Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising was a massively multiplayer game set in ancient Rome during a time when heroes like you called upon the powers of the ancient gods while leading a small troupe of minions into battle. Sadly, the game went away for some time, but it was later acquired by Texas-based Heatwave Interactive and is now being developed with the intention of including everything that was interesting about the original game, along with new content and features from the Heatwave team. Considering that the studio is home to developers who had previously worked on games like Ultima Online and Star Wars: Galaxies, it isn't surprising that one of these new features is extended player housing in the form of the game's estate system. Because the game was on hand at the 2011 Game Developers Conference, we stopped by and tried it out.
In Gods & Heroes, you'll play as one of four characters at launch (the soldier, the mystic, the priest, or the gladiator--with two additional professions, the nomad and the scout, planned for a post-launch time frame), but you won't be a fresh-faced youngster. Your character starts life as an established hero of the Roman Empire and the owner of your family's ancestral estate, though you are also opposed by political rivals in the senate. But those squabbles pale in comparison to what happens to you at the very outset of the game. A faction of powerful raiders has invaded your family's estate and burned it to the ground. Enraged, you seek out the island base of these invaders and begin your quest for revenge.
We played through an incomplete version of the early experience, starting with the outskirts of the bandits' home island, a grassy area with intermittent marble architecture and a massive population of red-toga-wearing brutes. Our character was more or less brand new and had very few abilities in combat beyond a few simple sword attacks. But our hosts at Heatwave obligingly swapped out our starting character with a higher-level gladiator, who not only had a few more spectacular sword attacks, but also had a small army of minions. In addition to wielding godlike powers granted to your character by whichever deity you choose to follow, you'll eventually be able to acquire a stable of more than 130 different retainer characters, from skillful human archers to axe-wielding minotaurs, who will follow you into battle.
Our higher-level character had skipped ahead to a high-level area inhabited by massive cyclopes who had a nasty habit of knocking their foes flying, so we were grateful to have minions to step up and take the worst of the beating. Heatwave's development team concedes that while the game may not quite look state of the art anymore, it will have a great deal of gameplay depth and offer a stiffer challenge. The team explains that its beta community consists of players who are somewhat older than average and more experienced in online games--discerning players who have suggested they won't mind paying for a premium experience. This is why Gods & Heroes is no longer planned to be a free-to-play game for the time being and is instead planned to launch as a retail product.
We then adjourned to the character estate, an instanced personal area and perhaps the game's most unique new feature. With the estate system, Gods & Heroes goes one step further past player housing and will let players build out and customize their own picturesque vale bordered by mountains on one side and a shimmering lake on the other. When you first start the game, your estate will consist of nothing but empty land in the wake of the bandit attacks. But over time, you'll be able to customize the area with different buildings, such as temples and armories, which can be used to strengthen your minions. You'll also eventually be able to add decorative items, such as statues of your favored gods. And as you might imagine, you'll be able to invite your friends to visit and admire your awesome new pad.
Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising will offer intriguing new player housing, a huge assortment of minion characters, and challenging gameplay. Heatwave plans to launch the game later this year.