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John McCarroll
E3: Jumpgate Evolution Impressions
A lot has happened since we saw this game last year.
06.16.10 - 11:04 PM

Last year, we had a chance to see Jumpgate: Evolution, and it was looking to be great. After that, the game just seemed to evaporate without a trace, but it has reappeared this year in NetDevil's booth. The game doesn't have the same focus that it did before; NetDevil has changed the game to move away from exploration and crafting and have focused on what they can do well in spades: combat. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, there have been many MMORPGs that have fallen prey to trying to be too ambitious, and I was still very impressed by what NetDevil had a chance to show us.

By focusing down from exploration, Jumpgate: Evolution can focus more on presenting players with a directed story. Now, that's not to say there still won't be exploration, but players will feel like they aren't stuck on the outskirts and learning about lore, but they will be on the inside, learning context. Because of this change in focus, players will find themselves with a completely different game depending on which faction players find themselves a part of.

Players take control of a member of an elite unit inside of one of the game's three factions. There's the corporate Solrain, who intend to dominate the universe by creating profit through war. Players exist as a member of The Company, out to protect the Solrain's territory. The Quantar allow are mystic and honorable and they intend to carve out their place in the world in their own way. A very technologically advanced race, they are very akin to Wing Commander's Kilrathi race with their tribal culture. Players of this faction will be a member of The Brotherhood, a Knights Templar-like secret society that keep the lords on the right track. The last, announced at the show, are the Octavius, who rule with an iron fist. This society is imperialistic, and the government controls everything; every member of this society is a member of the military. Players will take control of a member of the Regimen, which is the military branch that is the right hand of the Octavian Emperor.

None of these factions are the "good" faction, and none of them are "evil." All of the factions are morally ambiguous; during our demo, Octavian troops attacked a Solrain base. Once the base was destroyed, the quest objectives changed and the Octavian players were now tasked with destroying all of the remaining Solrain ships - be they the fighters protecting what the base was or the civilians who were escaping the destruction. Things are complex beyond good and evil - everything is shades of grey. These quests aren't about killing X number of Solrain ships, either, but all players in a sector must work together to take the overall objectives. It keeps players engaged and doesn't put a layer between them and the game's story.

NetDevil has expressed a deep commitment to the game's story, quests, and overall context, but their main focus is one thing: combat. Players are involved in a constant war between these three factions, and the world reflects this. Both PvE and PvP objectives are focused around players taking down their opponents. All of the PvE quest objectives are shared amongst players in a zone, so rather than having players sequestered away in instances fighting bosses, players of all levels can work toward one goal in a sector. It's a great way to narrow the level gap, although a much higher level player will obviously annihilate a lower level character. A great deal of combat is directly affected by a player's skills - and that's not your character's skills.

Players fly a ship, similarly to Freelancer or Wing Commander and spend their time in both PvE and PvP dogfighting. While there are levels and statistics, players will spend their time maneuvering themselves and really dogfighting - the combat is fully real time. Players will be eased into Player vs Player combat by level ten, and once players reach the cap of level 50, they will be presented with a sandbox PvP world where they can take down opposing factions with variable PvP objectives. The game will allow players to control their avatar the way that they would like - the game supports up to three monitors, and the team is trying to provide support for as many joysticks as possible.

I'm still very excited for Jumpgate: Evolution, it's simply a different game than I saw a year ago. Rather than being EVE Online with better combat, it's now a hybrid of many more general MMORPG ideas. Keep your eyes peeled when the title releases... when it's done. Unfortunately, NetDevil was unable to tell us any kind of release window. They have one, they're simply not telling anyone what it is.


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