by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PC
There are few games that have captured my imagination as vividly as Freelancer did. The simple joy of drifting freely between planets and space stations, occasionally running into baddies to blow up or a space station to explore, left me daydreaming of a time in humanity’s future where that will not only be a possibility, but a mundane day job for some. The only drawback to the exploration was that if you were to explore a bit too far, the ride back to the nearest jump gate or trade lane (both of which were used to fast-travel) could be an excruciatingly long one. Another game that also captivated my innocent, childlike mind at the time was Wing Commander: Prophecy. Although not as freely explorable, it excelled in the one area where Freelancer may have been lacking: the fast paced action. It was therefore no surprise that when I learned about the upcoming free-to-play massive multiplayer online game, Black Prophecy, my nostalgic little heart skipped a beat.
Black Prophecy is one of those games one has to admire. Developed by Reakktor Media, the developer behind the 2002 first-person shooter MMORPG, Neocron, it was originally set for a 2009 release as a pay-to-play MMORPG. Following the publisher's bankruptcy, the future of the project was unknown. Gamigo quickly stepped in, however, and announced its intention to not only publish the game globally, but to turn it into a free-to-play MMOG. Thus, the dream was kept alive.
The Power of Word of Mouth
Despite not having a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at scaring the socks off of anyone's mum, throwing money into hiring fake religious nuts to chant about the game, or releasing disturbing videos featuring the death of innocence, the game has become quite well known. I for one must admit that I stumbled upon it by sheer coincidence, but have since heard about it from many a friend and colleague. There is one thing to be said about a game that gains more followers by word of mouth than it does by its ads; it is going to have a huge launch. I recently got to play the Beta of the game and after playing it extensively for a while, I can safely say that I'm not about to stop any time soon.
You start by creating a character. The character creation system is quite detailed and in addition to having a few preset styles to choose from, you can go into any part of the face and customize it in greater detail. Everything from the shape of your forehead to the width of your chin can be customized to resemble anything from a highly evolved, sophisticated individual to a slack-jawed Neanderthal. Jewelry, implants, tattoos and highlights can also be added to give your character that extra detail which serves to make it completely yours. Once you have your avatar, it is time for some action.
The game introduces the shooting and targeting mechanics to you by placing you on a gun turret during a terrorist attack on the colony ship you are travelling on. Once all the baddies are blown away and the area is safe, the ship continues to its destination. The excitement is not over, however, as you arrive just in time to see a huge cruiser crash into a nearby station, causing a big explosion and cueing another attack from the aforementioned terrorists. This time, as the commander’s wingman was lost in the previous attack, you are called up front to pilot a small escort vessel and aid in the defense of the station and the remaining colony ships. This is where you get the first taste of the real game. The view is switchable between a 3rd person view á la Freelancer, a cockpit view á la Wing Commander, or a clean HUD view á la Jetfighter: Full Burn. The game can be controlled with a mouse and a keyboard, or a joystick or d-pad if you prefer, but after trying both, I felt that the mouse and keyboard approach was more immersive.