At a recent press event for EA Games, we took an updated look at BattleForge, the upcoming multiplayer real-time strategy game for the PC, developed by the newly acquired EA Phenomic studio. The game will take place in a high-fantasy world at war in which you command an army that you summon from a deck of 20 different in-game cards, which resemble those of a collectible-card game such as Magic: The Gathering. Like in that game, your deck will consist of cards associated with different types of color-coded magic. In this case, you have the offense-oriented fire magic (red cards); the defense-oriented frost magic (blue cards); the support-focused nature magic (green cards); and shadow magic (purple cards), whose as-yet-unrevealed abilities focus on what producer Sebastian Nell refers to as "risk."
You'll begin the game with a randomized set of in-game cards, but you can acquire additional cards as rewards from various quests that you'll find in the game, as well as at the in-game auction house. The auction house will act as your hub, from which you can access your friends list, jump into cooperative real-time strategy battles, trade or gift cards to other players, and purchase new booster packs of cards. You'll apparently be able to buy them with real money out-of-pocket, which you'll then use to purchase the in-game currency of BattleForge gold that can be spent on booster packs. These packs will contain eight random cards, though each pack is guaranteed to include at least one card of rare frequency. The game's cards will come in four different frequencies: common, uncommon, rare, and ultrarare. Once you've chosen 20 cards from your collection to use as a deck, you can sally forth into real-time strategy battle by picking a specific level and inviting any available friends to conquer any of the game's 40 maps. Different maps will have different objectives, but each map can be played at one of three different difficulty levels. However, they vary in size; some are designed for two players, some for four, some for eight, and the largest maps are designed for up to 12 players to play at once. We're told that the largest 12-player maps will likely yield the best rewards when conquered.
Unlike in traditional real-time strategy games, you won't send vulnerable peon units to harvest resources to spend on the slow construction of buildings, which in turn would be required to build up certain armies. Instead, you'll be able to bring any units, structures, and magic-spell effects that you have in your deck as long as you have enough orbs and power points. Orbs are created by monument structures that appear on the game's maps; power is derived from generator structures that also appear in the world. You can capture either structure type by defeating any hostile creatures that defend them, and then claiming them as your own, after which they'll provide you with a supply of resources that will let you bring out your bigger guns. You can summon critters and build structures at any time near the location of your existing creatures.
Although several buildings will serve traditional real-time strategy purposes, such as defending a certain area, you might also find other structure cards in your collections, including healing towers that radiate healing powers to nearby wounded allies, or two-way tunnels that can let you sneak across the map undetected. However, the game will have a traditional real-time strategy "population cap," so you won't necessarily be able to churn out an infinitely huge army once you've collected enough resources. But Nell explained that the varying strengths and powers of the critters, and the various structures and magical-spell effects in the deck, should allow for plenty of variety. You will apparently have the flexibility to create larger armies of smaller, cheaper critters, or smaller armies of more-powerful, more-expensive critters, such as the juggernaut unit that we saw in action, a massive, horn-headed humanoid that can charge right through enemy structures, instantly reducing them to rubble.
BattleForge has been in development for about two years and is currently in a closed beta state. The current version of the game has around 80 cards already implemented; the team intends to have nearly 200 cards in the game by the time it launches in January.