Welcome back. (Or, if you're new here, take a few minutes and read my two previous posts.) I'm going to continue my thoughts on what Starhawk (or at least the public beta) has had to offer. I will be posting a three-part piece on what this game has to offer in multiplayer, this first part being a comprehensive look on the Build and Battle System.
The surprising element to the game's announcement was the "RTS-Light" system called Build and Battle. I know that a few of my clanmembers from the Rebel Alliance had been following rumors of the game for two years, yet absolutely no one saw this coming! Games like Killzone 3 and MAG have felt stale after underwhelming spawn systems and other battle management, not to mention 2-4 bullet kills. With Starhawk, I have envisioned a game that I can build my base and outposts EXACTLY how I see fit.
At the beginning of the beta and at multiple media previews, there were no pre-set structures- players had to get their base and garages up before the action could begin. Players gain Rift Energy by either standing in their base or Outpost (putting an Outpost in a base or two Outposts next to each other won't increase the speed at which you gain rift,) or by blowing up Rift Barrels set in specific areas of the map. At the 1.3 update, hosts can specify whether or not there could be pre-built bases, cutting down time trying to set up a base. However, it is my opinion that the B&B system allows players to hop into a vehicle just as quick (if not more quickly) than the pre-built bases in Warhawk. 1)When the vehicle is destroyed, you can either get to a preexisting garage and build a new vehicle, or create a new garage and take off; 2) If you end up in the middle of nowhere, you can immediately create a garage, rather than wander towards the nearest base.
As this is a multiplayer game we're dealing with, you have to work with what you have in teammates to accomplish your goals. Early in the beta, players couldn't reclaim other teammate's structures, but after seeing the multiple 'Wall of China"s, Starhawk developer Lighbox Interactive threw in a hotfix that would allow teammates to reclaim anyone's walls as a way to manage resources; better yet, it gives a portion of the energy put into the structure back to the original builder, so no harm done.
Building a base has become quite easy on the "non-building" loadouts, since it appears that players gain rift more quickly than blowing up Rift Barrels. It probably contributes to the reason why in the 1.3 beta, people were refraining from getting out of their base. As the system gives a lot of freedom to players, there are servers where both teams 'turtle' their way to a stalemate on a Capture the Flag game. I have given feedback on how to reduce that, and one of the ways is to cut down the amount of resources that can be set in a base at 16 structures.
Onto offensive capabilities: the system not only provides a pretty easy way to call upon vehicles, but the most important tools of the trade- weapons! If vehicular manslaughter isn't your idea of fun, then either set down a Watchtower (sniper tower) or Supply Bunker- those will contain all of the goodies you'll need as a bonafide ground pounder. There were also two bots that players could expand their fighting capabilities with- machinegun and particle beam turrets. Placing three or more of these turrets next to each other essentially defend the area by the bots themselves, and I do see a slight issue with that if players can claim rift quickly. If there are five machinegun turrets surrounding the enemy flag, it's going to be a while before all of them are destroyed. The three best ways to go after them are with two hits from a rocket launcher, a single shot on the optical sensor from the sniper rifle, or a single stab at the sensor from the knife; the problem with this is that doing so consumes quite a bit of ammo, and if one or more defenders are nearby, expect them to spam more turrets then pursue you.
That brings me to my final piece to talk about- the Outposts. The structures are fairly weak, but not only do they get your team closer to the enemy base, they also get players out of harms way when the enemy is surrounding your own base. It takes some people longer than others to realize how they should and shouldn't be used- for example, putting one in the base does absolutely nothing but spend energy on the building and reduce the team's building abilities by one structure. Throwing one in the enemy's base is to either begin sabotaging their base or ask one of the opponents to gain a little extra rift by blowing it up with all of what they have. When it's placed in the right area on the map, close to resources yet is difficult for the enemy to reach, your team will have that area neatly locked down. I consider these structures as a mix and then a final improvement between what Killzone 2 and 3 offer for the Tactician class; in KZ2, you can spawn wherever you want to throw the spawn grenade, and in KZ3, you can continuously spawn from the Tactical Spawn Point as long as your faction has possession of the point- the major difference is that players don't spawn from an entity point on the map, they use the Drop Pod to jet down from the Dropship away from enemy activity (or even crush an enemy with the Pod, giving you a kill and a nice in-game medal.)
All in all, there's a lot of flexibility in this system. While servers full of random people unable to communicate with each other tended to show that they play like a chicken with its head cut off, a rather evolutionary stage is set up when players coordinate their offense and defense. If the suggestions are implemented by the Day 1 patch, you can bet that clan games will be incredibly fun to participate in and even watch.
Next time, I will discuss how I have approached the ground game on the beta. Until then... stay classy, Frontier!