LOS ANGELES--Tucked away in a corner of Kentia Hall at E3 2006 is a booth for company 10Tacle Studios. You may recognize the name from the GTR series of hardcore racing sims, but the game we went to see was about as far from racing as possible. We sat down with the developers for a lengthy demo of the action role-playing game Elveon for the Xbox 360.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to play Elveon, but we did get a good demonstration of the combat system and level design, as well as the physics and graphics engines in the game. Elveon is about an elvish hero in the land of Naon...and that's about all we know thus far about the narrative.
However, one thing we did get to see is the combat system. When you begin a game, you can choose a combat philosophy based on how you want to fight. You can choose to focus all your skills in a single weapon, or you can go the jack-of-all-blades route. There are four weapon classes in the game: daggers, which do the least amount of damage but are lightweight and can be dual-wielded; bows, which are the only ranged weapons in the game; spears, which have a long reach and work well for taking out multiple enemies; and two-handed broadswords, which can inflict heavy damage but are slow and heavy. You can bring up to three different weapons into battle, and each one lets you perform unique attacks and combos. Once you're in battle, you can swap weapons on the fly to take advantage of the strengths of each fighting style.
The fighting itself is somewhat realistic in that you become fatigued as you fight. If you keep performing one strong attack after another, you'll get worn out and will not be able to move for a few moments. That said, the fighting style in the game is still pretty flashy, though not to excess. You can perform lengthy combos and jumping attacks, swing your spear around to quickly clear the immediate area, and more. You can also block attacks and use combos to break through enemy defenses.
The artificial intelligence in the game fights very much the same way that you do. We saw enemies block attacks and then counter when we became fatigued, and the enemies use combos to break blocks, as well. The combat animations look a bit clunky, but that's to be expected from a game this early in development.
The combat we saw took place on a very long, stone bridge high above a valley floor. We only saw one-on-one fights, but according to the developer, there will also be group battles where you'll be able to fight alongside allies against large groups of enemies and monsters. There will also be some arcade-style shooting missions where you'll hop on the back of a flying creature and fire arrows at hostile targets.
The demo then switched gears to showcase the graphical detail and level design in the game. The first area we saw was a huge bridge with a massive, ornate Elven castle looming atop a craggy cliff. We watched as the lighting and weather changed in real time, and the changes were very noticeable and dramatically affected the feel of the environment. The demo then moved inside the castle to show some of the expansive interiors of the game, before moving onto a walkway overlooking a rugged cliff. There were some really lifelike, swaying trees poking up through the crumbling bricks in the walkway.
We then saw an area set in a forest clearing where large rocks were arranged in a pattern similar to Stonehenge. The tall grass and flowers all swayed in the breeze, and the way the light filtered through the massive trees looked especially impressive. Also, we got a look at one of the monsters in the game, which was a muscular dog type of creature, with massive teeth and an even more massive mouth. Again, the weather changed at random from sunny skies to rain. One nice touch was when it rained in a castle area, puddles formed on the ground.
It's still hard to say what's in store for Elveon, since what we saw was still in the very early stages of development. However, based on the level of detail in the environments, the weather effects, and the flexible combat system, Elveon is one to keep an eye on for now. According to the developer, there will be some sort of multiplayer component in the game, as well as downloadable content for the single-player game on Xbox Live Marketplace. The team at 10Tacle is planning for a worldwide release in the Summer of 2007, but until then stay tuned to GameSpot for updates.