Blight Of The Immortals: Blight Up, Pt 1

By Quintin Smith on December 15th, 2010 at 3:07 pm.

Don't you love games that really /look/ like games?

Iron Helmet, the devious devs behind Neptune’s Pride, are releasing their next project, Blight of the Immortals, in January, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m like a sugar-loaded child over here. I’m even more excited because I’m currently in the beta of Blight of the Immortals, and over the last few days I’ve been learning precisely what the game’s about. Basically, it’s about worrying.

Neptune’s Pride was a game about scheming, and hating, and plotting, and then hating some more, reducing each player into a powerless sci-fi Eye of Sauron as they squirmed and struggled for total dominance. Blight of the Immortals has more similarities than I was expecting, but it’s a very different beast. I also suspect it’s the better game.

The similarities first- once again, this is a real-time browser game where your forces can take tens of hours to reach even the nearest locations, and you log in throughout the day to check on the game’s progress. Once again, the game’s about taking control of settlements, with Neptune’s Pride’s star systems simply replaced with towns, and once again you have money which can be spent on improving those settlements. Even interface will be familiar to any Neptune’s Pride veterans.

But while Neptune’s Pride was a bloody war that could only ever end with one victor, Blight of the Immortals is a co-op game. A terrible zombie plague – the Blight – is ravaging your smiling fantasy world, and all the players are working together to exterminate it before it devours everything and everyone. It’s almost as if Iron Helmet realised that the most common piece of feedback on Neptune’s Pride was that slowly clubbing your friends to death was an overtly horrible experience.

Except it’s not quite as clear-cut as all that. You see, if the Blight destroys your world, everybody loses. But if the eight or so players in a game do manage to beat back the Blight, you’re ranked by honour and a player does in fact emerge as the victor. Honour is added with each zombie army you kill, and is deducted each time one of your regions is befouled by the blight. So yes, it’s a co-op game, but it also has a slight air of competition and backstabbing. Everyone’s looking out for themselves. Which is, of course, no way to go about saving the world. At the time of writing, nobody has actually won a game in the Blight of the Immortals beta. In every single one, the world, and the players, have fallen.

It’s a weird one. On the one hand, you need all the other players to do well. If somebody can’t defend against the Blighted armies at their borders, their conquered holdings will ultimately spawn even more Blighted armies. On the other hand, you get situations like this:

That’s a screenshot from the Northernmost part of my game. There are no zombies up there. None. And yet we’ve got three players (one of whom is me) expanding our holdings by claiming territory up there. We’re doing this using armies and money that, really, we should be spending to fight back the Blight. Why are we doing it? Well, the more territory you control, the more coins you get and the more control you have over your environment. In the long term, it’s a useful thing to do. In the short term, the world is in peril and we’re all going to die and we’re spending our last days in this world scrabbling for territory because this is a competitive game. We clearly don’t have a hope in Hell. We’re lunch.

Like I say, it’s a weird one.

There are other twists on the Neptune’s Pride formula, too. With each battle an army wins its commander gains a level, which gives you an extra die to roll in combat. Yes, dice! There are DICE to roll this time around, giving the game a little leeway for tension and heroic last stands. Unless a zombie army is clearly going to dash itself against your powerful defenses or you’re about to be comprehensively overwhelmed and turned into sacks of jerky, you never know quite which way a battle’s going to go.

But unquestionably the most important extra that gives Blight of the Immortals an order of magnitude more depth than NP is that each fantasy race under your control has a special ability, and there are dozens such races in the world. Some of these are simple. Dwarves, for example, can erect fortifications around towns instantly for an only marginally greater cost (instead of it taking some 15 hours), and Dwarves also receive double the defensive bonus from them. If a 20-strength army of Dwarves is hiding behind 40-strength fortifications, they’ll have an effective strength of 100. Very good.

Some of these special abilities are a shade more complex. Elven armies, for example, can Hunt. This causes the army to lose 2 strength, which then goes off to harrass an enemy army, killing X% of that army over 18 hours where X is the original strength of the Elf army.

With me so far? Well, you’ve also got special abilities that are so nuanced that if you want to use them effectively then it’ll take you real-life days to get everything into place. Orcs can sacrifice half of their army’s strength in order to add X% strength to any armies in extreme proximity, where X is, I think, the original strength of the Orcs.

Once you’ve got yourself a little empire with a half-dozen fantasy races beneath you, plans and options begin revealing themselves and closing themselves off like window shutters in a strong wind. Maybe you could do this, and– no. But then there’s always that army, and they could go there, and then– wait! You had something else you were waiting for before you moved them. Oh yes! Now you remember your grand plan. It basically offers the kind of small-unit tactics that I loved in Solium Infernum and I wanted to see in Neptune’s Pride. Good, good stuff.

