Gen Con has been a bit light on the video gaming front this year. If not for Dragon Age, I might have chalked it up as a bust after my first pass of the show floor. Taking a second look, there are a few games worth checking out thanks to a bevy of Euro RPGs developers and the always plucky Atari giving them a way into North America.
Kings Bounty, Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir and Champions Online, covered here, are just the start. Keep an eye on this space as the weekend marches on!
King’s Bounty: The Legend
At first glance, King’s Bounty appears to be yet another Heroes of Might and Magic clone sailing to North American shores. Looking deeper, I realized that while it does do turned-based battles on a grid, there’s also a healthy amount of overland travel in real-time and plenty of RPG elements to keep you searching for new treasure and quests. Think Warcraft 3 style navigation until you run into an enemy, when you’re transported into an arena where your two armies fight it out in a turn-based battle.
What struck me was how deep the non-combat elements are. More than just a few skill choices and a climbing stat column; there are loads of different equipment combinations to juggle and skill trees to choose from. Even better, what race you marry can affect your equipment bonuses – choose an Elf and good luck getting much benefit from a Dwarven Warhammer. Even having a child will give you an experience bonus.
Currently slated for Fall of this year, King’s Bounty is definitely one I’ll be keeping an eye on.
- Shawn Andrich
Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir
Every time I think I’ve lost interest in this series, some sexy new expansion feature pulls me back in. In this case, being able to build my own party from the ground up before starting the game is a welcome departure from pre-generated party members. Throw in the Baldur’s Gate-style camera and it’s like playing Icewind Dale in 3D.
I also like the new conversation system which will allow me to respond with different party members on the fly if I need a little more intimidation or a lot more charm. This even comes into play during multiplayer sessions, allowing all players to vote on different dialogue choices.
Assuming the story holds up and the combat remains interesting throughout, I think there’s enough here to justify a purchase this winter.
- Shawn Andrich
Champions Online looks fantastic from about 60 feet away, especially after shuffling past the disappointment contained in most of Gen Con's video game exhibitors. Anything looks great after Legends of Norrath, but a new spin on the comic book MMO genre is enough to perk up my spirits. After work on Marvel Universe Online fell apart in 2006, Cryptic bought the rights to the Champions pen-and-paper system from the early 80s. Their plan is to take an established system for role-playing superheroes and build upon that with the lessons learned from their previous game, City of Heroes. What they're demoing at Gen Con is a pretty good start.
While Cryptic talks up the game's non-conventional character creation system -- based more on individual powers than pre-packaged classes -- each demo station featured a pre-built toon that grossly out powers the puny trash mobs in the zone. It's fun to bash the bad guys and interact with the environments, but there isn't a lot of info yet on quests and additional zones. Unlike City of Heroes, Champions Online won't go heavy on the instanced areas, letting players work together in larger areas. The cell-shaded graphics add 4-color personality that was missing from CoH, but still need a little work. When it's finished, though, Cryptic aims to have an fast paced action MMO for comic book fans on both the PC and 360, and they're shooting for Spring 2009.
- Cory Banks