E3 2011: We Just Played End of Nations

We go hands-on with the MMORTS End of Nations at this year's E3 convention.

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While the Electronic Entertainment Expo is known for giving fans a peek into the year's marquee titles, it's also a great place for stumbling upon interesting games that may otherwise fly under the radar. One of these lesser-known games is End of Nations, a massively multiplayer online real-time strategy game from developer Petroglyph (Universe at War: Earth Assault). The game puts players in control of a small squadron of units, which they must use in concert with their allies' troops in battles that can support more than 50 players. We got the chance to go hands-on with this game and test our tactical prowess against some the E3 attendees.

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Our demonstration began on the character creation screen where you create your general and choose either the Liberation Front or the Shadow Revolution to join. To use StarCraft as a comparison, The Liberation Front was like the Terrans. Its units are tough, bulky, and rely mostly on brute force to get the job done. On the other hand, the Liberation Front was more like the Zerg. Its units are lighter and quicker; it is the only faction with access to cloaking technology. Once we were squared away, it was time to review the world map. This screen showed the (numerous) contested areas where we could take part in missions against other players or the AI-controlled Order of Nations faction.

But, before we headed into battle, we needed to visit our armory first. From here, we selected which units to use in combat. We could roll with all of one type of unit or bring a variety. Unit types included infantry, light and heavy armored vehicles, helicopters, and artillery. Ideally, we would have coordinated with our teammates on who should bring what so that we didn't have any holes in our forces. In practice, we just grabbed a handful of troops and jumped right into battle. We could have also coordinated on our unit's paint job or upgrades--which tweak a unit type's health, range, or other stats.

Even though this was our first time playing the game, it immediately felt familiar once we hit the battlefield. Left click and hold to drag a selection box; right click to move. We knew the drill. Our mission was simple: Wipe out the enemy's base on the far side of the map. Everything started out well. We captured a resource point and even drove an enemy armored squadron into retreating. We were feeling pretty good, but then, the helicopters arrived. Our squadron had no air units of its own, and only three light antiair vehicles. Our representative from publisher Trion also saw this and suggested we build an armor depot and a few turrets to bolster our defenses. Even with these additions, the enemy's air units made quick work of our ill-equipped ground units.

Similar to Relic Entertainment's Company of Heroes series, the maps in End of Nations were littered with tactical points for us to capture. Doing so earned us tactical currency used primarily for building defensive structures, such as defense-boosting armor depots and deadly turrets. It could also be used for repairing units or activating our commander's special abilities. When a unit was destroyed in this game, it wasn't lost forever. Instead, its flaming corpse remained on the field until we had enough tactical points to repair it. Once repaired, the unit would respawn at the nearest spawn point that was under our control. Our commander's special abilities also took tactical points and could turn the tide of a battle if timed correctly. These included such destructive forces as tactical nukes, landmines, EMP blasts, and noxious clouds.

From what we played, End of Nations was largely a war of attrition, both on and off the battlefield. On the battlefield, we were fighting to gradually push our skirmish line forward by capturing the tactical points and reinforcing them with defensive structures. Off the battlefield, we were working to tip the scale on a territory in our faction's favor. A territory is not won with a single victory but, rather, with numerous victories that gradually push it over the edge to one side or another.

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And if your side gets too far behind, don't worry. In three-month intervals, the world of End of Nations will be reset. Before that happens, you and your faction can earn numerous bonuses for controlling the major territories of the world. However, don't think that just because you joined the winning team in the 11th hour, you'll earn all those rewards. The developers are tweaking the bonuses you will receive based on various factors, such as level of contribution. We'll be sure to keep our eye on this game.

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