The kicker is, Blighted armies not only have special abilities that they can use on you, each race has a different special ability in death, adding yet more complexity. All the different machinations in a game of Blight of the Immortals are as much a joy to behold as they are a terror to behold. Mainly a terror, if you’re a beginner. Yesterday I managed (with a single misclick) to order my Ents to use their Tangling Roots ability on my most powerful Dwarven army- the army that was, at the time, rushing off to defend a city. Today, those Dwarves are still tangled up in those bloody roots, and will be for hours yet.

On that note, I suppose I should move on to what’s happening in my game.

Say hello to my left flank. I have smaller holdings in the North and South, but this is where the magic happens, and by “magic” I mean “horror”. It’s where my most valued holdings are, including my Capital, Mossy Tree Fortress. You may notice that it’s surrounded by Blighted troops. I– well, yes. Yes, it is.

The problem isn’t necessarily that I’m surrounded, but that I’m paralysed. If that 22-strength army of Elves sat in Mossy Tree Fortress rides out, and then any of the zombie armies advance on the fortress, it will fall. It’s also much cheaper to reinforce an existing army than to create a new one, so I’m best off just steadily reinforcing the Elves in the fortress rather than trying anything fancy. But this situation probably can’t last. Or can it? The Fortress is facing off against three Blighted towns, meaning they’ll spawn three times as many troops as the fort.

Now, slide your eyes a little to the East to the town of Oakfort. See it? Oakfort is both my potential saviour and my burden, because Oakfort spawns not Elves, but Ents. It took me a bit of time spent with the game and its mechanics to realise this, but Ents are sodding ferocious creatures. When you spawn an army or reinforcements at most settlements, it spawns 6-10 strength worth of troops. Ent settlements are different. Each day, an Ent settlement can (at outlandish cost) spawn 50-strength of Ents. There are just two problems.

(1) Ents move slowly. How slowly? Well, every time I check on their movement progress of my Ents, a single tear falls from my eye. Usually, travelling between towns takes an army about 18 hours. Ents, however, only move every second hour. If you tell an Ent army to travel somewhere, you’d better hope to high heaven that you’re sending them down the right path.

(2) If Oakfort falls to the Blight, the rest of the world must deal with f**king Zombie Ents.

Are you feeling my pain yet? It’s a tiny needling sensation, just where the skull meets the back of your neck.

Let’s look at the right flank.

If you thought that was bad, the situation over here is even more nerve-wracking. Clifftop Keep and Mason’s Keep are both fortified. Great. They’ve got Dwarves present, doubling those fortification bonuses. Great. I’ve got my 107-strength army of Ents over at Mason’s Keep. Great. Perfect. Rock-solid. Lovely.

…except for two tiny problems I noticed this morning. One of them I am calling The Dreadful Forgottenbog Problem. It is the 93-strength army of Blighted trolls stationed at Forgottenbog that could move my way at any moment. The other problem I am calling The Sad Sad Problem Of Black Soul Keep. This refers to the 186-strength army of Blighted trolls currently moving my way from Black Soul Keep.

It’s just dawned on me that I have no idea what the special ability of Blighted Trolls is. I’ll go check now. Bear with me.

Haha. Hahaha. I’ll just write this one out for you.

Zombie Trolls are particularly troublesome because they have a tendancy to grow faster than the other undead hordes. Early reports indicate that this was because the Trolls are eating other nearby Zombie hordes, but this has not yet been shown to be true.

The plot thickens!

I’ll give you another update on how I’m doing and precisely how doomed my world is in a few days. Man, it’s lovely to think that all the other players in my game are having their own little dramas, just like this one. Maybe I’ve actually got it good. I certainly hope not, for their sakes.

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161 Comments »

  1. Chris says:

    Desperately. Need. Invite

  2. mlaskus says:

    I can’t wait to play this. It looks great.

  3. Mr_Hands says:

    This looks fantastic. They need to do beta signups ASAP. I’d love to spend my holidays worrying about Zombie Ents.

    Well, worrying about Zombie Ents more than I usually do on Christmas day, eyeing that brightly-lit tree for any signs of zombie.

  4. Feet says:

    Beta invite plx?

    • Feet says:

      Nevermind I just signed up. I think… it’s let me log in anyhow….

    • mlaskus says:

      I just realised that I can login too.

    • Feet says:

      You know if they really wanted to make cash for this they should write an iPhone and Android integrated app and charge small monies for it (< £2). Obv the browser based one would remain free. I'd buy it so I could keep an eye whereever I had data signal.

