Platform: PC
Publisher: Mythic Entertainment
Developer: Mythic Entertainment
Format: CD-ROM
Release: US Summer 2006
Japan N/A

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This ain't your daddy's Mayan.
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Friends, Romans, Aliens, lend me your guns.
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The world of Terra Nova, spread out before you.
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The once peaceful world of Terra Nova, now at war.
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Damian Thomas
First Look Preview
Damian Thomas

It doesn't take an industry analyst to understand that MMOs are the fastest growing sector in the video game market. And, while every new title promises something new and innovative to distinguish itself from the pack, at the core they all focus on the same things: leveling up via scumming and fetch-quests, and generally being the biggest and baddest character on the server.

Mythic Entertainment is no stranger to this formula, as their most prominent title, Dark Age of Camelot, clearly shows. However, while this formula tends to attract throngs of gamers across the globe, according to Mythic head honcho Mark Jacobs, the formula is not bringing in the casual gamer- a substantial segment of the market demographic. So how does an MMO garner the attention of this key population? Mythic's solution is called Imperator.

Imperator sets the player into an alternate future, in which the Roman Republic (note: not the Empire) never fell, but instead became the dominant culture on Earth as well as throughout much of the galaxy. However, Rome was not without its rivals in this universe. The Mayan Empire rose to challenge the Republic and was eventually cast out to wander the stars. Many years later, the Mayan Empire would return to challenge Roman rule, and thrust the galaxy into a bitter war for dominance.

The player is thrust into the role of a cadet in the Republic Army, on the way to a graduation tour on the paradise planet of Terra Nova. On approach, however, the ship receives a transmission from the planet describing a massive Mayan invasion and pleading for assistance. So, the player and his force are thrown into the fray from the get-go, thereby beginning a tutorial of sorts in order to get the player acclimated to the character's abilities and the general flow of the game.

Mythic has gone to great lengths to attract the casual gamer to the MMO genre, as evidenced by the inclusion of a tutorial in the latest DAoC expansion. In Imperator, Terra Nova is designed to serve the same purpose. The roughly 6 hours spent in Terra Nova should familiarize the player with the main features of the game.

Imperator also sets out to attract casual gamers by reducing one of the biggest impediments: the need to gain levels through constant combat. During the demo, Jacobs constantly referenced his belief that the standard formula of hacking and slashing your way to power need not be the focus of an MMO character's development. To prove this, Imperator will focus more heavily on experience from quests and instances rather than from the repetitive butchering of enemies. While scumming will have its place, the need to do so will be greatly reduced.

While reducing scumming is one way to diminish the barrier between the casual gamer and the MMO, Imperator will also work from the philosophy that in order for an MMO to appeal to non-MMO players, the player needs to feel wanted in the world. To facilitate this, Imperator's NPCs will start out treating the player's character warmly and positively. For example, when you arrive on the scene in Terra Nova, the garrison will thank you heartily and request your expertise for various tasks. Shopkeepers will recognize you as a Republic soldier and treat you with respect and admiration. While not everyone will always be on your best side due to the factions you decide to join in the course of play, the initial desire on the part of the NPCs have towards the character in the game will hopefully draw most players in.

Continuing on with the idea of drawing in the player, Imperator will feature a "life events" system, in which characters, through the way they react to certain situations, will set themselves on paths to different professions. Current ideas even include the ability to join the Roman Senate and influence political decisions that have far-reaching consequences in the empire.

Gameplay is rather intuitive, and doesn't require much explanation. Combat is handled in a similar fashion to DAoC, in which the player uses various attacks, items, etc. in real time to battle foes. Depending on your profession, your skills could include things such as gunnery, demolition, medical treatment, or straightforward melee combat. Also, certain attacks have effects on certain parts of the enemy's anatomy, and visual clues will tip off the player to whether or not the attack succeeded or failed. For instance, a called shot that disables an enemy temporarily might show up on the enemy as a limp arm or leg.

The importance of currency will be diminished in Imperator as well, with the focus being more on collecting weapons/items from downed enemies or via relations with your faction. The reason behind this is to deemphasize the need to farm- something that can turn a casual gamer off to an MMO. Your gear can also help other players identify your faction and profession, as certain weapons or armor will generally only be used by certain factions/classes. Again, the emphasis on visual cues is apparent.

Graphically, Imperator looks to be on par with most MMOs. While nowhere near complete, the worlds are constructed well, and the artwork definitely fits the sci-fi theme. Characters do not yet animate fluidly, but again, this is something that should be fixed by the time beta testing begins.

On the sound front, the music is what you would expect from a sci-fi PC title, and while it doesn't step out of the realm of the ordinary, certainly isn't substandard. Sound effects, while still early, are done well, and laser blasts, melee combat, and the screams of dying troops/machinery are relatively standard.

What about PvP, you may ask? Since the philosophy behind Imperator is to attract rather than alienate the casual gamer, PvP will be optional, and mostly be present in the endgame as a gladiatorial life path. Players will be able to duke it out in the coliseum for fame and prizes, while those not as combative in nature, can avoid it entirely with no penalties.

Whether Imperator will wind up succeeding in its attempts to draw in the casual gamer or not has yet to be seen. The team behind the title is dedicated to this philosophy and the concepts seem solid. Only time will tell if it will work.


© 2005 Mythic Entertainment.
All Rights Reserved.

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