Nosgoth: Closed Beta Impressions
By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Legacy of Miscommunication:
Once upon a time, Eidos Interactive created the Legacy of Kain franchise, set in the grimdark fantasy world of Nosgoth. Developed by Silicone Knights and released by Eidos, the company was taken over by Squaresoft/Square-Enix and re-released. Throughout the 2000s, there were rumblings, rumors of a reboot or sequel to the last Legacy of Kain title. This is not that game. Nosgoth is set in the same world, and while it may be fun to know some of the lore from the series, it isn’t necessary to get into this game. However, this is a far cry from the Kain series: it isn’t an action beat-‘em up or tactical espionage. This is Nosgoth, a MOBA published by Square-Enix and developed by Psyonix, and will be available on Steam.
Nosgoth’s battles are four on four arenas, set in a generally grim and unpleasant portion of the world. After waiting in a lobby for all eight players, everyone is swapped onto squads and assigned one of two factions: the brutal, wicked Vampires and the cunning, well-equipped Human hunters. The matches are set to end either on a time-limit, or the first to 30 kills, whichever comes first. After the round ends, the squads swap factions, and they rush into combat again! At the end of that round, whichever has the most total kills wins, and experience and other rewards are doled out. One of the joys of this game is that it is a free-to-play game; you do not ever have to buy things or pay for the game itself. However, paying for a “Founders Pack,” available on their website, allows you access immediately to the Closed Beta, and free stuff such as skins, early access to advanced classes and other fancy bonuses. You don’t have to do any of this, but it can sure make the game easier to get a head start on.
The premise of Nosgoth is simple and straightforward. You and your team explore the map, navigate around and over buildings, hills, and down dark alleys to destroy the other team, crippling them with kill after brutal kill. There is, thankfully, a tutorial that shows you how to play both sides, to get a feel for the controls. You can choose to use a keyboard and mouse, or you can use a controller to really dive into the action. Though I found the keyboard combo more than a little clunky, I feel like many players will still use it. The base buttons can be incredibly awkward, with Left-Shift being your run/climb button, and Q/F being your primary skills. It can be sort of hard to shift from left-shift to Q on the fly if things are all happening at the same time.
Currently, there are two factions with four classes each. New players who are not founders start with two of each faction’s classes: Hunter and Alchemist for Humans, while Vampires have Reavers and Tyrants. Each has its own kit of skills and equipment that one can unlock or purchase from the online store. Classes are acquired in one of two ways: You can use real-money currency to purchase them, or as your profile levels on 5, 10, 15 and 20 you can unlock them for free. You cannot use the “gold” currency that you earn via winning matches. As of this writing, it is about 12 dollars (US) to unlock a character class, since they all cost 3,000 runestones. For that price, I do sort of wish they would implement a sort of “Tryout” policy to see if you like the class before you purchase it.
Combat might seem unfair in Nosgoth. Humans are all ranged monsters, and Vampires are melee fighters, using their claws and darkness itself to their advantage. However, after numerous battles, I have found that this is not really a detriment. I won just as many on one faction as the other. While the Vampires do not have the power to shoot from a distance per se’, they make up for it in their ability to scale buildings and walls with ease. Some of them fly and swoop down, while others are horrifying tanks, running right into the fray to distract and throw Humans off their balance while the reavers swoop in from the shadows, mauling the poor hunters. It is all about position, strategy, and action-reaction. On the other hand, humans have crossbows with exploding, rapid-fire arrows, bottles that explode into sunlight or a wall of fire. They have bolas to stop combat, while the Reaver can create an aura that allows them to dodge ranged attacks. Ultimately there is a balance in this, and it will boil down to how you and your team function as a unit.
Though the classes are not all unlocked, they are all incredibly different in how they play, so it should not be too hard to find something that suits your personal play style. Vampire Sentinels swoop overhead, grab Humans and drop them from terrible heights, likely right into the path of a Tyrant or Reaver. Prophets wear horrifying masks and use tainted blood, theirs and others, to enchant the bullets of their dual-pistols to cause havoc. I feel like all of the classes are incredibly powerful, and “In a world where everyone is overpowered, nobody is overpowered.”
What are ya buyin’? What are ya sellin’?
