Nosgoth is a new arena shooter by Square Enix set in the Legacy of Kain game universe, and currently available free-to-play in beta testing. The game runs much like a first-person shooter, with two teams of four competing to be the first to achieve 30 kills. In each match, you play humans for a maximum of ten minutes and then vampires for ten minutes if no one otherwise reaches 30 kills. The number of kills for both sides is totaled to determine the overall winner.
The game seems simple at first and has a tutorial that walks you through the initial classes available for humans and vampires. Each class has three abilities, as well as a few actions common to all classes in that race. You get to try these out briefly, and at the conclusion of each tutorial you have to face off against a single enemy in an enclosed courtyard. This shouldn’t be that difficult, but it is quickly evident that the vampires are more powerful than the humans. I defeated my opponent on the first try when playing a vampire. As a human, it took me 20 minutes to find a strategy that worked.
Once you have completed these tutorials, you can enter the game itself. The beta test doesn’t explain much about the plot. I have no idea why the humans and vampires are fighting or what happened in this world. Hopefully this will be fleshed out as development continues.
You have essentially one option for gameplay – the team deathmatch. As a beginner, you can choose to play in a game limited to players under level 15. Another option is the flashpoint game, but either it wasn’t functioning in this beta test or there were never enough players interested in it to let me join. For a few days, the developers ran an alpha test of their capture the body game. In this scenario, the vampires have to drag a body to certain target points on the map while the humans try to stop them.
Abilities and Game Balance
Initially, playing as a vampire was much easier and more enjoyable than that as a human. All vampire classes have the ability to climb buildings and leap across the rooftops. The Reaver class is your default vampire and has a pounce attack that was the only fun aspect at the beginning of the game. Even starting out at low levels, it was easy to creep across the buildings and launch a pounce attack on an unsuspecting human. Once you land your pounce, your vampire tears at your victim for a few seconds, inflicting additional damage.
When playing as the humans, it was tough going. Your main weapon for the Hunter class is a crossbow, which operates like a gun. You have a limited number of rounds (bolts) and have to reload. They even sound like guns.
The vampires move fast and it was tough to aim accurately enough to score a hit. Your other starting abilities include a bola, which can be thrown to entrap a vampire, keeping him from attacking or climbing. The final ability is a powerful explosive shot that can inflict area damage, but this skill has a 15 second cool-down. The humans cannot climb and have to rely on darting through the buildings, sticking together, and spotting a vampire attack in time to dodge. The humans are very squishy, so in a one-on-one fight with any vampire, you are assured to lose.
Other Classes and Skills
Once I had the basics down, I tried out some of the other classes. For every five levels that you advance, you earn an artifact to unlock a new class. My favorite to play was the human scout class, which has a powerful longbow and functions as a sniper.
You can purchase upgrades to those three abilities for each class that adds some much needed interest and customization to Nosgoth. The game offers two types of currency – gold and runestones. You earn gold for each match, with more awarded to the winning team. Runestones can be purchased in the cash shop. The class abilities can be purchased for a one-week time limit or, for more gold, as a permanent addition to your account. For the Scout, pick the stormbow or warbow for the best damage. Add on camouflage to help escape from vampires, and activate the volley skill to call down a flight of arrows in an area attack.
Your other starting classes include the human alchemist and the vampire tyrant. You can unlock the human prophet or vanguard and the vampire sentinel, deceiver, or summoner.
Your game takes place on one of four maps – Valeholm, Provance, Sommerdamm, or Freeport. Each map was a mixture of buildings and open spaces. Towers of different heights allowed vampires to cavort among the rooftops, while the building interiors provided some shelter for humans. Freeport is a city with fewer features near the docks and was my least favorite to play. The game notes mention that more maps are going to be released soon.
Humans have the ability to heal at a supply station. That sounds great, but when being attacked by a vampire, it was nearly impossible to break free of your enemy to go find one. The supply stations are marked on the map and each one can be used once per game.
The vampires can also heal by toggling the execution feature after a kill. The vampire spends a moment hunched over the victim, draining his blood. The vampires also had a limited capacity to regenerate to about a third of maximum health. This was usually an easy feature to take advantage of, as their climbing ability let vampires escape to the rooftops where the humans had a tougher time targeting them.
In the cash shop, you can use either gold or runestones to buy new items, including boosters, skins for each class, or player banners.
For each day that you log in, you are awarded daily perks. These can be gold or a booster (for example – increased XP for 24 hours). The bonus gold is a nice addition because you have to play several games before you will accumulate enough gold to purchase any new abilities. The permanent ability purchases make more sense, but it may be best to experiment and figure out which ones you like best before committing to the higher price for these.
Frustration and Lack of Teamwork
For a beginner, Nosgoth was not an enjoyable game to play. With the vampires feeling so overpowered, it was frustrating to play the humans, and in any combat beyond a one-on-one fight the game stuttered. I’m running the game on a laptop with an AMD Radeon HD 6570M graphics card and the default settings for the game (maximum frames per second of 60). My internet connection never appeared to be a problem. The game performed fine otherwise, with only a few glitches when the vampires tried to climb buildings.
Once I was able to unlock better abilities and add some customization, I had a better experience playing. At odd hours, the wait times for a match grew, even if I switched my selection for time zone. The unlockable classes were fun to explore and added more depth to the strategy once you grew familiar the abilities that your enemy may have.
This game badly needs a better way to communicate among your teammates. There is a chat feature, but that was too cumbersome to use in a fast-paced game. An audio chat is available, but was not widely used by players. When someone did speak, the sound cut in and out and it was hard to understand. When I used this feature and asked if anyone could hear me, I was not able to get any response. Particularly as humans, a coordinated approach to play would improve your chances of survival and success. Players tended to stick together geographically as humans, but it was impossible to coordinate more than that.
Should I Play Nosgoth?
If you enjoy PvP and are looking for a game to play, you can certainly try out Nosgoth. For a free download in beta testing it isn’t bad, but I wouldn’t pay for the game at this point. Over the time that I played, I did notice changes being made by the developers, so some of the issues that I had with it may be improved by the time the full release is ready. I still have a couple of classes to unlock and I will probably continue to play intermittently, particularly if new maps are released.
The best part of Nosgoth was the ability to try out the different classes and their abilities. Any other class was better than the basic human hunter. Even with new skills to explore, it remained fun to creep across the rooftops as a vampire and pounce on humans.Related: Beta, Nosgoth, Preview, Shooter, Square Enix