Mage Knight: Apocalypse Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Namco Hometek
Developer:InterServ International
Release Date:2006-09-26
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Namco has recently teamed up with Taiwanese developer InterServ International to develop Mage Knight: Apocalypse, an action RPG based on Wizkids' popular tabletop game of the same name. There isn't a whole lot known about the RPG up to this point, so we fired off several questions to Namco senior producer Chris Wren to learn more about it.

GB: How is development of Mage Knight: Apocalypse coming along? Have you recently reached any milestones?

Chris: We are a little over halfway done with development at this stage. We have four of the five playable characters and four of the six regions of the game in and working. This lets us run around with different combinations of characters and begin testing out the balancing of these levels. We've recently put our first pass of complex enemy AI into the game, so they are doing things like fleeing when their health gets too low, or calling for help as well as working in groups to defeat the party. Our multiplayer is up and running and you can take any combination of up to five characters into the game at the same time. The focus now is on getting our shopping and looting systems hooked up so that we can begin farming enemies for cool drops and selling them in town. Our Forging and Cauldron systems are coming along soon as well, this will let us customize items and make potions with reagents you gather from enemies and in mission areas. There's still a lot to do, but it feels like a game and you can go through regions, talk to NPCs, defeat bosses and complete quests, it's starting to come together nicely.

GB: For those readers who are unfamiliar with the Mage Knight universe, can you give us a brief overview of the setting and how it differs from other tabletop games? Why did you feel that Mage Knight deserved its own RPG?

Chris: We chose Mage Knight because it has all the cool things you'd expect from a fantasy universe and more. Not only does it have a cool backstory and world, but the factions within Mage Knight are fairly unique. You will find dragons and elves and trolls, but there's also blackpowder weaponry and futuristic magestone powered devices in the mix giving us a lot of great material to pull from and letting us branch out into areas other Fantasy licenses cannot.

GB: Tell us a bit about the engine you are using for Mage Knight: Apocalypse and what it's capable of.

Chris: Our developer, Interserv International is using their own engine to drive the game. It has proven to us that it can handle the level of detail and all the cool effects we were after. We have lightmaps doing some nice blending on the environments which gives us a seamless transition into new areas as you move through the various levels and some nice panoramas when you get up on a highpoint in a level. There are really nice particle effects showing off various magic spells and other abilities as well as enhancing the environments with features like mist at the bottom of waterfalls, leaves falling in the woods, and fireflies buzzing about the swamp. Shader effects like reflective water and normal mapping on our characters are giving us a really rich and immersive world filled with detail. Gameplay will involve fighting hordes of up to 20 enemies at a time, the engine handles this very well, it's pretty cool to see a band of 20 orc warriors, archers and shamans charging at you.

GB: How will character creation and advancement be handled? Will there be any sort of cap to character experience or attributes?

Chris: This process begins right when you start the game, you will choose one of our five heroes for your adventure, you will be given various customization options, like hair color, face type, eye color as well as some race specific options, and for multiplayer you will need to name your characters. The bulk of customization is in the game itself: what armor you wear, what weapons you wield and what abilities you have, these are all determined by how you play the character.

Each of the five characters has three main specializations, these can be equated to skill trees that define disciplines you can advance in. If you cast a lot of ice spells with a draconum character he will begin advancing up the "storm" elemental magic tree and be granted new and more powerful abilities in that discipline, he will also gain statistics which will make existing abilities in that discipline more powerful. If you happen to be using a lot of range attacks with our Amazon character you will begin advancing up her "eagle stance" skill tree and learn new ranged proficiencies in weaponry and ammunition as well as new types of ranged attacks. These new abilities will naturally unlock through the use of abilities in the same tree.

When new abilities show up, the player will be rewarded with a particle animation showing that a new skill has been learned and they just need to drag this new skill to their "quick" bar to begin using it in combat. There are over 40 unique skills per character with multiple levels each. Leveling up existing abilities functions much in the same way, through use you will naturally make specific abilities more powerful. We expect that players who run through the story once will have mastered one of the three disciplines for a character and partially learned the other two. Dedicated players may fully master two disciplines for a character with some abilities unlocked in the third tree as well, but attaining mastery of all disciplines for a character is not possible as there is a hard cap on the total amount of skills attainable.

Weapon and armor proficiencies are also affected by how a character advances, many armor and weapon sets have statistic requirements which are only attainable with a certain level of mastery in a discipline, attaining these types of specialized armor and weapony will further help your character advance in a particular discipline and make you more powerful when fighting in this style both in single and in multiplayer.

GB: How will the game's skill system work and how many different character skills will we have access to? Can you briefly detail some of the more powerful ones and how players will be able to obtain them?

Chris: Skills are unlocked naturally through use. You begin the game with a variety of low level skills which are all well balanced and using one over another is more a decision of preference rather than power. The skills that get used more will begin unlocking abilities in the same discipline faster and will begin providing the player with more powerful abilities of a certain type.

Obviously the most powerful abilities are locked up towards the top of a skill tree and will not be available the player early in the game. Our Draconum character earns powerful dragonforms higher in his skill trees allowing him to run around as a dragon for a while dealing our flame breath or causing minor earthquakes with his stomps. Our Dwarf character will learn to fire his gun like a flamethrower and hurl napalm at the enemy if you advance up his explosive tree. The Nightblade learns to raise corpses as minions if you advance up her Necromancy tree and a Bat form if she advances up her vampire tree. Essentially, it varies a lot based on what character you have and how you use them, we feel this will provide a really diverse set of multiplayer groups for continued adventuring online.

GB: Tell us about the game's five heroes and the strengths and weaknesses each possess.

Chris: Starting with the Dwarf character, he can specilize in guns, melee or explosives. While he wields no magic, he has a natural resistance to it. He is a good ranged fighter for dealing out lots of AOE damage and he can take a fair amount of damage himself. The Amazon is a master of combat, by taking on certain animal stances, she can focus her combat abilities towards speed, range or pure power. She can wield all classes of weapons and armor and can tank with the best of em. Our Elf Guardian can focus on protection, melee or ranged combat. While he can be advanced to be a very capable blunt melee fighter or an effective ranged fighter, his protection tree is his most unique feature and lets him heal, resurrect and protect the party using his "faith" system. Our Nightblade can specialize in Necromancy, Vampirism or Melee. Her Necromancy is good for conjuring up curses and plagues, while her vampirism lets her suck life from the enemies giving it to herself, her melee is focused around speed and stealth. Finally our Draconum character is a master of magic, he specializes in one of three elemental schools: storm, fire, or earth. He is an excellent ranged caster but does not do weel with melee unless he happens to be in one of his dragonforms.

GB: What significance does each hero's hometown have in the game and what reasons will players need to visit them?

Chris: All towns share some basic functionality: vendors for magic and weaponry, NPCs to give quests, basic crafting facilities, and lots of NPCs who have information about what's going on. However, each town also has a specialization which serves all of the party members. Silverholt, the dwarven town, for example is the only place you can forge magestones from magestone shards you may find around the world, the party will be visiting here often to make better magestones to imbue their weaponry and armor making it more powerful. Our Amazon Village, Firefeather, is the best place to get recipes for creating potions. Sometimes the town itself becomes a mission in which you will need to complete objectives, fight bosses and bring about order.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Chris!