End of Nations Preview

Whenever someone mentions the Real-Time Strategy genre, I’m plunged back into a world of nostalgia and happy memories of me and my friend Tom playing Command and Conquer: Red Alert for hours on end after school. Fast forward to 2012 and, instead of welcoming us to another chapter, the series last saw a new release two years ago with the pitiful whimper of the lacklustre Command and Conquer 4, and the most fun I’d had with the genre in years was an epic battle of Generals between Markuz and I which unfortunately ended in a stalemate.

For me, and many others, the best days of the RTS seem long behind us. Well, what if I told you that there was not only another RTS gracing your PCs soon, and that not only was it an entirely-online experience brought to you by former members of Westwood Studios, but also that if you don’t want to, then you don’t have to pay a penny towards it? Enter End of Nations, the MMORTS that aims to put the genre back on the map, and all over your computer screen.

As End of Nations is being developed by Petroglyph Studios (comprised of former Westwood Studios employees) and published by Trion Worlds (publishers of the critically acclaimed RIFT), it wouldn’t be remiss to expect something special, and if you were to, I sincerely doubt you’d come away disappointed. While the action I saw take place was restricted to a maximum of four versus four, the progressing year will see that cap raised to twelve versus twelve, and then increased further still to an almighty total of twenty-eight versus twenty-eight and, when you consider the armies each player will be packing, the scale becomes mind-boggling.

Luckily for the player, their experience will be persistently recorded, allowing you to keep track of your progress and giving you quick access to your preferred armies and setups wherever you log in. Your account won’t be the only persistent aspect of the game either, as the playable territories will be constantly under siege with no guarantee of defending it, meaning you could fall asleep after a successful seizure of the land only to wake up and find that you may have to do it all over again. Battles are simple to dive into and quick to get started, as End of Nations doesn’t include the base-building aspects of the genre, allowing you to get stuck straight into the action if you choose to.

The worry that some players rightly have with the free to play model is that the ability to buy your way to victory can unbalance the gameplay or segregate the fan-base, and this is a concern players of End of Nations don’t have to worry about; clan and chat features, every map, and all classes and units are freely available for the player. Instead, End of Nations encourages the player to open their wallets for the variety of custom skins available to help differentiate your units from others’ more clearly on the battlegrounds. While I don’t know which skins come as an extra cost, I’m assured that the bacon and cheese designs were two of the most popular, after actually opting for the former myself. So if you want to deck your army out in outrageous kits, then you can throw down some money for the privilege, as the only advantage paying customers will get over you is that they’ll look more fabulous on the battlefield.

When heading out to battle, you have the opportunity to choose between the squad layouts that the game provides for you as well as those you can create yourself in the armoury, which is a trickier art than you’d think. Each unit has a particular point value, with your squad maxing out at a thousand points, meaning that you’ll have to think very carefully about your ideal layout. Unfortunately, the armoury didn’t make the point values of each unit entirely clear to me, and so I had to deal with a bit of trial and error as well as some sacrifices to get an army that I was happy to lead into battle. If you have some points going spare and can’t recruit anyone else, then you can always add some mods to your units to make them more powerful.

For a paltry number of points you can extend the range of attacks, bolster defences or increase their vision when traversing through the fog of war. The important thing to do when recruiting is to keep in mind the rock-paper-scissors approach; each unit is particularly effective against another, and especially weak against others, giving another dimension to your decision making. Add in tech trees and hero units that are more powerful, but take up most of your squad space, and you have a game that will inspire some truly creative battles between the players. However, it is possible to change your loadout mid-battle if you’re unhappy with your squad, but make sure you have enough resources to do so, otherwise you’ll be caught short, as I unfortunately found out for myself in the middle of one particularly intense fight.

For those who wish to ease themselves into End of Nations, the ideal way to do so is through the indirect versus matches. These battles take place with your opponent on the opposite end of an untraversable divide, and so you are unable to take them on directly. Instead, victory comes from outlasting and outclassing them against the hordes of AI enemies that will be sent your way, with the winner being the one who withstands the most waves. While it may be essentially be another horde mode, it’s actually the perfect way to get stuck in to the gameplay, as it allows you to ease yourself into the mechanics and experiment without too violent a retribution. While some players may find themselves underwhelmed by the mode, others may see it as a way to test out new squads or practice various tactics without the fear of it costing your side victory.

