E3 2015 Day 1 Recap – Crossout, King of Wushu, Master of Orion, and More!
1. King of Wushu (7th Most Anticipated!)
Those that frequent our site know we have a bit of a love affair going on with the concept of a third person MOBA. Well after every game designer and their mother has failed to translate the concept of League of Legends top-down MOBA gameplay, its about time we saw a company follow the direction of SMITE instead to bring their own unique twist to the sub-genre.
We had a chance to talk to US office producer Mr. Doyle at length on King of Wushu, as well as go hands on for half a bot match. The one unarguable truth of this game is its gorgeous. For just barely finishing its upgrade to Direct X12 in time for the show demo, King of Wushu is a beauty to behold. Each hero’s cloth flows like a cinematic planned scene, bringing a sort of movie quality edition of Age of Wushu to life as the ultimate representations of these Wuxia schools clash in 5v5 competitions on the battlefield. But enough on looks, let’s talk about how it played on the Playstation 4, as well as our critiques.
As a disclaimer, Snail Games is showing some serious bravery to let press go hands-on with a title that is just barely hitting limited beta testing in China. The pros here include its imaginative and fast growing roster (there were 15 heroes at the E3 demo already), solid character visuals including towers, minions, and jungle mobs, and the smoothness of animations and high flying acrobatics. Each class seems to have quite themeatic color schemes, and auto attack chain animations to clearly portray their personality through just their actions. If these are key selling points for you in a MOBA, this game is already marking As and A+ on their report card. A side bonus is that the game offers a decent set of base itemization that, while nothing more than a working concept at the moment, seems to promise plenty of smart counterplay options for observant players that can strategize to their changing situation to counter fed foes. Don’t miss our coming interview/demo video for a full explanation of the stat system including attack, strength, deftness, intensity, brutality, crit rate, toughness, fortitude, swiftness, and siphon.
But as someone who has spent quite a bit of time MOBAing, I can say the game feels a bit on the slow side for someone entering the TPS subniche. Attack animations fire off at blinding speeds, while characters’ positional movement is kept at a rather sluggish pace, as if done to emphasize the elegance and grace of each hero’s design. Sure it does this well, but at such low movement speeds, you can’t properly dodge incoming skillshots. This issue is a bit compounded by the sheer size of this map. If you timed running from your starting base to the enemy’s starting base without speed items involved in the core map for a variety of MOBAs on the market today, King of Wushu would be in the top two for longest run time. The jungle between lanes is also quite lengthy and winding, making for some rather long travel times on ganking, and likely less incentive to be a full time jungler, though number tweaking of mob rewards could always change that if Snail wants to establish a certain meta.
But back to the actual head to head wuxia action. If someone lines an attack up on you properly, you’re going to get smacked right in the face. By the time you see the animations that the attack is coming, there’s nothing that can be done in terms of moving yourself out of the way. This is compounded by the feeling that there should be a dodge or block skill at the ready in a Wuxia TPS fighting game. The urge to roll out of the way of these power blasts at the last second is so intuitive that I found myself dumbfounded that there was no such basic option. If your character lacks an ability in their kit to do so, you’re sadly out of luck.
Beyond the real slowness of the movement, the overall progression pacing of the game is slow. Characters seem to grow in levels at a rate comparable to League of Legends. Now if you’re a laning phase guy, that can be a cool concept. But as someone who wants to have all four of his skills on line as soon as possible so they can get into more epic team fights, King of Wushu is a trial in patience. The game seems to discourage ganking plays as a result, as the slow progression is only made worse by roaming by roaming out of range of the lanes. Not that you would want to do so anyway, as the first tier towers are quite incapable of effectively dispatching large waves of minions. If one player out AoEs the damage of their rivals, it won’t be long before you see minions zerg through a tower or two while you’re still too weak to properly fend them off.
A side piece of commentary on a feature that remains more a concept than a part of the game is the plans for hero progression. I am having trouble deciding how I feel on this, as I’ve seen it done incredibly well (HoTS), or horribly wrong as seen in Prime World’s system that resulted in extremely long queues trying to match up teams of equal powered heroes. A system like this either requires an acceptance of a bit of imbalance between teams, a more horizontal rather than vertical progression system, or a rather large playerbase to pull off.
While my commentary might be a bit harsh, its only because I truly want to see another TPS style MOBA succeed, and have witnessed far too many MOBAs in the last year crash and burn due to premature launch schedules that never gave them a chance to offer something comparable to the competition. King of Wushu is just now starting to put their user interface pieces together, and has two separate control styles to fine tune between PS4 and PC, yet has a Q4 2015 – Q1 2016 tentative launch schedule. After seeing how fast they converted the entire game to DX12, anything is possible in terms of finishing development in time. My concern is if they can get the balance right while introducing so many characters so quickly. Fingers crossed we see this game in limited beta testing in the west soon, as this game will need some dedicated player feedback to get its roster ready to roll by end of the year.
As I mentioned earlier, we gave King of Wushu nearly an hour of our Day 1 schedule, so expect some great video coverage to be hitting MMOHuts’ Youtube very soon!
2. Age of Wushu Dynasty
When I heard Age of Wushu Dynasty was going to be the mobile port to Snail Games’ flagship title, Age of Wushu, I was in disbelief. How the heck was the technology in place to manage porting one of the most ambitious sandbox wuxia projects of all time, that had only launched two years prior, to mobile?! Yet the answer was lounging in plain view for all to see. Taichi Panda was the framework.
