Horizons: Empire of Istaria Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Atari
Developer:Artifact Entertainment
Release Date:2003-12-09
Genre:
  • Massively Multiplayer,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • First-Person,Third-Person
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Spanning several years of development, Artifact Entertainment's Horizons: Empires of Istaria is finally nearing completion. Last week, I was lucky enough to try out a beta version of the MMORPG, and was escorted through many aspects of the game by Artifact's David Bowman. To ensure that I was able to experience the game to its full extent during the hands-on session, Bowman provided me with a very powerful warrior to adventure with. David himself lead the expedition with an Adult dragon character, one of the nine playable races in the game.

To start off, David explained a bit about how the mechanics work in the game. All vital information, from your current party to the monster you're fighting, is accessible via several interface windows along the edges of the screen. Each and every interface window can be resized, moved, and manipulated in order to set your display however you feel it's most efficient. The options screen is quite advanced, as well, providing a great number of audio and video settings to ensure the best performance from virtually any system specifications. In addition, you can assign keyboard shortcuts for many regular tasks.

Once I was happy with my display and other settings, I was brought into a nearby town and introduced to crafting. David explained that literally any item in the game can be crafted, as long as you possess the formula to do so - therefore making powerful armor and weapon formulae some of the higher demand items in the game. Checking the inventory of my enhanced character, I found that the formula for a two-handed sword had already been placed there, so I went ahead and "scribed" it. Once a formula is scribed, your character will always possess the ability to craft that particular item. David had me equip my smithing hammer and stand near the town anvil, after which he handed me some bronze to work with. Seconds later, my character was wielding a bronze two-handed sword.

Now that I had a weapon, David escorted me outside the initial town to an open area filled with "newbie" creatures to do battle with. The maggots and zombies were no match for my enhanced character, so David spawned in a more powerful reptilian creature called a Ruxus. At this point, David showed me how to use some of my abilities, which included some nifty combat maneuvers to enhance the amount of damage I dealt during battle. Each maneuever is accompanied by its own realistic animation, which adds a nice touch to combat. Additionally, a timer is assigned to each maneuver so that you cannot continually use it. Using these abilities to my advantage, the Ruxus went down easily. At this point, I quizzed Bowman about any defenses that monsters or characters might have against particular combat maneuevers. He explained that there are five different combat stances, and each one has advantages and disadvantages toward certain attacks. For example, a stance might allow some of your maneuevers to do more damage than usual, but will in turn make you more susceptible to other attacks. Due to these offensive and defensive options, combat should provide a great deal of excitement and keep everyone in your party on their toes.

The entire world of Horizons is seamless, so you will never see a loading screen as you travel from zone to zone (even when you head underground into a dungeon!). However, David explained that there are a few methods of teleportation, and transporting great distances in one shot will require a short loading screen. To provide an example of teleportation, David lead me to a nearby "travel gate". This portal allowed us to transport to any location in the game instantly, but don't get your hopes up yet - massive transport like this won't be quite as easily accessible once the game goes live.