Nosgoth – Closed Beta First Impressions
Have you heard of Legacy of Kain? Maybe you’re not quite as big of a fan as I am, but the name Nosgoth might still ring a bell. It’s the world that Legacy of Kain is set in. And now also the name of an upcoming free-to-play multiplayer team game developed by Psyonix and published by Square Enix.
As a big fan of the series, I am of course disappointed that we’re not getting another “proper” game. However, I also have a bit of a weakness for asymmetrical multiplayer games, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
I will admit I have not really played enough for a proper impressions post, but I wanted to write down some first impressions while they’re fresh. And considering Steam is currently dead, and I need to be logged into Steam to play, why not now?
I have technically been part of it since the Closed Alpha, but the playtime was limited back then, and I was usually too distracted to get more than the occasional game in. So most of my playing has been in the past few days.
At first, as I was just reading about it while it was downloading, I knew for sure that I wanted to play as a vampire! I mean, who would want to play boring humans? I have a feeling the developers had the same thought, because in a Team Deathmatch (really the only available mode yet) you have to play two rounds, one as vampires, one as humans. And both sides feel pretty good, in their own way. More than I expected, certainly.
Before I get into the gameplay, let me talk about where this game fits into the lore. For those of you who remember Soul Reaver, you will probably understand what I’m talking about. For the rest, I will attempt to explain.
Soul Reaver opens with Kain (the head vampire) executing one of his lieutenants for the crime of evolving past his master, and then the game continues several centuries later when that lieutenant is resurrected as a Soul Wraith and goes on a quest for revenge.
Nosgoth fits into that unexplored gap of centuries. Kain has vanished, and his other lieutenants started bickering and in-fighting almost immediately. This gave the enslaved humans a chance to break free, revolt and form a group of vampire hunters with the aim of eradicating all of the vampire clans.
As of current there are three classes per side, though more are planned for the future. The humans are based on ranged combat, while the vampires focus on melee.
The humans have the Hunter, with a rapid-fire crossbow, crowd-control abilities and the heaviest armour; the Alchemist, who has a homebrew “grenade” launcher and various concoctions; and the Scout, who has a longbow, various direct damage abilities and can get a grappling hook.
The vampires have the Reaver of clan Dumah, who can use blinding smoke, pouncing, and quick movements to shred enemies; the Tyrant of Clan Turel, who is the big bruiser who prefers charging in and swinging with his big, beefy arms; and the Sentinel of clan Raziel; who can fly(!), pick people up and divebomb the accursed humans.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that I have mostly played as the Sentinel while on the vampire side, but I did recently try out the Tyrant as well, which was a remarkably different experience. While as a Sentinel you glide around the battlefield and try to pick people off, as a Tyrant I had much more fun charging into the fray and laying down a ground-pound. The Reaver skulks around, pounces and generally looks for opportunities.
On the human side I tend to favour the Alchemist, but I do a better job of mixing things up. For the Hunter I mainly have to worry about managing the recoil, and when to use my explosive bolts or disabling bolas. The Scout feels more mobile than the others, and you can do some cool charged shots, but I’ve yet to get a good feeling for it. The Alchemist seems to be the only woman in the game, and it lets me set things on fire. I tend to run out of ammo fairly quickly though.
I should also get better at dodging, just in general.
The main idea is that the teams operate in different ways. The humans need to stay together and cover eachother. Find a defensible position. They can only regain health and get more ammo at supply stations, so keeping track of those should be in the back of your mind. You might need to move eventually though, because after using a supply station, that player can’t use it again for a while. But in my experience, you usually die before that becomes an issue, and supply stations seem to become usable again after respawn.
The vampires are there to hunt. Against a well co-ordinated human team, they kinda need to attack from several directions to break through. Everyone charging in from the same direction will likely just get everyone killed. Vampires can climb onto buildings, leap from building to building, and just generally have a vast range of movement. Not to mention one of them can actually fly. So you have to attack from where they don’t expect. Try to isolate someone. A human on their own is an easy meal. And feeding on downed humans is the main way of recovering health. You will slowly regen if you manage to hide away for a while, but where’s the fun in that when you could be nomming on someone?
So far I have only seen two maps, and they are both filled with buildings, alleys, places to hole up, the occasional open area. All in all they seem promising so far. They just need more of them.
Okay, so far this has mainly been an explanation, hasn’t it? My impressions then. I have to admit that what struck me through the first few matches is how solid it felt. There was not a lot to it, but they seem to have been working on making what they had function before they expanded. Not that it is without bugs, but those seem mainly to be regarding getting into a server. I’ve yet to be cast out once I got in, but getting in has occasionally proven a problem. And inside a match I’ve really only run into a few glitches, mainly concerning vampires climbing on stuff and the animations and positions for that not always seeming to work right.
Is it what I was hoping for when I heard they doing a Nosgoth game? No, I can’t say that with any sort of honesty. But for what it is trying to be, it seems very promising. As a sucker for asymmetrical multiplayer games, especially team-based ones, I can see myself playing a bit of this every now and again.
My main worry is regarding how the monetisation is going to affect the game. You do earn in-game gold from matches, and you can buy runestones for real money. The latter can also be used to unlock everything you can with gold, and then some. You get a starting set of gear and abilities, but everything else has to be unlocked. As far as I can tell, only skins and boosters are exclusively unlocked with runestones, while equipment, abilities and perks can also be unlocked with gold. The trick is that you can either rent them cheaply, or pay a lot to unlock them permanently. I suppose that’s an alright model, in theory. Being able to test out something before committing to it. It’s triggering a few warning bells, but hopefully that’s just me overreacting.
What really troubles me is that one of the store tabs said “Classes”. The two in the store, that they had gracefully been nice enough to unlock for me via some special items (for being part of the Closed Alpha and Beta, I presume), had a hefty price attached to them. Though it also seemed like they could be gotten in exchange for 1 of something I didn’t recognise. A random drop, perhaps? The game does seem to operate with the occasional drop. But it does seem like they only intend to start out new players with two classes on each side, and having them buy the rest. As it stands currently, the classes cost 3000 runestones each, which I think is about 10 euros. But the packs of runestones you can buy are 2100 for €7.30, or 4400 for €14.60. I suppose you could combine a 1000 stone pack with a 2100 one, but that would still cost you €10.95.
So as promising as the gameplay seems to be, I do get some bad vibes off of this monetisation. Square Enix have had some issues with this before, especially if we look to the mobile market. So I don’t know. I like being a vampire and nomming on people, but… I just hope they’re not going to ruin it. This early I can really only say that they might be on the right track.