Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising - hands-on

With servers chock-full of level 70s enjoying their flying mounts, World of Warcraft continues to dominate the MMORPG scene. But as Blizzard’s beast approaches its third year anniversary, the game is beginning to show signs of aging. Enter Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising, a new contender vying for a slice of the MMO pie, and gamers have yet another reason to consider a switch this year.

We got some hands-on time with this massively mythical online role-playing game, and while Gods & Heroes sticks to many tried and true staples of the genre (one of our first quests involved killing pigs for drops), the game’s designers seem eager to improve on some of the most critical aspects of the genre: partying and combat.

While you can form parties in the usual manner, you’ll also be able to enlist over a hundred different NPC minions to your cause over the course of the game. These minions can be grouped into squads, gain experience, learn new skills, and advance alongside you as you take them into battle. While details regarding exactly how many minions you can take on the road with you are fuzzy, the implications for solo play are obvious: Tank-like Gladiators can bring along squads of spellcasters to lay down some healing and damage spells while you hold the attention of your foes. On the flipside, Priests might want to bring along a squad of damage-dealing Skirmishers to make up for their lack of killing power while cursing from a safe distance.

But it’s the way that Gods & Heroes’ squad-based combat offers to dispose of over-sized dungeon raids that caught our attention. “My big problem with raids is everyone’s just standing there staring at their [User Interface]… the challenge is to create a combat system where you can manage your squads realistically” says Chris McKibbin, President of developer, Perpetual Entertainment. From what we’ve seen, it seems like Gods & Heroes has met this challenge. Although you’ll issue orders to your minions as you would with controllable NPCs found in other games, you can also configure formations for various plans of attack and customize their equipment. With a small battalion of personalized warriors at each player’s command, Gods & Heroes promises large-scale battles without having to group with 20 or 40 other people. We got our first look at one such area, the Isle of Archimedes.