    • Vague-rant says:

      The only issue being that it would then probably consume my life. As it was I was thinking about Neptune’s pride in lectures. If I could check it too…

    • Andreas says:

      I would pay shockingly large amounts for an android app…

    • Dominic White says:

      Yeah, this strikes me as perfect iPhone/3G iPad material. It’s not a game about speed or precision, but being able to react to information coming in as it happens is fairly useful.

  5. Sinomatic says:

    “The Dreadful Forgottenbog Problem”

    Commence Onionbog pleading in 3….2…..1…..

    Seriously though, this sounds really good. In that way that Neptune’s Pride was. Cruel, tormenting Neptunes pride. I still have the nightmares.

  6. BooleanBob says:

    Don’t you dare tease us with another epic playthrough narrative that you never quite get around to finishing, Quinns!

    Moaning aside, this has (by way of a few tangents of thought) given me an idea. Has anyone ever played AI wars competitively?

    Obviously I don’t mean in direct conflict with one another, that is (to the best of my knowledge) impossible and further more would be dull. But playing it as a last-man-standing game, ostensibly allied, but each trying to exploit the AI’s behaviour to thwart the others.

    I imagine it’d play out with some interesting tensions – some players turtling up to try and survive, with others seeking to expand in hopes of getting the core ships, and stinging the AI into larger and more powerful swarms, leaving the more turtley players in danger of getting overwhelmed, but themselves having more territory to spread their forces in defence of… I think I might need to look further into this.

  7. fuggles says:

    This – this looks excellent. Colour me surprised as I hate online games and would never touch NP with a barge pole!

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ fuggles

      …exact opposite, love this kind of thing; especially Neptune Pride and Die2Nite, though once I won both, the desire to continue playing expired: it robs so much time…

      NB …yeah, looks like an open beta… I’m in…

    • Thants says:

      Can you win in Die2Nite?

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ Thants

      Yeah, in a manner of speaking: we lasted nine days, and I was Last Man Standing so I get to be a Hero for free. That’s pretty much the victory condition for the game.

      After five days we got stuck because we lacked duct tape and nuts and bolts, so we couldn’t build some defensive stuff like walls, saws, ramparts… but we built almost everything and we had enough food and water to live for a long time… it was just impossible to find enough of those necessary items, so we had about four days where we weren’t doing much, just voting for the Pit to increase which seemed enough to stop the zombies.

      It ends up being quite a chore, especially if you’re the one continually posting instructions like “please don’t combine items” or “please build the saw, then the wall, then the moat” etc

  8. Gehrschrein says:

    Oh my. How does one get into the beta?

  9. Kiera says:

    Wow. Worry has never looked so awesome.

  10. Wilson says:

    This actually sounds quite interesting. Neptune’s Pride was kind of fun to read about, but I was never ever going to play it. This however might be a different matter.

  11. MonkeyMonster says:

    Heh heh, looks like a right cracking time stealer :D
    Nice writing too Mr Quinns – want more please. Keep it up. Beta invites too when you have a second…

  12. Bassism says:

    This looks pretty cool, I have to admit. NP didn’t grab me, but this looks way more fun.

  13. frags says:

    Zombie trolls are the worst kind of trolls.

  14. SmallIvoryKnight says:

    Do Want. This looks awesome.

  15. jalf says:

    I never really saw the appeal in NP (it seemed like the actual game design was pretty flawed, and it just relied on the impulse to “be a jerk to whoever is doing good” resulting in a neverending war of attrition.

    This looks interesting though.

  16. Severian says:

    So, does the AI control the zombie hordes? And how is it so far? Aggressive? Intelligent? Seems like that will spell success or doom for this project.

    • Rich says:

      Pretty sure the blighted are AI.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Yeah, the Blighted are AI, although the quality of that AI isn’t at all important. The zombie armies simply move randomly and hungrily, and that’s all the game needs. The mechanics of the game, with your armies moving so slowly and their size being the most important factor, means that you can’t run circles around even the dumbest AI. You need a long-term plan.

      Basically: You’ve got hordes of zombies slowly advancing on your position. You need to hold back the tide. It’s a game /built/ for dumb AI.

  17. roy7 says:

    I went to the site, hit Login for the heck of it, was able to log in, and down under the games I joined the game “The Angry Gryphon”. I was a prior Neptune’s Pride player, but it felt like the game was in open beta. I didn’t have to jump through any hoops. Maybe I’m lucky. :)

  18. RHAR says:

    This looks awesome! Keep up the AAR :)

  19. RHAR says:

    Well colour me surprised, I’m in the BETA! :D

  20. Handsome Dead says:

    Zombie trees are my favorite trees.

