Recently, Interplay dropped off a nearly finished version of Shiny's forthcoming real-time strategy game, Sacrifice. This final candidate version of the game finally allowed us to put the multiplayer mode to the test. We've already described our initial impressions of the multiplayer mode, which you can find here. For a more detailed report on the gameplay in the multiplayer match, read on.
The first Sacrifice multiplayer game in the GameSpot office lasted more than two hours. There were three players involved in the battle, so we chose a three-player symmetrical map with four mana fountains - one near each player's starting location and one in the center. As mana is the game's primary resource, that meant the center fountain would be an important strategic objective for all players. Blue ended up having Persephone as his god, while yellow and green picked James and Stratos, respectively. Blue built a manalith, or mana collector, on a fountain hear his altar, or home base. Blue was able to build a manalith on it and post a couple of rangers to guard it.
For the next few minutes, blue went around the map collecting souls, until he had an encounter with green. Green tried to take down blue's manalith with a large force of about a dozen troops, but was unable to defeat the two rangers defending the structure. It appears that only a few low-level creatures are needed to defend a structure early in the game. At about the same time, yellow invaded the area around blue's altar, which required blue's immediate attention. Luckily, blue had ranger guards at his home manalith, and with subsequent reinforcements was able to fend off yellow's attack.
Yellow then attacked green's forces in the center, so blue attacked yellow's altar and was able to desecrate it and knock yellow out of the game. This is where the stalemate began. Blue had control of the map, but green was able to harvest a greater number of souls. Green's army was huge compared with the handful of troops blue had left. Blue's wizard was a couple of levels higher than green's, but green was able to gain experience faster because his army was able to kill blue's wizard and troops easily. Blue then posted higher-level troops as guardians around the center manalith, so green wasn't able to take it down. If either player attacked the opposing altar, the incursion was quickly turned back.
This stalemate went on for nearly two hours. However, the game finally ended quickly. Both players reached level eight at the same time. Green had a lightning fence that he was able to cast on blue's monolith, which destroyed it and blue's troops fairly quickly. Blue cast the spell meanstalks, which created four large vine stalks that devastated green's army but also picked blue's wizard up and flung him to the ground, effectively ending his life. Blue had to go all the way back to the starting base to revive his wizard, and by that time, green was able to harvest all of blue's troop's souls. Blue surrendered at that point, his once proud army sacrificed to Stratos.
The game would have been quicker if we had started at a higher level instead of the default first level setting. Despite its length, the battle remained entertaining throughout. There was a lot of action during those two hours, and it was a lot of fun seeing how various spells worked. The game is relatively easy to control, but once in a while the third-person perspective would rotate by accident because the cursor was at the edge of the screen. The interface takes some getting used to, especially because of all the buttons you need to cast spells and summon creatures.
We'll have a full review of the game when it's released next month.