Legacy Of Kain’s PvP spinoff Nosgoth pits vampires against humans

Nosgoth

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Psyonix Format: PC Origin: US Release: TBC

Nosgoth is the multiplayer portion of a cancelled Legacy Of Kain sequel, spun out on its own and repackaged as a PC-exclusive thirdperson PvP shooter. It’s free-to-play, and being developed by Psyonix, the studio responsible for the multiplayer components of Bulletstorm, Homefront and Mass Effect 3, as well as introducing Unreal Tournament’s much-vaunted Onslaught mode.

Still deep into its closed beta with no sign of a release date, Nosgoth is continually evolving. In its current form, it’s a four-versus-four arena fighter set in small chunks of Nosgoth, the dark fantasy world in which the Legacy Of Kain series takes place. One team takes on the role of the vampires, each powerful brawlers capable of scaling buildings, leaping huge distances and gouging opponents to death with vicious melee attacks. The opposing team is made up of human rebels, whose weak and easily gouged bodies are mitigated by their comparatively advanced weaponry, which includes bows, hand cannons and grenades.

Each race is itself split into a number of classes. Humans come in the form of a bow-wielding sniper, a grenade-hurling support fighter, and a rapid-firing, crossbow-armed tank. There’s even more variation within the bloodsucker ranks, with one vampire class capable of flight, another a sort of pale-skinned Incredible Hulk, and the last able to pounce on enemies from a distance.

The humans-versus-vampires staging doesn’t pitch either race as morally superior. Deaths on both sides are visually gory, with vampires often exploding into showers of red gloop.

The disparity in how each race can inflict damage on the other leads to a dynamic that ideally sees the humans huddle together to avoid being picked off as the vampires attempt to circle around and assault their prey from every angle. In practice, players expire and respawn with dispiriting regularity, largely based on who manages to outnumber whom in any given encounter, regardless of class choice or skill level.

The different classes don’t interact in any meaningful way, but the setup is such that the human characters seem like they should. There’s no medic class in the current build, for instance, with health assists limited to the grenadier’s healing bomb. The humans can also drop a mechanical turret that rather dumbly deals constant area-of-effect damage to anybody standing within a small and clearly marked radius, a tactically dubious weapon that is far too easily sidestepped.

The vampires, meanwhile, operate entirely independently of one another, whether they’re flying around abducting humans and dropping them on each other, or shoulder charging through them. Throughout their roster of abilities, which includes the option to feed on the dead to restore health, damage doesn’t yet feel properly tuned. Pounce on a human at full health and they’ll disengage from you before they’re fatally wounded. Drop one from the sky and they’ll never be killed outright. Instead, encounters at the moment devolve into hitpoint grinding, leaving players feeling numbly impotent.

Sunlight grenades can temporarily blind and damage vampires. Humans can also use grenades to lay down protective walls of fire.

Two new classes will be added to the beta in due course, and though neither is yet playable, their abilities promise to add some spark to what is currently a bleakly unadventurous game. The first is a spy character similar to Team Fortress 2’s, and the second is a human blood mage capable of buffing and debuffing friends and foes. Both should go some way to remedying the concerns found in the basic character set.

Class customisation enables players to employ certain perks, skills and weapons, and it’s here that Nosgoth plans to extract its keep. A premium currency will allow you to rent or unlock new weapons more quickly than they can be acquired otherwise, with Square Enix confident a fair balance can be struck for all.

Whether that’s true or not may be moot if the core game continues to fail to inspire. Nosgoth is so unambitious in its current form that we expect many, even hardened Legacy Of Kain fans, will struggle to greet it with anything other than slack-faced apathy.