Those of you who don’t play many free online games. particularly browser based ones, may not be familiar with the company Gamigo. The German based company has launched it’s first MMOG back in 2001 and has since built an impressive line-up of diverse free-to-play titles. They are currently the home to over 20 client or browser based video games with such names among them as Mytheon, Witcher VS and one of my personal favorites Black Prophecy. I think a lot of people discovered Black Prophecy at the show this year because the computers playing it were constantly busy with players. I was a beta tester on the game and was amazed at how nice the 3 dimensional ship maneuverability was. This is a problem that has plagued bigger names in gaming but Gamigo had it down so well that it was a pleasure to fly them and test the game. Which was probably why so many found themselves just checking out the game at the booth and then spending a long time at it.
This story isn’t so much about Black Prophecy, though it is definitely a fun game that should be going into open beta soon and is well worth the time, I simply brought it up as an example of the level of excellence you can expect from a company that you might not have expected great things from. Let’s face it, browser games don’t always have the best reputation but I think Gamigo will help change that.
So here are a couple of their offerings I got to look into at E3:
UFO Online: Fight For Earth
“We come in peace.” – The red flag should probably go up whenever extraterrestrial visitors use this phrase. In the tactical browser-based game UFO Online: Fight For Earth humanity has also made the mistake of trusting the aliens.
That was a terrible mistake, as it turns out. The supposedly-peaceful aliens soon turn out to be nasty invaders looking to exploit our planet’s resources. While a majority of the population still believes their lies, three factions of resistance fighters form to take up arms against the aliens.
In UFO Online, players choose a faction to join and build and expand a base that acts as a hub in the fight for freedom. This is where mercenaries are hired and trained and where technologies and weapons are researched and added to the arsenal. Then it’s time to take on the aliens in turn-based tactical battles. The player commands an team of specialists, each of which has their own class-specific skill tree. Only with the right combination of targeted research and carefully planned out tactics will the player come out of battle victoriously.
PvE mode is all about destroying the extraterrestrial invaders while PvP battles are between players. Here they need to demonstrate their tactical skills and the firepower of their troops against other human opponents. Thanks to Flash and the Unity engine, UFO Online has highly-detailed modern 3D graphics on par with those found in most client games.
Still very much in the Alpha stage of development stage the AI is rather simplified but will no doubt develop nicely. The graphics are similar to a Command and Conquer title but the play is turn based and movement and attacks are based on energy levels. There are two ways to move, normal or stealth and though stealth is a lot slower it does decrease the chance of you being spotted. This game takes into account sound as much as sight so that if you walk too close to a door or fire an unsilenced gun there is a good chance you will get caught. To help with this issue there are multiple classes to use, specialists, designed to help in various scenarios. You get scouts who can quietly find the enemy, tanks who have better armor to handle taking the gunfire and damage units such as the sniper who stays at the back of the pack and picks off the enemy. The sound system is a lot of fun since it works both ways so that either both of you sneak around or one of you get the edge. I can’t wait to play with this game when it gets further along in development. This is one of the games that they are testing the Unity engine on and I for one am excited to see what they can do with it.
Jagged Alliance Online:
Jagged Alliance Online is built around the same mixture of turn-based battles and real-time action which made the long-running Jagged Alliance franchise a real cult classic. Players take control of a group of soldiers, commanding them from an isometric perspective to complete tasks in order to earn cash and fame. If a player wants to stay on top, mercenaries will need to be trained and equipped with better weapons and gear. If that’s not quite enough, then mercenaries can be borrowed from friends or alliances can be formed with other players.
In their base, players have full control of all their military operations. Here they set up strike forces, equip and train mercenaries and plan their next missions. They can also communicate with other players to ask for help or send some of their mercenaries out to assist friends in some of the hardest missions of the game. But the base is not invincible to enemy attacks, so players will have to invest their resources in fortification of their defenses or go out to raid their enemies’ bases.
In the actual missions, players will need to prove their tactical skill by interacting directly with the mercenaries on the battlefield to make the best use of every soldier‘s “Action Points” in the turn-based skirmishes. Action Points are required to perform each activity, from simply running to a new position or breaking down a door to shooting at targets. Because these points are not unlimited, players will need to make clever decisions each turn if they want to earn the reward waiting at the end of each successfully completed mission.
Jagged Alliance stays true to is origins and is very similar in many ways to UFO Online but with a different setting and iconic characters from the Jagged Alliance franchise. The AI is currently in the works but if you like a good turn based strategy or are a fan of the previous games this will be worth your time, especially since it is free. Much like UFO Online I look forward to when it hits the Beta phase and hope I can see that it delivers what it promises. Right now it looks good and demonstrates the sound presence/alert system very well, just time to teach the AI how to think. They will probably be thinking pretty well too, since this game uses the Unity engine also.
Twenty years after devastating earthquakes lay everything to waste on Earth, what remains of humanity is fighting hard for its survival. Those cities that did not crumble in the quakes have been flattened in the bitter struggles for power that have ensued. Roving bands of marauders, mutants and psychopathic robbers wander the streets, looking for trouble. In this inhospitable post-apocalyptic scenario there’s only one goal: survival!
Not only does the MMORPG Grimlands have an interesting setting, it also has intuitive and innovative gameplay. Players take aim at their enemies with a variety of weapons, primarily firearms, from a classic shooter-game-style third-person perspective. Using a gunsight will make accurate shooting easier though aiming manually will increase the chances of causing more damage. Linear character development and non-flexible class systems are a thing of the past in Grimlands. Skills are improved simply by using them. Grimlands is all about “learning by doing”. Skills that aren’t used often are forgotten after a while. The southwest United States is waiting to be explored in highly modifiable vehicles. The incredibly comprehensive crafting system plays a very important role in the overall gameplay. Clans can control cities and build up new islands of civilization in these. Arenas and battlegrounds set the stage for rough-and-tumble PvP combat.
Scheduled to be demoed this game is so early still in the Alpha stage that stability issues caused it not to be able to be shown. It is kind of a shame since a few of us on the team wanted to know most about this one (there is an apocalypse/wasteland contingency on our team that scouts out zombie/mutant refuges when we travel) but it just wasn’t meant to be for E3. But trust me when I say when they have the game ready for me to check out I will make sure to pass the news on to you.
Gamigo’s new offerings at the show were not quite ready for prime-time but that’s fine, they were a taste of things to come from a company that has already proved it can do the job well. Just check out the 20 other games they have running for free.