Black Gold Online Preview: An Inventive MMO Universe
From Snail Games, the creators of Chinese fantasy/folklore MMO Age of Wushu, comes Black Gold, a new MMO that sadly has nothing to do with Texas Tea, but makes up for that shocking oversight by combining high fantasy with steampunk for an experience that promises to unite two disconnected fandom groups like peanut butter and chocolate.
This gist: in the fantasy world in which Black Gold takes place, there are two major factions vying for supremacy. On one side, Erlandir, a magic-based, naturalish world populated by a society that resembles something like Mesoamerican pre-columbian societies meets Dragon Age. On the other, Eisenhorst, an industrial, developed region that looks something like The Difference Engine, if a technologically advanced Victorian England also happened to have real vampires. The former uses natural magic, while the latter uses 19th century equivalents of modern industrial technology, and both depend on a substance called Black Gold (spoiler alert, it’s where the game gets its name.)
Each faction has, at least as of E3, six playable races, three for each side. The Steampunk side has vampires, dwarfs, and humans, while the fantasy side offers humans, plus warriors, and what I think was an Elf-like race (the Snail Games rep declined to elaborate, though he did tell me more information would be coming.) Further, players can choose from three general classes that line up mostly to typical RPG classes, albeit differentiated based on the specific cultures.
My demo, which was hands-off (a running theme for this E3, as I’ve complained about ad nauseum), focused on the Steampunk faction. I saw a glimpse of a hub city in which elaborate automobiles were apparently available to drive, and then a battlefield in which the Snail rep playing the demo showed off several cool things the game will feature, the best of which being the ability to summon mounts to assist you in combat. These mounts can be purchased with in game currency you’ll earn or, so I was told, earned via questing, and upgraded. Some are good for transportation (I did not see any of those, but I was told that flying and ground based mounts were available) while others are good for combat. Combat mounts require fuel, which is limited, and when damaged require a certain amount of repair time before they’ll be usable again (some, for instance, require three hours of real time, though apparently upgrades can reduce this), but they can deliver serious carnage. The Snail rep showed me a Steampunk Mech that appropriately looked like a robot combined with an old timey locomotive, which, I was sold.
While a created character will remain locked into its faction, I was told that the game is designed to allow for all measure of both inter and intrafactional conflict. Players can, for instance, put out bounties on members of their own faction, form temporary alliances with members of the other faction, engage in lawful or criminal behavior, and so forth. It’s interesting stuff, and I look forward to seeing more.
Black Gold runs on the same engine as Age of Wushu, and as such looked very familair. I wasn’t able to see character creation, the in game economy, how the titular Black Gold works, or other MMO minutiae, which limited my perspective somewhat, but what I did see suggests an inventive universe with fun, easy and intriguing. More information is due later this year.
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Ross Lincoln is senior editor of Comics and Cosplay at The Escapist. Find more of his GameFront work here, his Escapist work here, and follow him and GameFront on Twitter: @rossalincoln and @gamefrontcom.