Today at E3, we sat through a demonstration of Exarch, one of many massively multiplayer games in NCsoft's upcoming lineup. The game sets itself apart with fast-paced combat mechanics that give it a very Dungeon Siege-like feel. Like in a standard action RPG, you move your character around using the mouse and simply click on enemies to attack them, making Exarch very easy to pick up. The game's 3D graphics feature impressive detail in the character models and environments. Currently, the developers at Realm Interactive plan on including four races in the game: wraiths, humans, gnomes, and golems. Each of the races will have three unique classes, but details are sketchy on the classes at this time.
Exarch mixes fantasy elements with technology and sci-fi, so expect a nice mix of medieval-style weapons like swords and axes along with firearms, cyber implants, and powered armor. The character demonstrated to us was a male wraith, with both a sword and a shotgun (which was used to nice effect against the mechanical skeletons in the caverns--each blast knocked the skeletons to the ground in a satisfying manner). The developers will encourage grouping by allowing each player in the game to have an aura effect. These can either bestow benefits on the party or inflict penalties on nearby enemies. Obviously, larger groups can enjoy the benefits of multiple overlapping auras.
The game's questing system also sets it apart from other massively multiplayer games. All the quests are instanced, but instead of having strictly scripted missions, the developers are allowing for a number of different options to play out in each quest. For example, you and a friend could play the same quest--an old man asking you for help rescuing his daughter from a dungeon--separately. Your quest might play out in standard fashion, with you working your way through a cave and rescuing the girl. In your friend's version, the girl might end up transforming into a succubus, forcing him to kill her at the end of the quest. In yet another version, the cave entrance could collapse, necessitating that you find an alternate exit from the dungeon. Or any number of different permutations of the mission's optional parameters could occur, further adding to the variety.
The game is still early in development, but the developers of Exarch are aiming to create a game that will be among the easiest massively multiplayer role-playing games to pick up. Its mix of fantasy and technology should also help set it apart from a genre that is getting more crowded by the day. We'll have more details on Exarch as they become available.