Nosgoth has come and gone with its Steam free weekend, and it’s showing off a game that is pretty much going to be filled with Free to Play nonsense – something I’m personally not bothered by much. On the surface, it also carries the Legacy of Kain license in a very similar way to the Shadowrun shooter we had around the late noughties – though they have added a sizable portion of lore to fix this within the universe. Another thing that they have in common is that I enjoy them both. The free weekend has ended, but I bought into the beta – and I’m still quite happily playing it.
I’ve never been heavily involved with the Kain series, so I won’t dwell on that fact that this probably isn’t the best use of the franchise. At best it was an idea conceived around doing something different with the licence and at worst it’s something that had the license stapled to it in a similar fashion to The Bureau: Declassified. Either way, the game itself isn’t that bad.
You have two teams (as with practically every other third person shooter under the sun) but it’s truly asymmetrical, with the humans and vamps having wildly different playstyles. In honesty, unless you are/are against a truly spectacularly good set of humans, then said humans are definitely the defenders against the predatory vampires. Humans rarely go out to hunt down vampires as they have to keep the vamps at a distance to effectively kill them without getting killed or worn down too much in the process.
Hunting down humans as the vampires can be extremely rewarding. While humans carry skills that slow, disable or rain damage in a small area – all great for defending – vampires get to stalk, lock down a target, and maul them with their savage claws. They also have a wide variety of escapes or damage mitigation. That, combined with their ability to scale buildings and attack from every angle, just makes it super fun.
Scaling buildings in this game is much better than it’s been in any other recent game, if only for the fluidity and ease. It’s not as precise as Assassin’s Creed but you gain a little flexibility and a huge amount of speed as you leap from building to building, scouting out human strongholds. You can still be knocked off or down from there, but it adds extra hiding places and escape routes that humans generally don’t have access to.
Unlike other team games where you tend to have people covering each other but generally going off to do their own thing, people genuinely end up grouping together and initiating conflicts as a team rather than the usual willy-nilly nature of most shooters. There are exceptions to the rule but that tends to be players making use of their class advantages. Scouts climb up high for better vantages with their bows, picking off Vamps from up high; Sentinels wait for an opportunity to dive in from flight, kidnapping a victim before dropping them to the ground; and Deceivers will disguise themselves, ready to sow chaos in the human defences.
I’d like to take a quick break from saying how much I enjoy the game and mention the free to play stuff. In terms of what you earn and what you have to buy, you are given a pretty wide berth. It’s much like the League of Legends model in that you start with a basic set of everything you need to play, but if you want more options then you need gold to afford these additions. Classes are earned at a rate of one every five profile levels, while skills rely on gold to either be bought outright or for a seven day trial.
You can also unlock new weapons via chests that you get from buying into the beta, or via a reward for every five levels you get with a class. Each of these weapons or skills will be a standard weapon or skill with multiple buffs and debuffs that affect different attributes. They range from reload speeds, sprint speed, amount of health drained from human corpses, y’know, regular stat changes. There is supposed to be a charge on it that lasts either seven or thirty days at max charge, but that feature doesn’t seem to be implemented properly yet. The implication is that you can recharge whatever it is to the end so that you are able to continue using it.
It uses a slightly less mainstream F2P tactic of renting you weapons and skills. These cost about a fifth of what outright buying it costs, but it means you can be a little thriftier with your winnings when you don’t have an idea of how something will fit into your playstyle. It’s one of the more pleasant ways of testing everything and in some cases is better than a weekly rotation (which they still have for passive abilities).
Nosgoth is plagued by Vampires but it is also plagued with often awful matchmaking. It was “fixed” after the free weekend, but has since been far more unreliable, repeatedly matching up teams so that it’s 3 against 4. If the small team sizes and asymmetry of the game didn’t affect this as significantly as it does then it wouldn’t be so bad – but you will see more than a few games where one side struggles to get ten kills before the other gets thirty.
Nosgoth is very interesting, very rewarding, and fun to play. It has its teething issues still while it works out matchmaking but the extra content should continue to flow in, offering more classes, maps and game modes. I’m still really enjoying the game when matchmaking doesn’t land me on an outnumbered team, but it’s easy to look past that and see a game that has its work cut out, trying to stand out from the crowd of F2P shooters and the shadow of the Kain series.