Developer: Reakktor Media
Release date: Q2 2001
By Andrew Park
Reakktor Media's Neocron is a futuristic online role-playing game that takes place on a desolate and completely barren planet Earth. In the 27th century, humankind's centuries of heavy chemical and industrial work and total disregard for the environment have destroyed nearly all life on the planet. Earth lies in toxic ruins in the wake of humanity's last great industrial endeavor - the construction of starships to colonize other planets in space. Most of Earth's population filed onto these starships in search of a new home, and they eventually came upon a small, barely habitable planet known as Irata-3. The settlers promptly landed on the new planet and set about colonizing it. Shortly thereafter, they reported sighting a previously unclassified species of alien, and were subsequently never heard from again. The last remaining human settlement in the universe is also the last city on Earth, Neocron.
The game itself will take place within the enormous city of Neocron and in the surrounding industrial junkyards, which are collectively known as the outzone. Certain parts of the city are routinely patrolled by the CopBots, a task force of heavily armed and extremely dangerous robots that keep the peace in neutral zones and attack troublemakers in such areas. CopBots - and the even more heavily armed and dangerous SwatBots - not only keep the peace among the city's inhabitants, but they also serve as guards against the dangers of the outzone. The outzone is full of abandoned factories and heavy equipment, and the air in the outzone is tainted by poisonous fumes from centuries of industrial waste, but there are living beings out there nonetheless. Animals and outcast humans have lived in the outzone for years, and they have mutated into dangerous creatures that have been known to attack the city and its inhabitants. However, scientists have discovered that certain combinations of the toxins in the outzone's air may actually be viable chemical catalysts in a new form of energy production. As such, the city has begun to send explorers (equipped with protective biosuits) into the outzone to collect samples.
The city and the outzone will serve as the game's world for all player characters. Your character may belong to one of four different professions: psi monk, private eye, spy, and tank. Psi monks are powerful psionicists that use the formidable powers of aggressive and passive psi abilities to attack their enemies and defend themselves. Psi monks were originally the world's dictators after the last world war, but they were overthrown and most claim that they've been reformed - though they're generally distrusted on the streets of Neocron. Private eyes are well-rounded characters that are as likely to become adept with Neocron's many futuristic firearms as they are with psi powers, though they lack the intensive training and natural talents of the psi monks and can't attain the same level of mastery of those powers. Spies tend to be physically weaker than private eyes, though they're faster and tend to be better at learning and using psi powers than private eyes. Tanks are bioengineered supersoldiers that lack the mental capacity to use any psi powers, but they're a force to be reckoned with in physical combat. They're also experts at using Neocron's various weapons.
Next: Real-time combat
Neocron will also be inhabited by over 50 different types of nonplayer characters and monsters. Some characters, especially the locals in the city - including the local barkeep, the Neocron citizens, and the high-tech businessmen - may be helpful and impart useful information or give out quests. Some may even help you establish your own business within the safe ViaRosso and Plaza districts, where patrolling CopBots make sure that prospective merchants (and all other player characters) are safe from player-killer predators. Neocron is also populated by much shadier characters, including gangs, guerilla rebels, and the mafia. In addition, the city is inhabited by many different types of animals and vermin, including giant rats, black widow spiders, and ravens. And at least eight varieties of mutant humans have been known to wander the wastelands around the city. Some are slow and stupid, but there have been reports of far more dangerous mutants that are swift, intelligent, and able to use psi powers.
However, the most important and deadly enemies that you'll encounter in Neocron are other players. You'll be able to engage in player vs. player combat in the backstreets of Neocron - provided you stay clear of the ViaRosso and Plaza areas and any CopBots that might intervene. Neocron's combat will take place in real time, and it won't use a standard role-playing game hack-and-slash system. Instead, Neocron's combat will most closely resemble a first-person shooter deathmatch - you'll be able to fire weapons and hurl psi attacks at your opponent in real time until either you or your opponent drops.
But there will be more to do in the futuristic world of Neocron than simply fight. Neocron will feature a number of handy gadgets and features that will streamline the adventuring process and help further social interaction between players. For instance, there are computer terminals all over the city that can access JobTerm, a database of available quests that you can accept. The terminals will also be able to access Neocron's CityCom BBS, an Internet bulletin board on which you can post messages both in and out of the game. You'll also be given an e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org), which you can use to send and receive mail in and out of the game. Furthermore, you'll be able to quickly travel across relatively short distances on a hoverbike and use the city's subway system to travel longer distances.
Neocron is currently scheduled for a 2001 release.