PAX: Nosgoth Impressions – Promising Third-Person Arena Combat

By Published August 30, 2014 at 1:42 pm

After talking to Chris Roberts about procedural generation, we headed over to the Square Enix & Psyonix shared booth to discuss Nosgoth. And played it. I actually played a game at PAX – shocking. Nosgoth is another in the growing line of third-person battle arenas, and unlike Skara – Nosgoth seems to have gotten the pacing right.

You play as one of two different factions in Nosgoth, humans and vampires, alternating mid-round after a time limit for balance reasons. Each team has a distinctive playstyle – the humans use a lot of ranged weapons to fight from afar and the vampires use their abilities and speed to quickly navigate terrain elements. Vampire movement is enacted in a fashion that allows them to close the distance on human prey with great efficiency.

Note: Nosgoth is still in closed beta right now.

Video Impressions & Gameplay from PAX - Nosgoth

Each team has four different classes, each with several enumerations of their core weaponry and abilities. The classes for humans are as follows:

  • Alchemists – use bombs to quickly exit combat or cause AoE damage.
  • Hunters – crossbow archers who can sue bolas and whips.
  • Prophets – use dual pistols and hexes to keep vampires at bay.
  • Scouts – bow archers who excel at hit-and-run (kiting) tactics).

Vampire classes are:

  • Deceivers – can take on the appearance of a human to sneak behind the lines. Encourages teamplay among humans, who can detect this easily if they’re aware of their teammates.
  • Reavers – swift and deadly, use pounce, leap, and kick attacks that are reminiscent of Left 4 Dead’s hunters.
  • Sentinels – winged fighters. Sentinels have unlimited flight ability and can pick up target enemies (but can’t hold them forever).
  • Tyrants – think of these as the ‘tank’ of the team. Huge fighters who can battle through the pain.

Players start with two classes on each team, but can unlock a total of four more (two per team) as they level up. Players will unlock classes every five levels.

Each class comes equipped with a core set of weapons and abilities, each of which has several variations. The variations of weapons – a siege crossbow versus a rapid-fire crossbow, for instance – won’t necessarily change the player’s DPS, but will heavily change the playstyle of the character. This ensures the game remains centered on skill rather than “leveling up” for power, as would be done in an MMORPG. In fact, levels are entirely a representation of time dedicated and have no direct impact on character power level. They do come into play for unlocking classes, but that’s about it.

We enjoyed playability of each class, but noticed there were balance issues. Despite the fact that humans are slower and can’t scale terrain like vampires (who can climb walls), I never felt that it made significant impact in play. Every human class can roll or dodge, and playing as a character equipped with a flamethrower, rolling was usually enough to stay out of harm while incinerating the vamps. The scariest vampire ability was a sort-of tackle or pinning move, like L4D’s hunter. Even this was easy to dodge, though when pinned effectively, humans suddenly have more team play potential – one class can deploy a whip to remove the pinning vampire, for instance.

Team play potential in a non-show-floor environment is huge. We had fun playing in an MMO-like arena without the issue of leveling and abilities min-maxing, and the current 4 vs. 4 setup seems perfect for competitive play.

The minimap in its current state feels largely unnecessary. It’s too small (and zoomed) and doesn’t provide any information you can’t see with the rest of the UI. With some zooming or scaling / size tweaks, the radar would be a powerful tool as in any FPS or arena game.

All that noted, Nosgoth is seriously fun. With some attention to the balance, this game could be a success for Square and Psyonix, and I certainly hope to see it go that way. There was interest in eSports at the booth, which would be more than welcome if picked up by the right organizations.

- Keegan Gallick & Stephen Burke.

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