Nosgoth is touted as a free game, and that’s all well and good. At its core it is free-to-play, despite the Founder Packs offering obvious aids to get above other players faster for a price. With exp/gold boosts, classes, and skins, it is very tempting if a player is going to be serious about this game. For example, the 20 dollar “Veteran Pack” gives you immediate access to the Closed Beta, 4,000 runestones (equaling one character class and maybe some other stuff), and a badge showing you spent money on the game. Each one gets progressively more expensive and better, all the way up to the 149 dollar “Immortal Pack.” It comes with early access to two classes, 30,000 runestones, reservation on a Warband (clan) name, an exclusive skin, and piles of other stuff. Personally, I cannot imagine spending that much on a game that isn’t even out yet, especially if I hadn’t played it yet. A serious concern to the free-to-play gamer is one player having an edge over one another and as such I am leery of most games that offer some kind of Founders Pack; if it is just cosmetic, little things to make your characters look cool or unique, that is one thing, but this game is offering a legitimate edge to players who drop money on it before the game is out. I have to say, that leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
The store is unique to me, at least. There are a variety of items that one can purchase, using gold (won in games) and runestones (bought with money), and for some of these items, there are two options. You can spend a small amount (say, 100-300) to purchase a piece of equipment for 7 days; alternately, you can spend more to buy them permanently. I think this is a really cool concept. As I mentioned earlier a try-before-you-buy policy would be fantastic, and this is probably the closest the game will offer. The charge difference is significant, but not unreasonable. Say for example, one of the shotguns is 100-200 in currency for 7 days, and the permanent purchase is about 1000-1200. These items can be equipped in one of a few loadouts that you can select from before combat begins, a’la Call of Duty. Occasionally an item is rewarded after a series of rounds is over, similar to DOTA2, but it is a rarity; I have only seen it once so far.
A lot of the alternate equipment, such as weapons, is useful. I was looking in particular at the Alchemist items, as that is my preferred Human class. There were three guns on offer to be purchased. One does more damage, but has a smaller clip, while another drops three bombs per shot, creating a great deal of AOE damage. The final gun shoots sticky orbs that cling to enemies and other targets, exploding for a more interesting strategy. The normal gun shoots orbs that bounce before triggering their bit of explosive damage, so each of these is different in their own way. However, Vampires do not get physical equipment such as crossbows and guns. They do get a variety of equipable changes to their skills which are just as useful. Humans also get skill changes, but not quite as many. Of course, you can also buy perks, boosts, skins, and bundles of the above for your perusal. Thankfully, the important things can be bought with in-game currency.
The Masquerade And You: 4/5: Great.
My first impressions of Nosgoth are a mixed bag, admittedly. I’m a fan of MOBAs. I really enjoy the concept of Nosgoth as a faction on faction MOBA where it is an interesting blend of the Legacy of Kain world, Unreal Tournament-esque action, and carnage – lots of carnage. I feel that it is a niche’ market though, which is why I am glad it is free to play. I get the feeling that if it had a retail price it would bomb horribly. I like that you have to play both sides of the game, and while there are players (like myself) that have a preference, it can really build a well-knowledged playerbase if everyone has no choice but to at least learn one or two classes on both sides. We can take this train of thought and find that now players are going to know what to expect of the other team, making more fast, exciting, insane action. And that’s what we’re going for! Violence, explosions, and blood! Nosgoth has that and more.
There are more things to come with Nosgoth, such as ranked/eSports play and a gifting/trading system. While again I feel this is a very niche’ title, there are still some things to iron out and work on. Of course, this is a beta, and to be expected. One final thought concerns matches/matchmaking. I have only had one or two games that had a full four versus four the entire time. It seems that as soon as the game is going the other way, people give up and quit because there are no consequences in place for that, leaving many four vs. two matchups, or even worse, four vs. one. But I do feel like for those interested in arena combat, big things are on the way.
This title does a fantastic job of painting a portrait; a mixture of grim, beat-down villages, dark and forboding, and lush green towns with bridges covered in moss and bright green grass or weeds. The backdrops are terrific and the settings offer a great deal of room to maneuver and occasionally, get distracted by just how pretty it is. I’m looking forward to more of these maps to see just what the team at Psyonix are capable of.
Admittedly, I am a little unhappy with the keyboard and mouse controls. They take quite a bit of work to get them just right. I found more of the time than not I would over shoot attacks, swinging away at the air because I moved the mouse just an inch too far over. I had this problem significantly less on a controller, but it still happened. The controls are strange, but changeable. The defaults felt to be very awkward to get used to, but I would rather learn to use them than adjust them. Maybe that’s just me. I feel that I’ll do better when I can get used to how the main buttons feel.
There are two modes that are available to me at this moment. The four vs. four beginner’s mode where people get used to the game up to Rank 10, and the normal Team Deathmatch. There is also the Siege Mode, which I have no information on just yet. I was hoping for more modes; however, I am certain that there will be, such as ranked matches, and perhaps some kind of other staples of team combat, similar to perhaps a kill secured/capture the flag style game? Overdone perhaps, but I think the team at Psyonix could probably do some really clever things with Vampires and Humans game modes.
The music really felt like it fit the game; it is suitably grim and forboding, and the scenes were set well with it. The character voices felt like they matched the archetypes, and all around I was very pleased. I’m hoping for more variety in music though; the more I heard, the more I want to hear. Perhaps some dialogue between characters other than respawn and kills would be interesting. It might not be noticed with how fast and furious the combat is, but it would have potential.
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