Petroglyph's MMORTS is a ton of fun when you're blowing up other people.
When I took a hands-on look at End of Nations' PvE content (that is, vs. computer-controlled enemies), I came away feeling that the game had potential but that it wasn't without issues. The game simply felt overtuned: Enemies spawned too quickly and took too long to kill, making it hard to accomplish even the simplest of objectives.
It's funny how that problem goes out the window when you're playing against other human beings, hmm?
The "Ground Assault" PvP map that Trion and Petroglyph showed us was simple, and actually had far more in common with a competitive battleground in a game like Battlefield 1942 or WoW than it did a traditional RTS like StarCraft or Dawn of War. The objective was territory control - grab strategic nodes, hold them to get points, the first team to a given score wins. There was no base-building; you had your own little squadron of vehicles and that was that. If all of your forces were destroyed, you simply respawned back at your team's home base.
While there were only enough people to populate a four-on-four match, the developers are hoping for some truly massive RTS battles: They're aiming for battles with at least 10 players per side, possibly more.
Still, even with fewer than half of the "ideal" number of players, this PvP match was where the core of End of Nations really began to shine. It was also where I became rather fond of the Strike commander class: While the Tank commander is powerful and durable and the Artillery commander can rain destruction down at a distance, the Strike commander relies on speed. You have a squadron of zippy little buggies at your disposal that move in to hit hard and fast and then zoom away before they catch any return fire - they blow up if someone so much as looks at them the wrong way.
There are some neat tricks that all players have at their disposal: You can drop turrets and other traps wherever you please to make the points you control more easily defensible. As you battle, you earn points that can be spent on upgrading your forces ... or you can spend them on something more interesting - depending on the locations that your team controls, you can expend your resources on a special ability.
Holding the air strip lets you call in a special bombing run, which was fun, but the game's Crowning Moment of Awesome required you to hold the central point on the map - the Mother of All Bombs. I'm sure you can guess what happened next: I saw the enemy team moving through a narrow pass and decided to call down the thunder.
It may not have the whole "imminent doom" effect of the classic "nuclear launch detected," but really, seeing a tactical nuke decimate your opponent's forces is just a blast, no matter what game you're playing. End of Nations' PvP may well be the main draw for many experienced RTS hands, and with good reason - it's a ton of fun. It's still in a very rough and unpolished form, but the potential is here for quick and brutal matches like you'd find in an FPS, only controlled like you would any given strategy game.
This is where End of Nations shines, and if Petroglyph can make the PvE content as fun as the PvP, it might well have a winner on its hands.