  21. Dolphan says:

    Can you play usefully if you can’t log in during working hours (including lunchtimes – I go swimming so no gaming)? If so colour me interested.

    • jalf says:

      So far, it looks like most actions take ~16 hours to carry out (you can tax your regions every 24 hours, and moving an army from A to B usually takes 16-17 hours), so I don’t think you’d miss out on much.

  22. JB says:

    I can confirm that if you used to play NP back in the day you might well be able to get on the beta for Blight now. I just logged in and joined a game.

    Pariah’s Goblin Kingdom is ready to be devoured horribly by the Blight.

    • Mr Bismarck says:

      I’m in the same game as you, JB – You’re west of me, just the other side of the high-larious Itchy Chin Village.

      I’m hanging out by the lake with my capital at Hammerforge. I have delicious orange coins and could use yellow ones…

    • JB says:

      Ah, the esteemed King Catpain, I presume.

      I too have many orange coins (well, I did – spent most of them now) and some green. I really want to scrape together a hefty sack of greens and bribe the ent army near me.

    • JB says:

      Oh, we’re in The Lonely Troll, any more RPSers in with us?

  23. Mr Bismarck says:

    I have no idea why, but I went to the site, signed in and I’m now in a game (2820011).

    First thing I’m loving is the currency dynamic. What do you mean I can’t pay Dwarves in purple coins? Dwarves love purple!

    • Qazi says:

      Purple is the colour of Nobles!
      Dwarves love their nobles as much as they love a magma bath, preferably enjoyed together.

  24. JFS says:

    I’ve also just been able to jump right into a game. Beta doesn’t seem so closed.

  25. Chris D says:

    I am torn. On one hand this looks like a lot of fun, albeit painful and nervewracking fun. On the other hand it would eat my life.

    • Sinomatic says:

      This. I want to be involved, but the thought of being sucked into an NP-like game again is terrifying. It consumes and dominates the mind. And I’d already planned to spend my December thinking about sprouts, brandy butter and the Dr Who xmas special.

  26. clownst0pper says:

    Sounds amazing :) I love Solium Infernum so will no doubt love this.

  27. McDan says:

    I just tried to login and it let me and now I’m playing a game, does this only happen for a few people that try it I imagine?

  28. malkav11 says:

    Way more tempting than Neptune’s Pride, but I still don’t have time to play a game that moves in real time. Most days I have 6 hours of free time at home in one contiguous block, which leaves 18 hours in which the game is still happening but there is nothing I can do about it.

    • Dolphan says:

      That’s the issue, I’m just wondering how plausible extra focus at weekends and maybe a quick check in the mornings would be …

    • Quintin Smith says:

      The feature that everyone’s screaming for is games which only tick onwards during certain pre-specified time slots. I expect they’ll do that, but they might not.

    • Dolphan says:

      Well, only one way to find out how well it works – I’ll see if I can get in this evening. The 18 hour time for armies to move mentioned in the article seems reasonable. Maybe it can be a motivation for me to actually get up on time in the morning …

    • Rich says:

      Is it possible to speed up time? If not, it should be.
      It worked for Defcon.

    • JB says:

      It says that they are testing a “jump ahead 12hrs” button on one of the premium game types. ( I assume it’s a premium one, anyway)

  29. Vague-rant says:

    Just joined a game. Seems like they’ll accept anoyone these days. Any RPSers in my game (I have no idea which one I’m in but my name’s the same)?

  30. MonkeyMonster says:

    Wheeeee :D Googleaccount to the rescue and in a game…

  31. noobnob says:

    So much browser-based zombie goodness these days. I’ll stick to Die2Nite for now, though.

  32. quickfire809 says:

    hey, im in too- only one in my game so far, give me a yell if you get in

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      Hey, I’m in your game. we’re right next to each other, except for the phalanx of three 30+ armies between us.

  33. Jake says:

    I found an option to buy premium content and then you can host your own private game, I don’t know if all players have to pay to join though, probably not. Seems there is only one map but still I only played NP once so that suits me fine. I’m really excited!

  34. HYPERPOWERi says:

    yep, managed to join a game as well. like the others above, i’ve played neptune’s bounty previously.

    this looks *fun*!

    can i march my army through another player’s province? the potential for a player pulling their troops out of another player’s province in the face of an impending invasion would be pretty epic.

  35. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    looking forward to the new game diary. just logged in to a game, perfect timing for christmas… -.-

  36. alseT says:

    Where does it say each of the races’ abilities? Because I can’t see any tooltips or info before already choosing my race.

    • Jake says:

      I’d also like to know, although obviously I just went for Orcs anyway.

