Against all common sense and reason (though not necessarily potential quality when taken on its own merits), Nosgoth is a free-to-play online shooter. Previous Legacy of Kain games, rather pertinently, were not that or anything resembling it. It’s uncharted territory for the vampire-ridden universe of noses and goths, but not so much for the gaming industry these days. So you know what’s coming next: microtransactions. And, as ever, they’re a smidgen bit(e) questionable.
By and large, Nosgoth’s microtransaction setup is pretty standard stuff, what with an in-game earnable curency (gold), a purchaseable currency (runestones), and secondary weapons you can buy or earn. Runestones come in packs that range from $4.99 to $79.99, so spend wisely. Or not. Here’s Square Enix on how all of that will work:
“Nosgoth is a free-to-play game – but it’s not pay-to-win. We made the decision to go to free-to-play to break down barriers and let as many players into the game as possible. One of the key goals has been to create a fair experience that doesn’t penalise players who don’t spend money in the game – as such Nosgoth doesn’t include items, weapons or abilities that are inherently better (aka supremacy goods).”
“What does this mean? It means that all items in our in-game store – which we will be opening up in Closed Beta – are sidegrades, not upgrades. Each individual item has been balanced by having its own share of positive and negative attributes equally.”
Of course, it’s easy to say that. It’s something else entirely to get the balance just right and then keep it that way as new weapons and items are introduced. Square Enix has a lot or work ahead of them. Here’s hoping they’re in it for the long haul.
You can also buy two other categories of item: boosters and chest keys. Boosters are fairly self-explanatory, boosting the rate at which you earn gold or experience. Many F2P games – even really good ones like Tribes Ascend – have struggled to nail the balance between a natural (read: not agonizingly glacial) leveling curve and one with purchasable flame decals painted on, so let’s hope Square Enix has done its homework.
Chest keys, to me, are the most questionable item, given that they tie into earnable chests, but keys themselves can only be bought with real money. So if you don’t spend money, you just end up with this giant pile of inaccessible loot. Chest contents, meanwhile, don’t make the situation sound much better. “A chest is a locked container which you may randomly receive at the end of a match, along with the usual end-game rewards,” Square wrote. “It will contain a randomised reward that’s different to standard end-game loot, for example a rare weapon or primary ability, and will require a Key to unlock it.”
I don’t really know how to feel about that, but if it doesn’t wreck game balance then I guess I don’t care too much – even if it does strike me as a bit slimy. At this point, however, there’s no telling. But hey, for better or worse, Nosgoth’s closed beta is coming up very soon, so hopefully player feedback will push the game in the right direction. I’m still sad that Legacy of Kain’s narrative is apparently buried in some labyrinthine crypt for the time being, but I do hope Nosgoth will at least offer some solid asymmetrical multiplayer.