Nival’s Prime World E3 Demo Was Great (Even Without The Wine)

When I set foot in Nival Interactive’s booth on the concourse level at E3, two things immediately caught my attention: 1) they had an open bar, and 2) it was only 2 PM and HELL YES THEY HAD AN OPEN BAR! No, I didn’t utilize the bar to the fullest extent possible, but I am happy to report that a relaxing glass of wine is just the thing to put you in the right frame of mind to enjoy what is certainly the funniest thing I’m likely to see at E3: a frog battle tank. That was just one aspect of the surprisingly fun and funny Prime Worlds, a game I knew nothing about prior to my appointment but now, I’m kind of in love with.

That frog battle tank was one of the units featured in Nival’s upcoming fantasy themed F2P MMO, Prime World. Prime World is a game designed, as it was explained to us during Nival’s presentation, to unite hardcore gamers and casuals alike. It features a cooperative peer to peer experience, blending social networking (via Facebook), turn based strategy and of course massively multiplayer onlineishness.

In Prime World, players choose two play as one of two factions – a technology/rationalist society aesthetically similar to Renaissance Europe, and an opposing society akin to fantasy fairies, attuned with nature and looking very much the part. Playable units are called ‘Heroes’, and each society will have a selection of Hero units accessible to both, and unique units specific to each. Prime World has a very simple mouse-click interface, but you can also use use hotkeys depending on your preference. During our hands-on demo, I found mouse/click to work the best and once going it was easy. Right click to direct your units, left click to send selected attacks. And lift right arm to sip the wine. Simple!

The word ‘prime’ in the game’s title refers to the in-game universe’s all-encompassing life spirit/currency system. Both societies use Prime to construct buildings and units, though we didn’t see that aspect of gameplay up close. However, we did get to see how players earn Prime during combat. As you kill your enemies or level their buildings, you earn Prime which fills a bottle icon along placed along the bottom of your screen. Whenever you’ve earned enough prime to purchase more powers, it will jingle like a piggy bank. Which is especially adorable when you’re sipping Cabernet. Players may then use their Prime to purchase new talents for your unit, ranging from supernatural powers to health bonuses, even new weapons.

During our demo, we (the journos in attendance) played as The Imperium, the society in Prime Worlds that favors technology. I selected the Frogrider unit, which is a viking looking guy sitting on top of a giant frog and is also the best decision I made all day. Frogriders are support units, better suited to brute force attacks against buildings than hand to hand combat, but their best talent is an enormous tongue which allows your frog to reach across the battle field and pull enemies at you, making for an easy kill. You can also pull allies to you in the event you need some extra assistance getting past particularly tricky enemies. Side effect: you will contemplate how totally gross it would be if a giant frog’s tongue wrapped around you.

Gameplay is simple: Each member of the team takes control of a single unit, and up to seven players can participate in a game. Apparently the game will be accessed via Facebook though they hinted at a possibly more robust interface as well. Among the more interesting elements of gameplay is he concept of terraforming. In Prime World, as you take territory from your opponents, that territory will begin to display characteristics of your society, so if you’re playing as the Imperium, captured areas begin to look technological and urbanized. It’s similar in spirit to gang territory acquisition in games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, only much more immersive. Another fun idea are minigames distributed throughout your map. You or your teammates can play them at any time in order to earn Prime for power purchases or bonuses that can be distributed to the team. Entering a minigame will take your character out of battle for the duration of the game but will not interrupt play for other players, making for an interesting strategic option.

We only got about 10 minutes with Prime World, but what I saw made me beg for access to the closed beta later this year. It also made those of us in attendance beg for a second glass of wine but being a consummate professional, I satisfied myself with the one. That single tear streaming down my cheek as I left? That was the result of dust, not the DTs. I swear.

(Prime World’s closed beta begins in late fall 2011. Follow them on Facebook for more.)

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