The saga of Advent Rising's development is coming to a close, and Majesco and GlyphX Games will invite gamers to experience the saga of the game itself in early May. Advent will cast you as spacefaring human Gideon Wyeth in a sweeping science-fiction epic that will see you fighting with and against a number of powerful alien species as you attempt to unravel an interstellar myth about the nature of humanity. We recently got to check out a new build of the game that's much further along in development than the last one we got to try, and it looks like Advent is shaping up to offer shooter fans some unique new features in addition to its far-ranging storyline and cinematic production values.
At first glance, Advent Rising is a typical third-person shooter, but the game has a couple of mechanical tricks up its sleeve that should significantly enhance the basic gameplay experience. The Xbox controller's left stick controls movement and the right stick controls view and aiming. As director Donald Mustard points out, this setup would typically keep both thumbs occupied at all times, essentially giving you only the left and right triggers with which to shoot and perform other abilities. However, Advent's "flick targeting" system lets you literally flick the right stick toward an enemy target to have your reticle lock onto that enemy, allowing you to then use the full array of face buttons to switch weapons, invoke your special powers, dodge, and so on--all while wielding a weapon independently in each hand. The flick targeting has undergone a lot of balancing over the course of development, and we found it easy to switch between several enemies even in the heat of battle.
The design of Advent Rising's gameplay has also evolved to let you switch from the default third-person view to a traditional FPS-style view at the touch of a button. Obviously, you won't gain the benefits of the automatic targeting that you have in the standard mode, but this will allow you to aim precisely if you want to, not to mention explore the environments a little more fully.
The combat in Advent Rising promises to be quite open-ended, since Gideon will have around a dozen physical weapons and a host of special powers at his disposal. Mustard jokingly referred to the rocket launcher as the game's crowbar, the point being that you'll receive all the regular heavy weapons early on in the game. Each of the weapons has an alternate fire mode, and you'll be able to equip any weapon in either hand and wield them discretely, which should make the shooting varied in itself. You'll get everything from assault rifles and the aforementioned rockets to more exotic fare such as massive laser cannons and other high-tech weaponry.
You'll get all these powerful weapons early on in the game because, as you progress, Gideon will begin to discover innate special powers that will put any regular firearm to shame. One of these powers is telekinesis, which will let you pick up environmental objects and hurl them at enemies. But while other games with this ability let you handle only one object at a time, Advent will let you pick up whole groups of objects in a general area, which naturally gives the attack some extra oomph. Another power lets you create a shield of energy that you can carry in front of you or drop down on the ground as deployable cover. A third gives you a slow-motion effect that will obviously make it easier to avoid enemy attacks. Of course, these defensive powers come in addition to Gideon's array of attack abilities, which let you fling enemies into the air with kinetic energy, blast them with charged power, and so on.
The game will reward you for using your favorite abilities--you'll level up in a number of categories like guns, special powers, jumping, and melee combat as you use those techniques. Each category will have five upgrade levels, and you'll unlock new alternate fire modes, secondary abilities, and other moves as you progress through the levels. Your jumping will become much more acrobatic, for instance, allowing you to perform flashier (and more effective) dodges as you gain experience. Of course, if you get tired of relying on your own abilities (however superhuman they may be), you'll also have a number of vehicles at your disposal at various times in the game. You'll be able to pilot these vehicles, or you can simply use them as massive telekinetic weapons.
In addition to GlyphX's tweaking and balancing, work continues apace on other aspects of Advent Rising's production. The score, for example, was just recently recorded by the Los Angeles Union Orchestra, with vocal accompaniment provided by the Mormon Tabernacle and Children's Choirs. Mustard told us that the music was composed thematically, as in a film--there will be a theme for Gideon, a theme for the antagonistic seekers, and so on. Furthermore, the music will exist in the game as a series of layers, such that the designers can phase different instruments in and out dynamically. A particular piece could be reduced to just the string arrangement, for instance, which we hope will empower the designers to create some truly moving moments. Much of the voice-over has yet to be recorded, but GlyphX will hire the actors its feels are most capable of bringing its characters to life, rather than big-name stars.
Visually, the game has continued to solidify since we last saw it. The overall aesthetic, which includes a multitude of bright, colorful locales--set aboard both space stations and alien planets, from what we've seen--has remained intact, but GlyphX has polished up many of the individual elements and improved the frame rate significantly. Gideon himself is boasting some cool, extravagant animations that you'll see when he reloads, for instance, or leaps to the side in a stylish, slow-motion dodge. Much of the graphical polishing occurs toward the end of a game's development, and Advent seems to be on the right path as it soldiers on toward release.
That release date is now locked down: May 3. Advent Rising is the first of a planned trilogy of action games, it's the first full title by Salt Lake City-based GlyphX, and it even features a script by established science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card. Needless to say, a lot is riding on the game, and we won't have much longer to wait before we find out if Advent Rising will indeed rise to the challenge. Stay tuned for more on the game soon.