Exploding 5-tonne Gorillas: Section 8 Beta Thinks

The Section 8 open beta got into full swing over the weekend, and I spent a lot more time messing around with it. We also had a bit of an RPS community romp on Saturday, although I missed most of it by being late to the party. The overflow played on a secondary server, and still got some good fights in. Some more thoughts on the game follow.

Firstly, it’s a shame that the beta is so limited. Of course beta is a testing phase, so it’s clear that TimeGate want to gets lots of metrics from this to tweak and retouch the final game, but I’m also desperate to see the full range of tools available, and more importantly, the full range of maps. I understand there are eighteen in the final game, and I’m eager to explore them. These two are acceptable, but I wonder if they’ll end up being the core favourites of players in the game proper.

One of the things I realised over the weekend is that Section 8 is going to reward specialisation, and, of course, team-play. I don’t think this is going to be a particularly rewarding game for drop-in deathmatch play, but it’s probably going to be rewarding and engaging at an organised clan level. On Saturday night I spent some time playing purely defensive roles, and waiting inside buildings for enemies to arrive. I configured myself for close combat, and did deadly things to the ones and twos that came inside. Of course I’d have been minced at medium or long range, or by the mechs that regularly stomped by, but they couldn’t get inside to my position, and so we held that particular capture point for most of the game.

The ability to customise the basic loadouts does seem to make a big difference when you’re taking on a specific role. As a “defender” I was playing a similar role to the flag-goalie I used to be in Quake III, only with Section 8’s ability to customise I could drop in ready to hit that position immediately. There are clearly going to be a bunch of accepted “optimal” setups once the game is in full-swing, but it’ll be interesting to see just what those builds are, and how people end up using them. I suspect, like my hiding in the bunker, we’ll see specific squads set up to assault or defend, with players able to swap between the best fit for the job as they respawn.

Outside, and away from pure infantry bashing, I began to get on with the mechs. I love hunting down other mechs and forcing a melee. The mechs bash each other to death with two handed swipes, like exploding 5-tonne gorillas. The fights are always close, especially if there are infantry around, and you are often forced to make a rapid retreat once your enemy goes down. In fact, I’d say that mech-thumping is about the best thing I’ve found in the game so far.

If there are major problems, then there’s the superfluous “lock on” feature, which can actually be relatively useful, but nevertheless should not have been included. And the there’s the lack of situational awareness. With the drop-in allowing people to come down anywhere outside the effective range of AA guns, it’s hard to have a “front line”, or know where to engage enemies to hold them off. You end up having to stick close to the capture points, and nail enemies as they approach. It’s not a game breaker, but it demands much more of your spatial processing.

Anyway, no matter how a game is designed, it’s difficult to filter for morons. I can’t wait to be able to play this on a moderated server, and kick the likes of the idiots I ended up playing with on Saturday, for whom a continuous steam of homophobic abuse seemed a good idea after someone made a mild comment about smacktalk.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s people.

That said, you guys seem okay, so I’m definitely up for risking more Section 8 RPSing. Wednesday night might be less moronic. Shall we say 7pm UK time?

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