The Balaur are nasty sorts. They do, however, provide the element that enables NCSoft to include PvPvE - player versus player versus environment - in Tower of Eternity
. The Abyss is where that goes on. Basically, in large scale battles the Balaur will act as a balancing element. If one side is dominating a kerfuffle, in swoop the Balaur using scripted AI to keep things from getting too uneven.
The Abyss is tiered. Its first accessible at Level 25, but as players level up, more and more of it will open up. I didn't get to see it in live action, but NCSoft had a video of it in use. It's dark, it has plenty of floating rock and you can fly as you do battle by the bucket-load.
Yes! You get to fly! This is another pleasing element of what I saw. The power of flight is unlocked at Level 10 and can be used throughout the rest of the game. Which doesn't mean that everyone will be fluttering about the whole time – flight is done using ether, which is in limited supply (although potions can extend it) so use of flight is tactical. Unless you're in the Abyss, that is. There's ether a-plenty to be had there. It's a nice feature that shows off the game's environments well and should make for some interesting combat situations.
So, basically you've got your classic heaven/hell set up, with limbo plonked in the middle for good measure.
To make life easier a teleportation system is in place. Well, NCSoft calls it a teleportation system, but in reality activating it will stick you on the back of an airborne creature. Calling it teleportation might seem a bit disingenuous, but it does give you the opportunity to take in the landscape – given the amount of time that's obviously gone into the look of the game, that's no bad thing.
Another little feature that's aimed at streamlining the game is a map that presents you with the location of NPCs. Hopefully that will minimise the time you spend smashing your head into the monitor as you leg it around the environments looking for the guy offering the next scrap of information you need to complete your quest.
As far as crafting goes, six professions are there to be mastered. I saw a spot of cooking in action, complete with ingredients jumping about in the pan while the Scout who initiated it did a little jig (NCSoft built in dances for characters – it's weird). As well as grabbing ingredients in the conventional method, players above a certain level will be able to extract the essences of ingredients and manipulate them into other bits and pieces that might prove more useful.
Coming away from my stop at NCSoft, my overriding impression of Tower of Eternity
was of how damned pretty it looks. Sebastian Streiffert, the community co-ordinator who was on-hand to show me around the game, said that the aim of the development team (based over in Korea) is to bring the beauty of an Eastern MMO to the depth of a Western MMO. It shows. Not necessarily in the technical accomplishments – you could tell, certainly in the environments, that ToE
is a world set up to host many players – but in the art direction and style.
The game is lush. The environments make use of colour to produce an effect that is both subtle and refreshing to gaze upon.
The characters, both playable and not, are realised in a vast amount of detail and look stunning. Where the team has really succeeded so far is in creating a world that is engaging and more than easy on the eye. It abandons the standard fantasy tropes that dog most Western MMOs to produce something truly splendid to look at.