Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising Updated Hands-On - The High-Level Game

Gods & Heroes' minion system means that you can experience challenging, large-scale battles with just a handful of players.

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You don't often get to use the phrase "Friends, Romans, countrymen" when playing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, but you will when Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising launches later this year. Like other MMORPGs, Gods & Heroes will give you the chance to explore a virtual world populated with thousands of other players. However, rather than let you create a character and explore a traditional fantasy realm full of elves, orcs, and dwarves, Gods & Heroes will let you create a Roman character and explore a world where the mythical has come to life. While we've covered the early parts of the game previously, we recently had a chance to check out some high-level content.

Developer Perpetual Entertainment hopes that Gods & Heroes' unique setting and gameplay mechanics help make the game stand out in a very crowded genre. For instance, the game will feature minion combat, or the ability for you to control henchmen in addition to your primary character. The idea is that if you have a character with several minions and you join up with two or three other players online, you can have large-scale adventures without needing a large number of players. When your character is level 5 in the game, which is fresh out of the introductory area, you can have one minion with you. At level 20, you can have two. At level 40, which is when you can encounter high-level content, you can have up to four minions with you.

It wouldn't be Rome without gladiators.
It wouldn't be Rome without gladiators.

Minions are distinct characters in the game, not generic henchmen. As such, they have unique stories and abilities, and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. For instance, there are human minions, as well as undead ones. Your minions might not even be Romans, as they can come from other nations. Control over minions is simple. You can issue global commands to them, such as engage the enemy, defend, or stay passive. Or, you can issue specific commands to each minion, such as telling one to use a particular skill or ability in combat, or telling another to hang back and help protect you.

The high-level content in Gods & Heroes is designed for level-40 characters. Actually, it's designed for multiple level-40 characters. That's because even with four minions, you won't be able to tackle these missions on your own. Designer Stieg Hedlund, who was the lead designer on Diablo II, says that you'll want at least four other players with you, each controlling four minions. That makes for a total of 25 high-level player characters and minions, but even then, the high-level content is designed to be tough. We saw this for ourselves in our battle to take down the Telchine goddess Chalcon.

Gods & Heroes is about the epic struggle that ensues when the Telchine gods, the predecessors of Roman gods such as Jupiter and Venus, reappear in the world. Your character is a descendant of one of the Roman gods (which is determined when you create your character), so you'll fight against the Telchine usurpers armed with weapons and abilities, such as powerful god feats that are granted to you by your deity.

Chalcon is the Telchine goddess of nightmares, and she inhabits a gigantic ziggurat that is defended by huge, armored Cyclopes as well as multiheaded chimeras, creatures that possess body parts from different animals. Trying to get through the defenses by yourself is pretty much impossible; you'll need a balanced team of players in your group. Ideally, you want a mix of character classes to handle different responsibilities in combat. Soldiers and gladiators serve as the front line and help keep monsters at bay, while priests and mystics can stand back and deliver powerful combat spells or heal the front-line fighters. That's an ideal mix, as we ran through the level with nothing but priest characters and quickly discovered that the high-level creatures could wipe us out with just a few hits.

High-level monsters will be tough even if you have a full contingent of minions.
High-level monsters will be tough even if you have a full contingent of minions.

As daunting as the Cyclopes and chimeras are, they're nothing compared to Chalcon herself. She's a 50-foot-tall goddess capable of absorbing massive amounts of damage while also dealing out devastating attacks. Thankfully, she has a habit of focusing on one target at a time, which can be used to your advantage if your team constantly heals and "buffs" the player Chalcon is focusing on. Buffs are temporary boosts that can provide increased resistance to damage, increased health, increased damage to attacks, and more. However, if Chalcon takes out a player, things will get really intense as the odds gradually slip to her favor. After all, she can last longer against four opponents than she can against five.

Chalcon is one of the first of the high-level missions, and the ones that follow are even tougher, which is hard to imagine. Still, this shows off the strengths of the game. Five players grouped together in Gods & Heroes can experience the kind of large-scale battle experience that would require considerably more organization and planning in other games. And at the same time, you can experience gameplay that will challenge you to the limits of your abilities. Gods & Heroes will launch later this year.

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