By Nathan Grayson on September 11th, 2013 at 9:00 am.
Everyone, calm down. It’s OK. Tom Clancy’s ENDWAR– ahem, Endwar (which is the one game I actually wish its creators would refer to entirely in caps) isn’t dead. I know you were all terribly worried, but you can breathe easily now. Use both lungs instead of just one. Stop shoving entire wine corks up your nostrils. As it turns out, Endwar’s war to end all wars did not, in fact, end war, so Endwar Online will pick up its warring right where Endwar ended. There is, however, a twist: the new game under Endwar’s shell-shocked umbrella isn’t really an RTS. If anything, I’d say it’s closer to a fusion of MOBA-style roles/progression and tower defense mechanics. Also, the whole thing’s browser-based, and the goal is for matches to last roughly three minutes a piece. Witness the beginning of the end(war) in trailer form after the break.
Here’s why the war in the sky (and on the ground) keeps on turning, per Ubisoft:
“As the latest game in the Tom Clancy’s EndWar world, Tom Clancy’s EndWar Online puts players in the shoes of the last leader in the aftermath of WW3. Resources and money have run dry, factions are on the brink of collapse and rogue warlords have taken over. As one of the last leaders, players are tasked with rebuilding their homeland, reuniting their faction and spearheading the final battle for Earth’s remaining resources.”
“Developed by Ubisoft Shanghai, the team behind the console version of Tom Clancy’s EndWar, Tom Clancy’s EndWar Online is a tactical and strategic MMO that offers real time battles, HQ and army management, and massive community-based wars, all set in next stage browser technology to deliver an unrivalled gameplay experience.”
I got to play a little during a recent event, and I came away unsure of precisely what to think. On one hand, Ubisoft demonstrated tons of pre-battle prep – there are nine classes of “hero” (artillery, airstrikes, anti-air, helicopters, tanks, etc) each with multiple character options, equippable items, and unit powers – but I was only given the option to join the fray with a pre-selected hero loadout. From there, I ended(war) up on a simple map where I could spawn clumps of units from three base structures, each of which was tied to its own lane. Those squads would then clomp/roll/fly/obliterate their way down their corresponding lane independent of my control – eventually, inevitably encountering resistance from my opponent’s forces.
Here, a rock-paper-scissors-style dynamic took center stage, with – for example – air units acting like especially long-armed schoolyard bullies to tanks, while tanks could easily dismantle anti-air units, and so on and so on throughout the nine unit types. In practice, matches were indeed lightning-quick, and a basic modicum of strategy was required to avoid having my scissors crushed by rocks and then spat on by paper. Even with added wrinkles like lane-free airstrikes and hero/unit-specific powers, however, I’m not sure how much staying power these sorts of skirmishes have. I enjoyed myself for a few matches, but it all felt simple and fleeting. Here’s hoping that players can dig more complex strategies out of the rubble, but for now I’m skeptical.
But then, maybe that brief, not-quite-brainless quality is the appeal. Not everyone always has time for hour-long MOBA or RTS attrition-fests, after all. Plus, Ubisoft claims that armchair generals will get plenty of mileage out of an MMO-esque world domination multiplayer mode called Theater of War, where factions will battle for long-term control of regions and their resources. You’ll still be participating in small-scale tower defense matches, but with an added layer of community coordination. Personally, I worry that it’ll just be a matter of who can shout, “OK, everybody in X Faction, zerg this place now now now” the loudest, but we’ll see.
Ubisoft is planning a closed beta for later this year, and you can sign up right here. What was the general RPS Legion consensus on Endwar: The First? Does Online stand to scratch a similar itch for any of you, or is the idea of a MOBA/tower defense amalgam masquerading around in Endwar’s skin utter blasphemy?