Though they don't have anything to show quite yet in terms of gameplay, Atari and developer Liquid Entertainment are announcing at E3 that they are working on a yet-to-be-named real-time strategy game based on Wizards of the Coast's popular Dungeons & Dragons.
The game is currently scheduled for release in 2005, but Atari and Liquid are using E3 to begin talking about the game, which has been in production since March of 2003. Ed Del Castillo, Liquid's president and cofounder, told us that the game will be set in Dungeon & Dragon's new Eberron universe. Eberron differs from traditional D&D campaign settings, such as the Forgotten Realms, because it combines traditional fantasy with pulp action and noir intrigue.
Atari and Liquid aren't showing any gameplay yet, but they did show us some of the concept art for the game. From what we gleaned, you'll be able to play as the Order of the Silver Flame, which consists of various races, including humans, elves, and dwarves, or you can play as other factions, including the Warforged, which look like robots but are actually mechanical golems that possess souls and individuality.
The game will also feature innovative, new base construction. However, you'll have a limited amount of area within your base's walls to put up buildings. More importantly, where you place buildings in relation to one another will have a critical effect. As a result, if you put a blacksmith next to a barracks, then units produced at that barracks will start off with better armor or weapons. This will force you to think about placement, and it adds a whole new layer to base-building.
Another new feature in the game will be combat. Del Castillo said that in virtually every real-time strategy game, combat comes down to what he calls "focus fire." That is, you select a group of your units and then order them to attack a single, specific enemy. But in the new game, the combat will feature "diffuse fire." Consequently, units will engage other units, and combat will be spread out in a more realistic manner.
There will also be a hero system, since the game is based on D&D, and you'll be able select career paths for your heroes. So, for example, a paladin can choose to become more like a warrior or a cleric. In the former case, the paladin will gain more melee attack skills but will do so at the cost of clerical ability, while in the latter case, the paladin will have many clerical spells but will be weaker in combat.
Liquid plans to reveal more about the game later in the year, so we'll hopefully have a chance to finally check out its gameplay. Fortunately, the company has a solid reputation for creating real-time strategy games (and after all, it did make Battle Realms and The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring). We'll keep you up-to-date as more details become available, including a finalized name for the game.