As you engage in battle, your squad is easily accessed from the unit tray at the bottom of the screen, which allows you to see their health as well as any special abilities they can activate. Clicking on individual units will also allow you to see their stats in the bottom right, revealing what units they’re specifically strong or weak against. While base building is out of the question in End of Nations, the player is able to construct turrets to help combat the enemy forces, although these will need constant protection as they are constructed, lest you end up draining your resources. Said resources are one of your most valuable asset, and keeping a keen eye on them is the best way to derive new tactics as you play. If a unit is near death, is it better to send them back to base and let them heal up at the cost of some resources, or is it wiser to let them continue fighting to the bitter end, knowing you can revive them at a slightly higher cost and potentially have them back on the battlefield sooner? And if you continue to drain resources by healing and reviving your squad, will you then have enough to buy new methods of defence to keep the hordes at bay?

After outlasting several opponents via indirect combat, the next move was to try out a four versus four match and, unlike the one versus one counterpart, it allowed me to directly take on my opponents. The mode we played was very much akin to the King of the Hill variant of multiplayer, with several key locations granting points to whichever side was in control of it, along with several areas that caused resources to generate quicker. Each player’s squad spawned in the same area, meaning that the beginning of the battle is a mad scramble to capture points, with the rest of the gameplay being either attacking or defending, depending on how successful your team was in the scramble.

While the tactics you’d learn from defending yourself in the indirect one-versus-one battles would prove useful here, your true focus should come through teamwork, and I’d imagine that message is just as true in the larger scale battles as it was the smaller ones. During my time with the game I managed to end up how a simple lack of teamwork can cost a side the battle from both the side of the victor and the loser. In the first battle, our side came out as the victors as, although the enemy was formidable, their lack of focused attacks left us able to effectively defend each of our control points, which was made easier by the fact that the enemy were more focused on capturing the resource points instead. The second match started out in a way which suggested that we would end up dominating the other team as we had before as, after the opening scramble, we were once again in control of all of the capture points and content to set up our defences. However, we found ourselves stretched way too thin and so, when our opponents actually used teamwork and co-ordinated their attacks, we were done for; our squads were devastated time and again until our resources were expended and we were left helpless, watching as they slowly crept past us to win.

After my time with the game, I have to admit I’m cautiously optimistic about End of Nations’ chances. The gameplay is well balanced, fine tuned and while it lacks the pace of the RTS games that I’m used to, it certainly doesn’t lack their impact. Petroglyph are currently putting End of Nations through alpha testing, but the arrival of spring will see the game enter a closed beta state, before the summer brings an open beta in the form of a “PvP preview”. When autumn comes to take the leaves off the trees, End of Nations will be bringing us a comprehensive and highly-scripted co-op campaign and when winter rolls around, Petroglyph will be adding live content to the game. That leaves 2013, and the future beyond that, open for world domination and whether or not they succeed is something I can’t wait to find out when the time comes.

Last five articles by Edward



  1. Richie rich says:

    Westwood you say?

    Might need to get onto this. Especially since EA have fucked C&C so badly the next game will only get released in Austria.

  2. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I know. To say that I was excited when I saw this would be to say that Ally McBeal needs a pie. Have you watched the video? You should. If you’ve already watched it, watch it again. I saw the b-roll and knew immediately that we had to use it somehow, as the gameplay footage just blew me away. I can’t wait for this game. Awesome!

  3. Pete Pete says:

    oooh I like the look of that! The footage is really pretty!

    Definitely sounds woth a go! Well done Ed.

  4. Ste Ste says:

    This sounds great but Ive got serious concerns about whether selling skin packs would actually bring in enough revenue to keep the servers open. There has to be more going on than that for this to be profitable.

    Also, Rich, dont know if youve heard but the next C&C will be Generals 2 and they have BioWare making. Fucking BioWare! Finally the daddy is coming back!

    Good job Ed, you sexy bastard you

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