    • CapeMonkey says:

      I don’t think your starting race matters too much? I mean, I’m a goblin and had two goblin armies plus an elf one, and you can go bribe others pretty early on.

    • HYPERPOWERi says:

      i think one of your starting level 4/4 provinces depends on the race you choose. that seems to be the only effect of selecting one race or another.

      if you’re looking for an army type’s special ability, though, you can see it next to “Skill:” — click on it to see a description.

    • jalf says:

      It also affects starting location. The races are sort of clustered together. If you pick human, you’ll start in an area with lots of human-like provinces. I picked goblin, and started in an area with full of goblin/orc/shaman/hobgoblin provinces

  37. One Million Monkeys says:

    Will you be able to attack another player?
    I think that competitive co-op games are the most interisting multiplayer experiences. How many times haven’t you experienced an alliance shatter when it’s under pressure? It’s always interesting to see when the first budge for a shortsighted personal gain in favour for the greater utilitarian goal.

  38. Warth0g says:

    Yup looks liek it’s an open beta.. anyone in Confused Sea Serpent?

  39. Wilson says:

    Any RPS folk in The Confused Sea Serpent?

  40. Dolphan says:

    I’m in, game is ‘The Jubilant Behemoth’ – currently I’m the only player, anyone joining give me a shout.

  41. oatish says:

    I’m in!

    Humans of the West on some map or something.

    If you see “oatish”…. that’s just me dieing.

  42. Dolphan says:

    OK the first thing I’ve done is buy an army near someone else’s land to take a resource-heavy village. I’ve only just realised that this might be considered rude …

    • Eeels says:

      I’ve done exactly the same thing. Unfortunately this poor chap who i’ve gazzumped has 150 zombie trolls barreling around perilously close to his capital, I’m not expecting any retaliation.

    • Dolphan says:

      I have that starting location! All my actions are justified in the light of the terrifying horde of trolls!

    • Isomorph says:

      Hey Dolphan, Eeels, Oatish! I see that massive horde of trolls. Good luck! I’m in the Jubilant Behemoth too.
      Isomorph, the western goblins who are finally getting their act together re trading. Poised to fight a biggish battle against some hobgoblins. What’s the beef with Marsh Stomp? It says it affects armies that are 6 h away, but these hobgoblns will be gnawing at the gates in 5 hours and they are out of reach of my trolls’ Marsh Stomp.

    • Primar says:

      Oh crikey, I’ve just realised I have a worrying number of zombie orcs running menacingly at my nice happy town.

      This is slightly concerning.

  43. Choca says:

    I’m bored of zombies but this sound pretty interesting.

  44. DalamarNL says:

    I’m in The Delightful Siren, but how to bribe other (neutral) players?

  45. pakoito says:

    Who’s in Woeful Dryad?

  46. Eeels says:

    I seemed to get in without any trouble, even remember one of my old google-linked email accounts so I only had to plop the password in!

    Looks very intriguing. I’m in “The Jolly Wurm”, Men of the West, Might of Alundria (same map as Quintin)

    Only have some mild zombification to the east but i suspect they’ll be dealt with by the other, closer kingdom allowing me to snap up all these tiny coin producing villages.

  47. green_genes says:

    double post x/

  48. green_genes says:

    Yeah! Just joined a game called The Greedy Hippogriff. I’m sure I will be rather awful at this but it just sounds too fun. Can’t wait to hear more about your game Quinns.

  49. Coins says:

    Amused Werewolf, anyone? No?

    • Primor says:

      Well, I am.
      On top of that we’re in close proximity
      I guess I shouldn’t have taken the dwarves. Being right in the middle of the map does not seem to be a good thing when defending against Zombiehordes.
      Hopefully our fight isn’t going to be a total disaster

    • pakoito says:

      Me too, I’m at bottom left.

    • K. says:

      I’m the southern goblins named Tyrion.

      Still struggling with the controls, though.
      Note: It is possible to reinforce neutral armies. Instead of conquering or bribing them. Which cost me a move and an easy landgrab, unfortunately. But could be useful to build a defense by proxy.

    • Primor says:

      I just noticed that when I want to move an army, it only shows me the symbol for a battle at the blighted villages, so I hope the neutral ones dont fight you when you enter them with troops. Currently checking that out.

    • MacBeth says:

      @Primor

      …what’s the answer? I have an army 2 hours away from a village with a neutral army, and 3 hours til my next bribing opportunity…

    • jalf says:

      You do get a battle. I just found that out 5 minutes ago.

    • MacBeth says:

      Well… one of the other players only went and bought the army before I arrived… so not sure quite what’s going to happen now!

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