Purge Review

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Publisher: Tri Synergy
Developer: Freeform Interactive

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium III 500 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 32 MB video card, 600 MB HD space, 4x CD ROM

Human beings and machines have achieved the ultimate alliance in a single world government known as the Order. The collective rule of humans, androids and cyborgs established a worldwide peace, but plenty of unaltered humans have been left behind by this perfect society. United by a mystic named Mabus, many of these normal folk joined Mabus' religion, known as the Chosen. Having discovered magic, the Chosen completely reject technology. The Order saw the emergence of the Chosen as a threat and assassinated Mabus. This began an all out war between the Order and the Chosen that came to be known as the Purge. The Order is fighting for the continued existence of technology, while the Chosen battle to establish a Theocracy. Each side aims to cleanse the globe of the other, and neither will rest until the opposition has been completely Purged.

Kyle Ackerman

Purge's catch is that it introduces elements of character design and development usually reserved for role-playing games to an online, team-based first-person shooter. The developers went to great lengths to make sure that extensive choices available for every character allow for teams comprised of players with diverse skills that must work together to succeed.

Character design starts with your choice of abilities. In Purge, Freeform Interactive introduces the D.E.T.A.I.L.S. system, which is an acronym for the various attributes such as Dexterity, Tenacity or Strength. Attributes can be as low as 5 or as high as 45. A new character effectively has seven units to spend, each of which will raise an ability by five points. No trait can be raised at the start beyond 25, so a beginning character could effectively bring two abilities to roughly the middle of the total range at the outset. Before dismissing this system, be aware that stats matter. Stats matter a lot, so character choices are important. A soldier with 45 dexterity does twice the damage with a ranged weapon as someone with only 5 in that stat. 45 Life means having 9 times the damage soaking potential as a person with 5 Life. Strength determines not only your melee damage, but which weapons you can carry and how much ammunition you can lug along.

Choice of character type is also vital. For the Order, you must select from the Android, Commando, Cyborg or Wastelander. The Chosen need to pick from the directly analogous Mage, Assassin, Fighter or Monk. Each type has access to different weapons and different special skills. The Android and Mage can repair and defend the Portal (your only spawn point), while the Wastelander and Monk can construct a devastating anti-matter bomb or angelfire. Commandos and Fighters can create objects that buff (increase the power of) their teammates. Of course, to use these skills, a character needs to have sufficient intelligence to access a skill and a high enough energy attribute to make that skill useful.

What makes the concept of Purge interesting is that your choice of character type and attribute allocation is important. Not only can a single character not do everything, a single character can only fulfill a fraction of the total pool of skills available. Over time, characters can gain experience, and become more versatile and powerful, but you still need a team with several players of different specializations to effectively defend your portal while eliminating the opposition and their portal. The problem is, almost no one is playing. It's rare to find a server with more than two or three people active. That means if you don't choose an Android or Mage with sufficient intelligence and energy, you'd better win the game fast. It's hard to appreciate how the various combinations and skill sets offset one another, when battles are usually one-on-one or two-on-two. Heck, sometimes you can log on and find no games with players whatsoever.

Aside from the overriding need to Purge the opposing side, each player's personal goal is to accumulate experience. Experience translates to levels gained, and every incremental level improves each of your attributes by one, allowing characters to become truly impressive. There are experience rewards for support roles, and experience rewards go up for killing several opponents without dying yourself. In most modes, every time the map changes, experience levels are reset. In other modes, such as Persistence, your experience stays with you as long as you stay on the server, giving characters a chance to go as high as level 21. As long as the server keeps resetting experience, level gains are less likely to become imbalancing. When there are occupied servers, though, they tend to be persistent. Especially when games tend to be one-on-one, joining a server as a level one character and facing off against a level ten character is grossly unfair. As such, occupied servers tend to have a single higher-level character or two, and rarely anyone else given the sparse population of gamers playing Purge.

Visually, Purge is fine, though not impressive. The game is built on the LithTech engine, and is attractive. Certainly, the graphics are more impressive than one would expect from the run-of-the-mill $30 title. The maps are varied in appearance, ranging from bluish-gray industrial interiors to the brooding, gothic remnants of castle-like edifices to the obligatory lava-filled levels. The maps are attractive enough, although they tend to be symmetrical, and ladders are difficult to climb. The sounds and voice commands are appropriate. What the game desperately needs is AI bots so that you could play with computer teammates against computer-controlled enemies. Because the game is online-only, when there's no one playing (which happens far too often), the game is useless. Even primitive AI allies and foes would mean that the game could be played at any time. Given the tremendous variety in attributes and classes, it could be very difficult to program effective AI. That said, if the developers or a mod-programmer put in the extensive work necessary to create a single player alternative, gamers would be more likely to pick up Purge.

Purge was created in such a way that individuals can create an incredible variety of characters with diverse skills, who need to cooperate in large teams to effectively purge the opposition from a map. Unfortunately, the game doesn't support single player gaming with AI characters, instead relying entirely on the online community. That community hasn't shown up yet, so Purge owners could regularly log on and find no one to play with. Even with only a few people on a server, the fact that each character is extremely specialized, and certain skills are necessary to any team (no matter how small) means that it is very difficult to have a good session of Purge at all. Hopefully, more folks will join in so that we can all discover whether Purge will achieve its potential, but until more they do, it's not worth taking the plunge yourself, as there is no single-player game to tide you over.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on April 16, 2003 8:02 PM.

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