By utilizing Taichi Panda’s user interface, juggling system, and action combat controls, Age of Wushu Dynasty creates a faster flowing environment than even the PC original. All your high flying acrobatics, water running, and dynamic rock-paper-scissors martial arts clashes are still present. Just now Dynasty offers a bit more combat focused progression rather than the slower community focused cultivation.
Considering mobile users will be playing in shorter bursts, and more often as soloists, this is solid planning. Other than the change in progression, it sounds like Snail Games is keeping everything that makes Age of Wushu addicting, including the recreation of Ming China with vast open worlds where you can interact (and even PK!) other players. All eight original schools are also planned for launch, alongside the school rivalry systems that made Wushu so engaging on a community level. You can steal scrolls and live our your Naruto dreams just fine in the mobile version as well.
As mobile action RPGs have become a bit more common in the past year, I have gotten to test the waters from a number of titles and find Age of Wushu Dynasty’s control set-up to be the most advanced and user friendly on the market. The dynamic thumb tracking for movement works just as well here, if not better, than it even does in Taichi Panda. A great feature of Age of Wushu is obtaining a large variety of skills to surprise your foes with over the course of a drawn out wuxia battle. While you won’t be packing a double hotkey bar of skills like the PC here, they’ve still managed a nice arching and sharply colored hotkey system to give players access to a wide variety of skills without crowding the screen out of viewing the actual action going on.
Our time with Age of Wushu Dynasty was a bit more limited than King of Wushu, but this feels like one of the key titles to watch on the mobile frontier at this year’s E3. Again the user interface hasn’t even begun localization so Snail has plenty of work ahead for them, but the core mechanics already seem polished enough to be launch ready. Hopefully I’ll be beta testing this game on my Note 4 in the near future.
At E3 this year we sat down with a hands-on of Snail Mobile USA’s upcoming gaming smart phone, the W3D. First announced and shown off at CES earlier this year, the W3D has some impressive specs and a couple really cool and big features.
As far as the hardware itself is concerned, the W3D sports an octacore (combined A7 and A17) 2Ghz CPU, 2 GB of RAM, and 16GB of expandable storage. The screen is 5.5” (diagonal) with a 1080p resolution and has 3D functionality. There also are two cameras, one on the back (13MP) and one on the front (5MP), with the one on the front one used with the phone’s eye-tracking technology. Snail Mobile USA hasn’t gone so far as to say that their screen is ‘retina’ like, but it has the same size physical screen size and number of pixels as the iPhone 6 and 6+. When it comes to battery life, the W3D will last between 5-7 hours while gaming or viewing 3D video, but over 10 while web browsing and using it as a traditional smartphone on its 4000 mAh battery. On the ‘bottom’ side of the phone are two USB B Micro ports for charging and pushing video out to an external device. We presume that both can be used for charging at the same time to speed things up, but we’ll see.
The first, and frankly most noticeable feature, are two joysticks along with the front and top buttons. The joysticks themselves slide around much like a 3DS’s joystick, but they’re a bit smaller than that. The buttons take influence from the PSP/Vita in terms of button style and feel. There are four buttons for gaming on top, L1, L2, R1, and R2, and four face buttons – familiar, right? In any case, the joysticks and buttons feel as expected if you’ve used gaming systems on-the-go before. The joystick and buttons address the most common gripe about gaming with a phone or tablet: You can’t see through your hands and on-screen buttons in a lot of games are still finicky and weird.
The second big feature, definitely the most striking, is the phone’s 3D technology combined with its eye tracking. Similar in functionality to the eye tracking introduced in the 3DS’ refresh earlier this year, the W3D tracks eye movement with a single camera point and adjust the 3D depth effects and angles accordingly. The 3D works best at about 75% arm extension and complicates the porting and development of games a bit, but it really works well. During our demo time, we played around with some 3D footage that felt like it came 18’’ out from the screen – really nice. Of course, this 3D tech and effect works without glasses and only for one person viewing the phone at a time.
When it comes to software, the W3D is Android based. The demo phone we played with was running Android KitKat (4.2.2) with a tasteful custom interface that was fairly close to the vanilla, “stock” Android layout and style – for this, we’re thankful. Snail Games is currently in the process of porting games like Taichi Panda and developing games like Age of Wushu Dynasty for the phone. When playing other Android games, players will be able to customize and map existing onscreen buttons to the W3D’s physical buttons or re-arrange them on the W3D’s large display – we’re not sure how this trick will work yet, but it’s promising for those who have always wanted to play their Android games on beefier hardware and with physical buttons.
As a phone, it’s lighter than we expected but unwieldy when it comes to using it for having actual conversations. Like devices that have come before it, physical buttons and a large form factor make it tricky to use when compared to other phones, and difficult to store in a pocket due to it’s width (or height when vertically oriented).
In today’s mobile market it’s uncommon to see a phone with physical buttons, at least in the West, but if the software library is there to support it then it may have a good shot at taking some market share. The phone itself is powerful enough to render 1080p 3D, so it’s got a performance leapfrog over other phones out there.
No firm release date or price point has been announced, but we have been assured that the W3D will be released as an unlocked phone competitively priced against locked flagship smartphones. The W3D is set to release sometime during Q4 this year.
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