Nosgoth – the human-vampire war rages on – first impressions

Gare – Wednesday, May 7, 2014 2:49 PM
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Nosgoth, as a name, will no doubt ring a bell for slightly older gamers: the word itself denotes the fictional world of the cult classic Legacy of Kain franchise – the same word that is now used as the title of Psyonix’s online, squad-based action game that, for whatever reason, decided to set its free-to-play arena battles in the universe of a series that has been lying dormant for the last decade. I believe we would do well to at least point out one thing right at the start: this is no traditional Legacy of Kain or Soul Reaver title. Not even close, in fact. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – what is Nosgoth, exactly? I would personally place it somewhere in the realm of Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead, with humans and vampires, different classes and consequently, differing play styles as well. The very life blood of the game is teamwork – without it, you won’t get far, as wandering off alone to purge the land of the living dead only results in one’s untimely demise. Not once did my team suffer defeat simply because members tried their luck in solo instead of launching a well-coordinated attack together – in Nosgoth, everyone relies on each other.

On the vampire side, each player has the ability to climb walls and jump swiftly from one rooftop to another; this can be achieved by simply holding down one button, much like in Assassin’s Creed – if one needed a comparison. And it is a skill players will very much need, as the strength of vampires lies in the element of surprise. The unit called The Reaver is possibly most reminiscent of the L4D Hunter, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, lying in wait for its prey to approach – and when the time is right, it leaps from above, tearing its unsuspecting victim to shreds. The problem with this, of course, arises if there are multiple humans in the vicinity – as such, our top priority is usually to find victims that are either weakened, isolated from their comrades, or are simply too busy trying to fend off other vampires to notice us. The other starting class of the vampire faction is the Tyrant, a massive brute that may be slow, but compensates for it in sheer might. Indeed, the Tank of Left 4 Dead has made its triumphant return in Nosgoth. While controlling this unit, a well-timed and well-aimed charge can easily topple several humans, which can often be deadly – and yet, more often than not, not even the strength of the Tyrant is enough – on its own – to decimate a well-armed team of four human hunters. As I’ve said before: teamwork is key.

Controlling the humans – vampire hunters –, the game suddenly turns into fort defense and survival, at least in my experience: the four-member squad finds an easily defendable, well-situated house or snug corner and proceeds to repel the onslaught of vampire players. This, of course, isn’t obligatory, just highly recommended. Humans have a more fragile physique and are unable to hop onto rooftops like their undead neighbors, so gameplay on their side means carefully marching through the tight alleyways, always vigilant and covering each others’ backs. Even certain class abilities seem to encourage this sort of play: the Alchemist, for example, can throw down a Molotov cocktail (it’s probably something else, to be honest…) of sorts to create a massive wall of fire in front of herself: while this won’t always stop vampires, it can make them back down for a few seconds. As such, the skill is useful in creating a temporary line of defense while your team pulls back and reorganizes its ranks.

I have also noticed that the ongoing cat and mouse game between the two sides seems to place the vampires as the more active, aggressive team, while the human play style tends to favor turtling up. This initial feeling of mine is, I believe, further reinforced by the different ways by which each team members heal themselves: humans regain health by standing next to small altar-like supply areas scattered throughout the map at fixed places; vampires, on the other hand, must actively seek out and kill humans in order to suck their blood and thus replenish their health. This means that in order to stay alive for the longest time, vampires must seek out their enemies and hunt them down, while humans – I felt – could afford to stay in one place for longer amounts of time.

My first impression of Nosgoth is that it’s, well, decent. More or less. Whether or not it has the lasting appeal to engage players for long weeks and months is, however, another matter. As a squad-based, standalone action game, it has its place – as a Legacy of Kain successor, it just doesn’t work, although this hardly comes as a surprise. I say it’s definitely worth a quick try if you’re getting bored of either TF2 or Left 4 Dead and require something fresh – however, if you’re looking for something that will recapture the old magic of Soul Reaver and its sequels, you won’t find it here.


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