[Face of Mankind] In 2001 Duplex Systems was founded to pursue and develop products in the MMO space. The Berlin based studio is focused on intelligent and unique game play styles where the player ‘lives the story’. Last month they launched their first title; Face of Mankind. So the question holds; does it stand up to the PR or is it just another bag of sullen dreams?
Face of Mankind is a MMORPFPSG set in the 24th century focusing on opposing factions in a time when corruption reaches the highest levels of government and military. The corporations are the real power and achieve their goals through whatever means necessary. All players are forced members of one of eight factions ranging from the Freedom Defense Corps (military) to the Brotherhood of Shadows (yes, corny).
The game has some highly revolutionary game play which allows for likely the most player control you have ever seen in an MMO. For instance; the only resemblance to a level/skill system is handled through ranks which are strictly handed down by superiors (other players). NPC communication is accomplished via typed conversation which is then interpreted by the server. Death automatically results in complete inventory loss. If a player dies without a clone in the bank; perma-death occurs. Yes. Dead!
The graphic engine itself is nothing to write home about. I never expected to be able to say this, but the Star Wars Galaxies engine has more features than this baby. While the music is average, audio effects are horrible. As far as the animations; let’s just say Duplex needs to throw some cash on a MoCap rig.
The interface and controls are average. The system uses an input system based on your normal WSDA FPS mapping and while it allows jumping and crouching the movement and control response is clunky at best. Combat is based on a point and shoot model which requires you to not only be in first person but also in ‘aim view’ in order to fire.
Some cool things include a murder registration which allows you to notify the authorities when you are killed by someone, therefore supplying a ‘Most Wanted’ list and effects to those players. The interface allows sitting and lying on furniture (although I could not seem to get the sitting to work properly) as well as interactive doors including simple ‘hacking’ of the locked ones in different difficulty levels. Also, all players are given basic apartments at inception with the ability to upgrade to more expensive options. Every item and resource in the game is player created or mined.
While the population is almost non-existent (in ten hours of play I may have seen 20 people) they are quite hospitable. Within minutes of entering the game I got assigned to a minor officer by a higher ranking player who took the next two hours to show me around and make sure I joined the faction Ventrilo channel. Also the faction loyalty was far beyond what I would have anticipated.
Overall it is difficult to tell if this game is actually launched or still in development, which is something I don’t like asking myself when I am already paying. After inquiring I was told by my assigned officer that many systems (such as more clothing) are ‘not online yet’. This with the extremely low amount of players causes one to wonder if gold was a bit premature.
The publisher seems to have no idea what the goal of an MMO actually is. They take up a third of the press release ranting about mobile phone payment options; crediting such amazing technology to the assured success of the product.
The new player ran mechanics while neat in concept will be the downfall of this title. Face of Mankind looks like a product created by a group of people who had some good ideas for features, then implemented them without giving any thought to actual enjoyment. They need to understand that good game design is not simply about how many unique features you can cram into one title but providing the player with a reason to actually play.
Character Creation: 3 / 10
Interface Usability: 7 / 10
Interface Cosmetics: 6 / 10
Controls: 7 / 10
Music: 7 / 10
Sound Effects: 4 / 10
Graphics: 4 / 10
Story: 7 / 10
Originality: 6 / 10
Overall: 5.6 / 10
Duplex should have waited to launch this title and hired someone who actually knows something about game design and mechanics balancing. While I have already closed my account I would be willing to send Duplex a copy of Koster’s book, because there are some cool tricks in here.
They don’t seem to charge for the client and the first month is free so I don’t see any reason not to try it out, but don’t expect to find this reoccurring charge on your monthly statement. While an interesting attempt, I think my dream bag is full this time around.
Now to go flush it.