Nexagon: Deathmatch Impressions

We indulge in some deadly sporting action as we check out Strategy First's upcoming real-time tactical combat game for the PC.

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Earlier today we visited Strategy First's E3 stand to check out Nexagon: Deathmatch, an internally developed real-time tactical combat game set in the 44th century. Although the game is billed as a Smash TV-style future sport, it actually plays more like a small skirmish battle in many ways--the only immediately obvious sports reference being that the onscreen action is complemented by some colorful commentary.

The sport of Nexagon: Deathmatch is played by two teams of six gladiators over three timed periods, and although the primary goal in the game is to destroy the opponents' controller sphere at the opposite end of the arena to your own, there will be other ways to rack up points in many of the game's 15 destructible arenas--points that will be used to determine the winner if neither team manages to destroy the other's sphere. The slightly peculiar example given to us by Alex Parlour, the game's associate producer, will see teams accumulating points for controlling billboards within the arena on behalf of their sponsors.

Although you'll be able to field only six players on your team at any one time, you'll most likely have many more players than that in your squad, which you'll be able to substitute into the arena during the two intermissions. When choosing your team you'll have a number of decisions to make, starting off with which of the game's four races you want to play as. The races in the game are basically alien, industrial, fantasy, and robot, each one specializing in a different style of play. Within each race there are also four different specialized units: golems, which are slow but powerful; drones, which are fast and agile; moles, which are able to use items and weapons found in the arena; and brains, which can cast various spells both on gladiators and on the arena itself.

Nexagon: Deathmatch will basically play a lot like a garden-variety real-time strategy game, only on a much smaller scale and with total emphasis on combat--you'll be able to select groups of players by drawing a box around them, have players guard certain areas or each other, and even assign hotkeys to certain areas of the arena in case you need to do something there in a hurry. The game will also feature some intriguing pause features, including the ability to call a brief time-out when the action starts heating up and also the ability to configure a number of auto time-out events so that the game pauses whenever, say, one of your players is injured, or your controller sphere is threatened by an opposing player. The purpose of the time-outs will really be just to let you catch your breath and appraise the situation, although you'll also be able to issue an order or two to each of your players during that time.

The blocky-looking nature of the arenas in Nexagon: Deathmatch means that they can look very dated at times, but the players move around quite nicely, and we get the feeling that once the action gets under way, the quality of the textures and the lack of complex geometry in the levels will be the last thing on your mind.

Toward the end of our meeting we suggested to Parlour that some kind of arena designer package would make a great addition to the game, and although there are no plans to ship one with the game, he did remark that we weren't the first E3 attendees to suggest it and that one might be made available for download in the future. For more information on Nexagon: Deathmatch, check out our previous coverage of the game.

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