Webzen Korea Editor’s Awards: Arctic Combat
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
As many of our regular visitors probably know by now, the support of our community allowed OnRPG to snag a much coveted spot in the top 3 editors that were invited to Seoul, Korea last week to meet with the development teams behind Webzen’s upcoming 2012 titles, Arctic Combat and Continent of the Ninth Seal. Up until now Arctic Combat has kept pretty tight lipped, only revealing a basic gameplay trailer and no concrete information about the title. As such this was a huge opportunity to be among the first in the world to get hands-on time with this stellar online FPS and I made sure to grill the dev team with questions until asked to stop!
As shown in their newly released storyline trailer, Arctic Combat takes place in a theoretical near future World War III. After years of peace, Russia and the United States are forced to go to war over a massive oil and natural gas reserve in the Arctic Ocean that stands as the final source of fossil fuels in a world that has burned through the vast majority of its supply. Given the setting, you can expect to see the type of weaponry showcased on Discovery Channel’s Future Weapons show… advanced as you can get without venturing into the realm of science fiction that most FPS titles are doing this year.
For long-time fans of FPS titles like Goldeneye and Tom Clancy, you will feel right at home unlocking classics like AK-47s and P22 pistols. But the game maintains the fun over reality aspect with over the top rocket launchers and flame throwers hidden around the map to keep your enemy guessing. With over 100 weapons in the game currently and a slew more coming after launch, every player will be able to build a unique fighter.
Speaking of building a unique fighter, Arctic Combat has some unusually in-depth RPG elements for a shooter. As you rank up from battles you will unlock and upgrade various active and passive skills to be used in combat. For instance I was using an active that allows me to pull out a massive rocket launcher once I was on a 4 kill killing streak. Some other options they mentioned would be available soon as actives was a ‘improved state’ which I interpreted to be a stim pack, as well as time bombs. Battery Studio stated that their goal is to create over the top fun actives but without ruining balance and considering a guy with a pistol ended my rocket launcher killing spree, I’d say they are doing a fine job of this so far.
The passive skills are much more diverse and really allow you to specialize in a certain type of game style without forcing you into a restricting class system. For instance I went with extra stamina which allowed me to sprint for around 2 seconds longer than normal players. This puts me in a bit of a run and gun roll as it was my duty to run through enemy fire to get to the rare weapon depots before the enemy and secure an early advantage in each match. Other useful passives include fast reload, assisted aim, larger ammo clips, extra max ammo, and more that I can’t even remember off the top of my head. At rank 1 you currently have a selection of around 10 passive skills so even new players can have fun experimenting with different builds to see what works.
Of course the real customization comes in with the weapons, upgrades, and stats. Every weapon has numerous statistics including fire rate, damage, range (some weapon’s damage peters off when hitting someone outside their max range), recoil, clip size, reload time, and more. You’re able to enter a match with a primary weapon (sniper rifle, assault rifle, semi-automatic, and so on), a secondary weapon (pistols, small arms), and up to 3 types of grenades. However you can also create backup sets to switch out your weapons while spawning if the situation calls for it. You can also grab the dropped weapons of your foes which really makes every match dynamic.
In terms of the gameplay itself, the game is tactical and fast paced with a heavy emphasis on team coordination. Like the modern weapons they are based on, if you find yourself in a close quarters gun fight, one side of both will die very quickly. As such if someone isn’t watching your back, you can easily find yourself dead before you can even fire a single shot off in retaliation. Luckily the maps are well designed to cater to this type of gameplay, with plenty of places to take cover, vantage points to snipe, and twisting walkways to run through and lose pursuers. Most matches tend to come down to who can hold the strategic weapon spawn points the longest, as calling in airstrikes or the ever dreaded helicopter can easily turn a match and throw 6 or 7 kills your way in a matter of seconds. Some maps offer mounted rail-guns with enough power to cut down even the D-Day raid, but as I said you’ll be extremely vulnerable to getting knifed in the back if no one is watching the entrance to your position. The flame thrower also makes an exceptional suppression tool, forcing your enemies out of position and into open areas for your snipers to finish the job.
Now one thing that I believe deters a lot of casual players from FPS titles is the lack of a single player mode or bot games. Arctic Combat offers an amazing VS AI mode with I believe 5 levels of difficulty from beginner to very hard. On hard difficulty the representatives from MMOSite and Gaming Climax were struggling to break even so this mode provides plenty of room for you to practice and improve without the stress of having to take on real players. With their AI already so well perfected at such an early stage, they didn’t deny that an actual campaign mode might be in the works for a future update. Man I hope so because Co-Op FPS campaigns are some of the most fun games in the world in my book (need proof? Try Borderlands).
Every Building in AC is a Work of Art
Of course Battery Studios seemed noticeably aware of how much competition is rising in the market for online FPS titles this year. In addition to the numerous console FPS titles they recognize that not any game will be able to compete and succeed when launching in 2012. This is why they choose to not settle for solid controls and a large array of customization and instead pushed further into the realm of extreme production quality. Every action your soldier does from crouching, to firing, to running, to throwing grenades was all done by mapping actual human behavior with pre-visualization technology. Actual gun-fire was recorded to make the weapons look and feel as real as possible. There were times I actual died because I was too distracted by the amount of detail put into reloading my sniper rifle. The maps as well are also shown plenty of TLC with every building looking detailed and unique, and ambient sounds making it feel as if you’re truly in a wide-spread war rather than an enclosed isolated arena.
Now one of the biggest make or break points for an FPS can be a cash shop system. They couldn’t reveal too much as they are still in the early stages or organizing their cash shop so I can’t say if they will have a one-time purchase or rent a weapon type of system. However one thing they were clear and open about is that they won’t sell any body armor or weapons in the store that can’t be acquired through playing the game. Furthermore, they are making sure that balance is a primary concern at all times. For instance the special armor suits you can purchase will offer unique abilities or stats, but will be lacking in other areas to allow veteran players to specialize your tactics even further without being flat out better than new players in every aspect of the game at once. The fact that 2-3 well placed shots from an assault rifle can tear even the most veteran player down ensures that skill will always be more important than gear.
Armor Sets will Represent Nations from Around the World
One of my concerns going into the game was that they were catering a little too heavily towards American gamers, promoting special suits to replicate those worn by Navy Seals, the Air Force, and other American military groups. In fact they will be offering uniforms for the Red Star Alliance as well, along with a few more neutral groups like East Asian nations and the UK.
I could ramble on about just how excited I am for this title but in all honesty words fail to describe the type of inner satisfaction you get in this title from turning the tide of battle with an airstrike, or getting a head shot achievement trophy with a rocket launcher. At the end of this year, when the weather turns chilly, and America’s political future is being voted on, you can finally get your hands on this solid title and see for yourself just what the buzz is all about.
Be sure to swing by OnRPG later today for our look at things to come in Continent of the Ninth Seal, including first impressions of the Berserker, Shadow, and Reaperess!