At a time when most RTS games are split between the extremely hardcore and the extremely casual, Trion has attempted, and succeeded, at finding a modern, enjoyable balance between the two with End of Nations, its upcoming free-to-play real-time strategy MMO.
In EoN, players will choose between two factions, and one of two classes available from within each. Not only will these choices determine which team you’re fighting for, but also what type of units are available to you. Unlike most RTS games, EoN requires no base building, and no traditional resource management. Instead, before the game, players will assemble “companies,” essentially customizable sets of units you’ll default to during a match. The companies reminded me a bit of building a Magic: The Gathering deck; you have a certain number slots, and must balance what will be available to you for both offensive and defensive considerations. Unlike a card game, however, players are able to build three separate companies that can be swapped out in battle. This is great for when you’ve built a ground-combat-centric company, and suddenly find that your opponent is straight air. Instead of being helpless to fight back, hopefully you have an air or anti-air company ready to deploy.
Each match varies in size, from a standard 2 vs. 2, to an impressive 26 vs. 26. Most maps include a base protected by a large shield that must be dropped by assaulting and controlling various checkpoints on the map. Once the shield is down, the base is vulnerable, and you can destroy it for the win.
During the fight, resources are delivered to you automatically in a slow trickle. These can be used for special unit abilities, quick turrets, or replacing dead units from your company. This system places a much heavier emphasis on tactics than economy control, allowing for a fast-paced experience that’s easy to jump straight into, but will likely require practice to master.
The outcomes of these matches affect the global areas in which you play. The so-called “war room” central screen is a giant world map that shows each faction’s current control. Win in Iceland, and your faction gains influence there. Gain enough, and you may take it over, granting all members of your faction worldwide a temporary buff from the accomplishment.
While the game is entirely free, special “elite” companies with specialized focuses will be available for purchase. While the term “elite” seems to imply an advantage, I was told that they’re simply different – helpful for players seeking to find a style that matches their personal player strengths. One elite company, for example, offers one giant artillery tank, with four weaponless hummers that scour the map “spotting” for its strikes. Another is composed of units optimized for high risk, high reward play. But with other pre-built and customizable companies in the game for free, things seem perfectly balanced out for payers and non-payers alike.
End of Nations is currently finishing up alpha, and is just about ready to jump into beta. The full game is set to arrive late summer of this year, only on PC.