Why settle for sword and shield when you can grief other players with a giant assault mech? Snail Games is looking to distinguish its upcoming free-to-play fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Black Gold Online, with some destructive mounts and a law-enforcement system with lingering consequences.
Some of the Snail team recently paid a visit to GamesBeat’s headquarters in San Francisco to give a lengthy demonstration of the beta build — and you now have a chance to check it out for yourself with its closed beta going live today.
Getting your own ride
Black Gold Online’s most apparent flouting of MMO tradition comes in the form of carriers. These carriers play a similar role to the mounts that characters can ride in most MMOs. Your primary character actions will take place on foot, but carriers can give travel or battle a new dimension. The side you ally yourself with in Black Gold Online’s resource war determines what form your carrier takes. Those affiliated with the industrious Kingdom of Isenhost control giant mechs, and the more naturalist citizens of the Erlandir Union tame and ride mythical beasts. Most characters will discover or build their first carrier as part of the early questlines. Players may also find manuals all over the map that teach carrier upgrades or add new components. Certain carriers will also be available to rent for a limited amount of time.
“You work them up all throughout the game,” said Kevin Doyle, the community manager for Snail Games. “They are customizable, personable things. They are persistent, so they take their own damage separate from you. And if … destroyed, they are pretty much gone.”
Players have complete control over their carriers’ abilities at all times, giving Black Gold Online a Titanfall feel, especially for larger Isenhost raids that require many mech-bound players. Carriers come in five classes, each one having ability bonuses specific to their class. An antiair carrier fires homing projectiles to compensate for an aerial carrier’s maneuverability, while raid and assault units have multiple area-of-effect attacks to dispose of ground forces in one swoop. Siege units make up for their slow movement speed with a crowd-control arsenal of howitzers and Gatling guns.
Players select a carrier from a small variety of prearranged skillsets (or “development trees”) and modify the units as they level up. Post-beta game updates will provide players with more cosmetic control over their carriers. Instances — developer-planned or hosted in-game events — will take advantage of carrier-only warfare, and one particular battlefield will house massive mounted player vs. player free-for-alls every 30 minutes. Once acquired, a carrier is available to spawn and wreak havoc pretty much anywhere in the world, outside of low-level protected environments or sponsored events.
Your crimes could catch up to you
But too much destructive fun will have its consequences. Black Gold Online’s world has a little in common with the Old West of Rockstar’s open-world shooter Red Dead Redemption. Behavior deemed greedy or violent add to a character’s wanted value. The higher the crime, the stronger the reaction from NPCs. Certain shops may refuse you service, or guards may strike up a manhunt. Captured players will spawn in a jail zone to work off their crimes (and do jail-exclusive side missions) for 15 minutes to 20 minutes.
Wanted meters will deplete over time, so sneaky players could avoid the police until their citizen standing resets. Or you could pay your way back into lawfulness by buying a Certificate of Apology from a specific NPC. But your crimes on the surface world mean little in the Chambers of Greed.
“[Chambers of Greed] are these open-world hidden dungeons you can find,” Doyle said. “They are all over the map, tons of them. Inside there are NPCs, there are bosses, loot drops — stuff like that. But they are open, so anyone can enter or leave at any time.”
The wanted meter doesn’t apply in these subterranean chambers. Players will also be on foot, tight corridors and caves not being the best place for giant beasts or machines. The loot you stole from another player is at the mercy of any other devious players in these lawless zones. Chambers of Greed are also rife with traps and boss encounters, so don’t count on a quick detour inside most of these hidden caves.
“During our alpha testing, I saw five or six people band together just to go steal other people’s loot,” said Doyle. “People would get together to go around, jump into dungeons, and basically just start killing other people.”
Black Gold Online doesn’t look to be your typical MMO grind. The war over the titular Black Gold resource is one fought atop giant beasts and mechs. Killing and stealing could merit some lasting punishment if you aren’t slick enough to find your way to a Certificate of Apology or a Chamber of Greed. It’s a new world to explore, and you’ll have some new expensive-looking toys to help you along the way.