Soul Master Preview: Genre Bending Action
By Michael Sagoe (mikedot), OnRPG Journalist
Coming soon to a PC near you, Game Campus will be publishing a brand new MMO title that blends game genres in fascinating new ways. Soul Master is a Massive Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy game with skill based action gameplay thrown into the mix. Players will choose one of three different character classes including a Male Knight, a Female Mage, and Bearcat Fighter. Each character class will be able to summon different units for battle and make use of unique skills during combat.
During my preview event, I was given pre-created characters all at LV30 which I assume will be current level cap. Before I hopped on one of the pre-created characters, I created my own character (a bearcat) to start up the tutorial. Now I'm not a very good with RTS games, as I'm incredibly terrible at all the speedy micro-management that's required in multiplayer, so I was mostly going to let my beat 'em up skills guide me. While it took me awhile to get through, the tutorial was able to make things clear enough to show me how to take advantage of all the available gameplay features.
There seems to be a fair amount of combat options you can perform when battling with your main character. Your left mouse button is used for basic combo attacks while your spacebar is used for dashing/rolling. You can perform an extra attack by pressing the attack button right after you perform a dash/roll. There are also special skills your character can use in battle. My bearcat had the ability to perform a huge claw slash, turn invisible for a short amount of time, and set land mines on the ground for unsuspecting enemies.
The RTS part of the Soul Master is streamlined to work for newcomers and RTS fans alike. Unlike most RTS games where you must have units farm for resources, your character must simply capture a seed orb on the map which will give you a steady amount of resources every few seconds. The keys for selecting units and buildings are all laid out on the bottom of your keyboard from Z to N. Managing your building and unit creation is a fast and easy since you only have to press two keys, one for your selected unit and another for the unit type you wish to create. For example: To have one of the bearcat's basic battle units created, just press X then Z, or if wanted to have a repair tower created, just press V then C. It's that simple! The only draw back with unit creation is that all progress stops as soon as you engage in combat, so you'll have to choice wisely between the two.
Capturing a seed orb
The different building types you can create are nothing out of the ordinary and these include guard towers, barracks, research labs, etc. Most building units, however, cannot be built away from the main base area. There are several battle units you can control during combat. During my playthrough, the preview build only allowed access to four of these units. The units I used were a mix between frontline attackers and some ranged attackers. Others units I had my disposal to would include ones that self destruct themselves causing huge damage to enemy units.
The action and RTS functions of Soul Master seem to be pretty solid, but what about the MMO part of the game? It turns out that Soul Master is fairly instanced only allowing four players during PvE and eight players during PvP. The only real MMO part of Soul Master comes from the different towns that each character class comes from. There's Eindrif for the knights to reside in, Forestun which is home to the bearcat race, and Sagerun where all the mages like to stay. These towns function as giant lobbies for players to meet up, gear up, chat, and party up before heading out.
Hanging out in Eindrif town
Gearing up in these towns call for shopping consumable items, new equipment, and earning new attack skills from NPCs like with MMORPGs. From each town lobby, there's a button you can select on the right side of your screen to participate in PvP battles, which is arguably the best part of Soul Master. You can join and create battle rooms with both free-for-all or team battle options, select different maps to play on and more. You can also record or replay matches in PvP.
PvP waiting room
During my preview event, I participated in both PvE and PvP. Playing co-op with others in PvE was a blast. Having terrible RTS skills didn't slow me down one bit. During a mission where I and my teammate had to defend a base from getting destroyed by enemy monsters, I was able to keep a respectable platoon of battle units going while having guard towers keep enemy monsters in check. When the harpy boss monster came around, I ended up losing all of my units and had no time to create new ones, so I went at it solo and defeated it with half my HP in tact.
Harpy boss in PvE
As confident as I was during that PvE mission, PvP was a whole different ball game. The first PvP match was a free-for-all between five players. I figured that I would try to deal damage to enemy players with my own character and have a small amount of battle units as backup, which was a big mistake. Other players were able to take down my units quite quickly and got taken down a couple of times, so I went back to my own base and spent my time creating a better army of battle units.
My battle units
By the time my army was ready, other players were defeated and it came down to only me and an enemy bearcat player. Both our battle units clashed with each other and managed to destroy themselves. The battle then turned into a 1-on-1 fight to the finish. Long story short: The enemy bearcat player defeated me. I did my best, but the enemy beatcat player put up a better fight.
My preview of Soul Master was definitely a positive one. The mix of game genres is put together so well that any gamer that favors RTS, Action games and MMOs may enjoy what Soul Master has to offer. The visual style of the game is not so bad, either. The use of an anime style with bright colorful graphics makes the game feel almost as if it belongs on a gaming console.
Soul Master's closed beta test is scheduled to begin July 22, 2010. Stay tuned to Game Campus and OnRPG for more details.