Nosgoth Hands-On Preview: Tearing Out the Throats of Your Enemies
Apparently, vampires have been sleeping (in coffins) on the job.
That job being, of course, killing humans. In the world of Nosgoth, thanks to Kain (you know, of Legacy of Kain), vampires rule the world and humans have been utterly subjugated. That is, until the events of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. That game starts with Kain executing Raziel by tossing him into the Lake of Eternity; when Raziel wakes up, he finds out about a thousand years have passed.
What happens in that period? Well, Kain ducks through a time portal and bails to go meet Raziel, and in Soul Reaver, we see that the world is ruined and vampires have de-evolved into hideous monsters. But at some point after Kain and Raziel disappear, vampires are left to their own devices. And in arguing internally over who gets what part of Kain’s empire, they miss the fact that humans were putting together a decent-enough fighting force to try to take back their world.
That’s where Nosgoth, the free-to-play PC multiplayer title being developed by Psyonix, picks up. Vampires are on the course of evolution (and de-evolution) that we see in Soul Reaver, in which they’re sprouting wings, gaining new powers, and mutating into strange beasts. Humans have rallied their forces to fight them back and retake the world. And players get to take part in that war.
Nosgoth itself is a third-person asymmetrical multiplayer game, which means the two teams handle very differently, as Square Enix showed off during demos of the title on the floor at PAX East 2014. The vampire team is reminiscent of monsters found in similar titles, such as Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, with vampire players almost universally using close-range melee tactics for their battles.
Conversely, the human team in Nosgoth is weaker at close-quarters, but outfitted with ranged weapons, giving them the ability to keep their distance from enemies while dealing damage. Nosgoth is more deathmatch than campaign the way Left 4 Dead is — matches take place in large, closed maps, for example — and a one-on-one fight between human and vampire doesn’t automatically go to the stronger vampire player, as one often expects in Left 4 Dead (at least if the infected player gets the drop on her enemy).
Though the title is set within the Legacy of Kain lore, for the most part, Nosgoth is currently pretty hands-off about how it interacts with the overall story. Part of that is because the game is fairly early in development, but developers on the show floor said they were thinking about different ways the game might expand into world of Nosgoth.
As it stands, however, Nosgoth seems to have a handle on an asymmetrical, balanced multiplayer experience. Keeping a pair of four-player teams in good sync when they utilize different mechanics can be tough, but Psyonix has rolled out quite a few useful abilities and ideas to make both factions feel strong. Humans, for example, have abilities that can stun or wound vampires to slow them, or physically tie them up so they briefly are unable to attack — all of which can turn the tide of a battle. Those abilities all function on short cooldown timers, so tactical deployment of that explosive arrow or area-of-effect ability are key.
Vampires, on the other hand, are survivalists — they’re better alone than humans are (the human team functions at its best when it sticks together as a four-person fireteam), but their tactics usually leave them needing to flee a battle should they become outnumbered or hurt. On the plus side, vampires can regenerate health, perform “executions” on humans that can refill their life, and climb walls to reach heights humans can’t. Humans are forced to hit resource locations to refill their health and ammo, which are scattered around maps.