Dogs of War Online is an upcoming free-to-play strategy game from Cyanide Studio (Aarklash: Legacy, Of Orcs and Men). We recently had the chance to get our hands on the Closed Beta. Please note that this does not represent the final product, and that some things may still change.
Much like Cyanide’s recent strategy RPG Aarklash: Legacy, Dogs of War Online takes place in the Confrontation universe. Instead of an epic single-player campaign, though, Dogs of War Online will put you in control of a squad of mercenaries in a competitive turn-based strategy context.
After working through three different tutorial missions, each with increasingly complex material to teach the player, you’re able to choose which faction you want to control. Right now there are three factions: The undead army of the Ram, the army of the Wolf, which is made up of hulking Wolfen mercenaries, and the army of the Lion, which his made of human soldiers.
Within a competitive match itself, the game shines. Two opposing squads square off on the field of battle, which is comprised of a hex-based grid. You are initially given a minute to set up your formation before the match starts. Once battle begins, players takes turns moving and acting with their units. Each unit can move once per overall turn (not per player turn). Beyond movement, each action (such as landing an attack or spell) is given a percentage chance of succeeding. This can provide some truly tense moments that can make or break a match.
Before you enter battle, you’ll have to decide how the squad you bring in with you is constructed. Each combatant is worth a certain amount of AP, or Army Points, and squads can be from 100-300 AP total. Standard soldiers or archers may be worth 60-70 AP while mages and other special units are worth much more. This gives a great sense of flexibility within restriction to keep everything fair while allowing players to experiment.
Each army in the Beta follows a different “Path.” Those three paths are: The Ways of Light, The Meanders of Darkness, and the Paths of Destiny. If the layout of the beta is any indication, each path can expect to see two more factions, bringing the total playable factions up to nine. This bodes quite well for the full release of the game, given the diversity of the factions already present.
Every unit is unique in the Dogs of War. As you deal damage, earn kills, and more with each unit, they’ll earn experience. After they’ve earned enough experience, they can level up and earn new skills and spells to take into battle with them. This gives you some personal investment in each unit, but the real hook comes in the form of permanent death for units. Much like XCOM, when a soldier falls in battle, he could potentially be lost to the aether forever. You can invest in items that let you revive them after battle, but if you’re lacking those items, you’ll have to kiss units goodbye forever. It can give you a great sense of ownership and puts an intense edge on each battle.
On top of tracking their progression and potentially losing soldiers in combat, you can send them on individual missions outside of combat. These missions take real time and offer various rewards (at the risk of dangerous consequences). You can send soldiers to pickpocket money, train for more experience, and more. Given the upcoming game’s perpetual online model, it’s nice to see you can still earn progress while offline.
Right now there are three game types available to players. Deathmatch is initially the only thing open. As you level up, you’ll earn Elimination VIP and King of the Hill game types, as well as access to more maps. Deathmatch is fairly straightforward and reduces the chances of injury or death to units. Elimination VIP has each team escorting a VIP and the first team to kill the opposing VIP wins. King of the Hill will have teams vying over a central territory, and the team who holds it with the most units the longest before time runs out wins. It all presents a good variety of game types that will keep players interested. It would be really cool to see some cooperative game types in the full release, though.
While the game itself is a lot of fun and provides a lot of opportunity for customization, there are a few minor areas that aren’t quite release-ready. Some of the in-game text is still in French. Beyond that, the other six factions and in-game store need to be implemented, and the UI feels like it could use some work, especially in relation to in-game communication.
Keeping all of this in mind, Dogs of War has a solid base it’s working with. Cyanide knows the Confrontation world and is hard at work to give strategy gamers a robust package they will be able to sink their teeth into. I’m excited to see how the final game turns out when it’s officially released sometime in Q3 2013.