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The Right Timing: Playing "Mirage: Arcane Warfare" At PAX East

Torn Banner Studios made a name for itself when it released Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. The developers turned the idea of multiplayer combat on its head when it replaced guns with weapons from the Medieval Age. You weren’t calling on a drone strike on an opponent or shooting them from far away with a high-powered sniper rifle. Instead, you approached them head-on with a large sword in your hands.

It became a popular title, and the developers believe they could ride that melee-based multiplayer combat wave even further with their latest game (set for a 2016 release) called Mirage: Arcane Warfare, which they presented this past weekend at PAX East.

A Magic Trick

The general features and combat mechanics from Chivalry: Medieval Warfare are still present in the studio’s new title, but the most major change is the introduction of magic, which adds variety to how you play with each character. Most of your attacks still use your spear, club or blades, but you’ll have a few magical elements to complement your physical hits.

The demo featured a pool of five different characters (a sixth character was unavailable), and each one has various traits that affect its performance in combat. The Vypress is a fast-moving character that wields two short blades, but it doesn’t have too much protection against enemy attacks. Compare that to the Vigilist, which uses a spear to hit enemies from a distance and a large shield to block most attacks. However, its heavy arsenal means that it moves slower than other units. Each character also utilizes three abilities; these can range from a more powerful physical attack or a large, flaming ball you can toss in the enemy’s direction.

Patience

The PAX East demo I played was a Conquest-type mode. Each side had to capture various bases throughout the game and hold them for as long as possible before moving on to the next base. I started out with the Vigilist because of its large shield, which I thought would be helpful in blocking attacks. As I was about to find out, this game requires some skill to master.

Unlike shooting a rifle or pistol, swinging a large weapon--especially when coupled with a shield--takes some time. Every time I approached an enemy, we both had to time our attacks correctly in order to inflict some damage. I could deflect hits with my shield, and if I did it at the right time, I could set up a counterattack. I could also use my various abilities to gain advantage, one of which was a move that allowed me to jump in the air and execute a stronger spear attack.

However, fighting solo isn’t the best way to win a battle. Teamwork is essential in Mirage: Arcane Warfare due to the variety of unit stats. You can have your faster classes bait the enemy into an area while the slower, yet bigger units deal the most damage.

My team found this out the hard way. The opponents easily held the first base because they moved in groups. On the other hand, my team tried to attack from various points without any support. The obvious result was a bloodbath. There were a few times where we banded together and attempted to take the base for ourselves, but it was too late to reverse the damage. The opposing team won by a landslide, and the demo was over.

Not Your Usual Multiplayer Game

Despite the loss, I was impressed with what Mirage: Arcane Warfare had to offer. These days, you’re bound to see another multiplayer game with some variation on the first-person shooter (FPS) mechanic. However, Torn Banner stuck to its guns (pun intended) to deliver competitive multiplayer with a melee twist. Adding magic to the mix makes for new ways to take out enemies without overpowering the melee combat that serves as the game's backbone.

Similar to my experience, it might take other players a few rounds to get used to combat. This isn’t about how fast you can pull the trigger. Instead, it’s all about timing your attacks while deflecting the enemy’s blows. It’s not exactly a mental exercise, but just like the fast-paced FPS multiplayer games, Mirage: Arcane Warfare’s mechanics can keep you on your toes.

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  • Reepca
    Is this one buggy / ridiculous too? Can you still kill people by hitting them with a maul moving at 0.01 m/s by just looking to the right while swinging to the left? Is it still unplayable at over 50 ms ping? Can weapons still pass straight through objects (like shields, weapons, thin trees) simply by looking in the direction it's moving fast enough?

    In most games discrete collision detection is "good enough". This kind of game is not one of them - or at least, if it could be good enough, it isn't implemented well enough.

    And perhaps most worryingly, I can envision perfectly clearly a "squishy character that focuses on ranged magic attacks" that looks suspiciously like the maddeningly obnoxious archers from Chivalry.

    Chivalry only barely worked because the physical interactions weren't very complex - you can only move forward, back, left, right, and jump, your hitbox (for movement collision detection purposes, though the weapon-collision hitbox hardly seems better) is a cylinder, etc. It was extremely easy to get stuck in terrain, bouncing on top of other players for eternity, fall through certain spots of the map, heck even walking straight through walls in certain cases. I can only imagine these problems will be made especially prominent with the emphasis on special moves and magic and stuff.

    That said, I wish them the best of luck. Who knows, maybe the reason Chivalry has been broken so long is that they've been working the entire time to get this game right.

    But for me, Chivalry has pretty much ruined any hope of keeping my sanity and being a game developer in the future. Every time I think about how I would implement something vaguely related to physics or collision detection, I remember Chivalry and become something of a perfectionist.
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