovely flowing cape would suit you nicely, sir.

But let’s take a step back and assess the gameplay. Rounds consist of one team of five humans going head to head against one team of five vampires in a straightforward team deathmatch; that is to say, their only goal is to kill each other. At the end of the round, they swap sides and the humans become vampires and vice versa. At the end, the kill count is tallied up and the side with the higher overall score wins. Good system, easy enough.

I have to admit immediately that gamemodes are a bit thin on the ground at the moment. It does feel like it lacks variety, and I sure wouldn’t mind seeing a Capture the Flag, or King of the Hill. But this is probably all round due to one incredible factor about this game. It is balanced.

Trust me, a balanced game with asymmetric sides is rare.
Trust me, a balanced game with asymmetric sides is rare.

Nosgoth has to compete with itself to maintain a balance. Humans are stuck on the ground, with frequently defensive abilities. They heal by using designated healing points, which can only be used once in a while, forcing them to rotate round the map to stay alive. Meanwhile, vampires regain health by eating corpses, forcing them to be aggressive. Their abilities lie in devastation and disorientation, and have access to almost everywhere on the map. Can you imagine the difficulty in balancing a team that could choose to entirely consist of people who swoop from above to drop you from the heavens against a load of guys armed with crossbows and gunpowder pistols?

That said, Nosgoth does a fantastic job. Whilst playing, TD and I couldn’t really decide who had the upper hand overall, though we did think it was vampires by a very, very fine line. However, this was less for the individual units than the fact that it’s easier for an individual vampire to do more damage than for an individual human. Meanwhile, humans do require a lot more teamwork. With that in mind, we often found that we lost when playing with a team that refused to stick together, and won with a team that stayed focused as humans, and attacked all at once as vampires.

This old brute prepares to feast on a corpse. Nice.
This old brute prepares to feast on a corpse. Nice.

The balance is definitely a huge help, but the main draw to this game will be how active it is. These are not slow games, and I’m tempted to liken them to Smite in terms of activity. Whilst you have a powerful base attack, the true gameplay is revealed in each unit’s customizable abilities: Placing lines of fire, spewing poison, spawning minions, disabling and snaring units. Given that each individual person has a set of skills to help their team, it’s as much about having the right units to respond to the current enemy team as it is about using them at the right time. My favourite vampire unit had a great ability to reduce incoming damage by 80%, but the flipside is he couldn’t attack during that time and it had a half minute cooldown. So, I purely used it to run away without dying. This worked for my team as, before that, I’d charge in and begin the assault, taking most of the damage in that time.

So I expect we’ll see Nosgoth becoming a competitive game in the future. The opportunities for teams to develop tactics and train up, learning the intricacies of why that 0.4 second increase on that particular ability makes it no longer worthwhile, is too damn high. That said, for now, the random public matchmaking works well for finding a game, and there is a party system so you can play with your friends. Which, honestly, you’re going to want to do because matchmaking can put you with anybody of any skill (though, they do counter this by allowing low levels to purely match make within low levels).

The human healing and resupply point.
The human healing and resupply point.

There is one more gameplay fact to mention. This is a freemium game and it’s going for a League of Legends model. That means, there is an entire meta-game to help boost your ingame play (or improve your character appearance). You can buy new abilities, classes, skins, and boosters to help you progress. As a result, you can expect some people to be better than you, because they’ll be able to get the best of these items. In some respects, it’s a shame, since it unbalances a very balanced game. Of course nobody is going to take the 5% speed increase when there’s a 10% damage buff on offer, but if that 5% speed increase is free an 10% damage buff costs you $4.99, you might decide to stay free. But that’s always a risk with this marketing model. That said, and in Nosgoth’s defence, they do give out a daily taster on a random ability item each day, and I just made up those two items above. So, maybe they are more balanced. But my point still stands, there will always be some items more tasty than others.

The armory is where the meta-game mostly goes down.
The armory is where the meta-game mostly goes down.

All in all, for a freemium game, Nosgoth is damn fun. It’s been produced to a very high quality, which was surprising at first but explained by the fact that the team behind it are Square Enix. The graphics and sounds are excellent, especially given the freemium status, and the gameplay feels balanced and enjoyable. That said, at it’s current stage, I do feel like it has work to be done in getting more variety into the game. However, we are looking at Early Access and, so, there are many things that may yet change. It’s definitely worth a try but, unless you’re a fan of the growing area of ability-based gaming, you probably won’t stick on it.

And I still think “vampires” is a big stretch of that word.

Nosgoth is developed by Square Enix. You can find it on Steam for freemium. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

Advertisements
Nosgoth – Vampires versus humans? That could be pretty awesome.

Unturned – Free to Play, Zombie Survival Done Right.

You become a survivor in the zombie infested ruins of society, and team up with your friends to remain among the living.
You become a survivor in the zombie infested ruins of society, and team up with your friends to remain among the living.

Unturned is a 3-D, free-to-play (Kinda), early access zombie survival game by Nelson Sexton, who I should add that when he developed this game was only 17. It’s easily one of my favorite games in my library, with simple, minecraft blocky graphics, music thats utterly beautiful and sticks to the very core of zombie survival: Loot, kill, survive. That, and playing with friends is an incredibly fun experience. Whilst it is still in early access, it has plenty of potential and massive room for expansion.

