There wasn’t a whole lot at PAX that you could really classify as “new.” It seemed like most of the games being shown off were already fairly well known to the gaming public, especially well-informed media members like myself.
So when I came across the plus-sized booth for something I’d never heard of – a game hailing itself as the “first true MMORTS,” I was both intrigued and skeptical. After I was flagged down for a 20-minute conversation with Taitale Studios founder and Novus Aeterno lead designer Nick Nieuwoudt, I thought that for something I’d never heard of before, it looked really good.
The in-a-nutshell view of Novus Aeterno might be “StarCraft meets EVE Online.” As Nick explained, five years ago, he was a big RTS fan who wanted to play a certain type of game. When he saw that type of game wasn’t out there, he took it upon himself to create it. Thus, Novus Aeterno was born.
The game is a seamless, persistent deep-space RTS, with thousands of star systems for players to conquer, exploit, and fight over. As with most RTS titles, you’ll have to gather resources to build your fleet, and then take to the stars to seek your fortune.
Ships are hugely customizable, so you’re not just stuck with stock dreadnaughts or battle cruisers. Want more guns and slower engines? Go ahead. Want better maneuverability at the cost of firepower? Sure.
The multitude of menus one has to navigate to analyze and implement all those options looks a bit daunting to the beginner – hence the EVE “spreadsheets in space” comparison – and you’ll naturally need to find the right resources to build the ships you want, but it should all be something you grow accustomed to in time.
When the fighting starts, you’ll maneuver your ships – which you can arrange in formations or command individually – to get your firing arcs to line up with your targets. It’s not just “bigger ship wins,” either; as Nick showed me with his heavily armed but very slow battleship, a horde of smaller ships can easily overrun a bigger ship that can’t turn its guns on its pesky attackers.
But it is a persistent massively multiplayer universe, which means that even when you log off, your empire doesn’t disappear. So how do you keep from being overrun by night-owl raiders?
The answer lies in Novus Aeterno‘s Overwatch system, which keeps your ships in fighting shape even when you’re not around. When an opponent invades your system and you’re not home, your defenders will respawn – the longer you’ve held the planet, the quicker the respawn – so you have a fighting chance. As Nick said, AI’s no match for a human player, so this is how the game tries to even the odds.
That said, you’ll probably wake up most days to find your outer planets have flipped allegiance. No problem – just do the same thing back to maintain the equilibrium, and make sure your core is adequately defended.
In terms of aesthetics, the game looks great, and the ships look incredibly detailed when you zoom in close to view them. Combat is a futuristic light show, and the fiery explosions when a ship goes “BOOM” are spectacular.
There’s no “ultimate goal” or “endgame” to Novus Aeterno. You’ll play your own way and decide for yourself whether you want to be a ruthless world-conquering tyrant or savvy mercantile kingpin. You can make (and break) alliances, go rogue and strike out on your own, or just explore.
If you’re an RTS fan, you owe it to yourself to check out Novus Aeterno. The game’s still in an early beta stage, and Nick says they have a lot more left to implement, but we’re digging the game’s unique premise and hope to hear more about it over the coming months.