Character options aren't expansive, but they do allow for customization. (Ninja Gear not included.)
Character options aren’t expansive, but they do allow for customization. (Ninja Gear not included.)

You start Unturned dumped into a map of your choice, as of this article there are only two: Arena – which is a more pvp scenario map, and PEI (Prince Edward Island) which is where you’ll probably spend most of your time playing. As you spawn, you’ll be as fresh and naked as a newborn baby and assuming you spawn within a town or building, you’ll make a beeline for the building and start searching for gear. Whilst the maps may not be randomly generated, the loot inside buildings is, so one spawn you might be lucky and find a pair of sailor pants, a lumberjack shirt and a baseball bat. Other spawns you might be lucky to find a stick. This presents an interesting panic start to the game, one that you SHOULD feel in a zombie survival scenario. So, all booted up and equipped with Nes’s baseball bat, you’ll probably start to hear groans and grunts and turn around to see a zombie waving at you through the window. This is where the fun starts.

Zombie meet Katana. Katana meet Zombie.
Zombie meet Katana. Katana meet Zombie.

The fun starts when you swing madly at the zombie who will keep chasing you till you die, mixing light and heavy attacks with the left and right mouse button until its just a corpse on the ground, surrounded by pixelated blood and you’re exhausted. You’ll be exhausted because there is a stamina bar, which like most things can be upgraded with the XP you get from senselessly beating up zombies. The pure joy from this melee combat is that every time you connect, blood erupts from the zombie (Or other player) and covers the area. Whilst it might sound gruesome, its slightly satisfying and gives real indication on the damage you’re inflicting, albeit that all attacks make the same amount of blood come out, so there is not real indicator that you’re seriously damaging whatever you’re hitting. The zombies themselves are programmed just right, being stupid enough on their own, much like Static, but in groups they’ll swarm you and eventually overwhelm you.

It was a massacre. A jam like massacre.
It was a massacre. A jam like massacre.

Speaking of weapons, this game has a plethora available. Melee weapons range from baseball bats to Katanas, which is the most OP at this time, ranged weapons from a simple bow to a crossbow, and guns from a simple 9mm pistol to an Outfield (Most of the named weapons are simple play on original names e.g Outfield = Enfield, Desert Falcon = Desert Eagle). Most of the ranged weapons also have customization options, the system functions very much like Crisis, in that you hold your gun infront of you and you can apply certain additions to certain places. In a game designed as simply as this, its a really nice detailed feature, and makes for an attachment (No pun intended) to the weapons. Also, the weapons use different ammo and clips, adding to the complexity and adding rareness to the best guns. Got a weapon that uses a NATO Clip? Good luck finding them! But thats what keeps me playing this game, hoping to find a NATO clip whilst murdering countless zombies is utterly amusing.

Im ready to rock.
Im ready to rock.

The game also features that old zombie game cliche almost of “Sound attracts zombies”, whilst its not original, it does make firing a rifle in the middle of a town dangerous as you’ll see zombies pour out of every building in site, waving their blocky arms at you like you were Justin Bieber surrounded by adolescent fans. The map PEI is large for an early access game, with three towns, a golf course, military base and three islands with surprises on them. Having an island to explore this big straight away was brilliant, especially when I got friends involved and we fortified a Barn on a farm and began to horde all available supplies. Friends make this game even more special, adding to the charm and quirk that the game already has when you watch one of your friends get mauled by several zombies never gets old.

Well, I guess whoever is in that mess of a zombie train is already dead. Better flee.
Well, I guess whoever is in that mess of a zombie train is already dead. Better flee.

Unturned also has vehicles. Ranging from simple 2 seater cars to fire trucks, which can carry six of your chums around the place. It makes traversing the island easy, but in this stage of the game, they seem to guzzle down fuel, regardless of what car it is, but I’ll forgive it because smashing into one of your friends- I mean a zombie with your car on the last choke of fuel is hilarious.

To adventure!
To adventure!

I know some of you may be thinking “TD, it’s just dayZ but minecraft! It has crafting and looting, but dayZ is far better!” And I’d 100% disagree with you. I understand that dayZ is built on an old engine, but Unturned was made by a single 17 year old. The gameplay is 100x more enjoyable, and from when I’ve managed to hop onto a random server, the community isn’t infested with shoot on site bandits. But thats just my opinion, guess I’ve already signed my death warrant by putting it on the internet, but meh.

Its a shame the boats aren't allowed to be driven, they would be an awesome feature.
Its a shame the boats aren’t allowed to be driven, they would be an awesome feature.

Overall, this game is one you should defiantly check out. Its free-to-play but it has an interesting twist, you can play it in all its glory for free, or pay (At the time of writing) £3.99 for a gold upgrade, which basically gives you more character customization choices and a gamemode with more loot avaliable, I played a significant time before I paid the money and can honestly say its the best way to encourage people to donate to the game.

I think we may have more than enough supplies.
I think we may have more than enough supplies.

Unturned is developed by Nelson Sexton. You can find it on Steam for free! Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD.

Unturned – Free to Play, Zombie Survival Done Right.