All Points Bulletin is the new game from Realtime Worlds now in open beta with the Key to the City event. Somehow, whether being an unselected beta applicant or just on the mailing list, I received a key to the event. I had already decided not to purchase the game at this time without having played it, and I will get to that. Yet, a little “beta” preview never hurt anybody.
I loaded up the game, and there was an impressive character creator. I pressed random a couple times (the best way) until the generator gave me a character that I liked. The best part was making a pudgy guy. I am so sick of male Adonis figures, and I like “flawed” characters in all my RPG’s (table-top or elsewhere). I don’t think anybody would love Sam Gamgee quite as much if he was the WWE-equivalent of a hobbit paladin instead of a pudgy, pie-eating stalwart. So, I was happy to make a fat Irish Enforcer.
The tutorial zone was the first zone I entered. It was sadly amusing because I expected PvP from the get-go, and even in the tutorial zone I planned on rocking some Criminal heads. In fact, I and another character, GunJ1ss or something, shot at each other and rammed cars for about 5 minutes before realizing that we were either on the same side or unkillable. (I swear I saw him steal a car, and ramming him with a garbage truck seemed like a good option at the time.) So, I don’t know if I just completely missed the text that said “the tutorial zone is a safe place for carebears” or what.
Finally I got through it, and hit a district with some actual action. From what I saw there is one social district where Criminals and Enforcers are friends and two action districts. The action districts are broken down like FPS-servers with approximately balanced sides. The one I played a few hours on had about 35 people on each side. With about 70 or so active players, the map was pretty busy. I was never bored; that’s for sure.
This game is an MMO, but only in the fringe sense. I would call this game an “open-world, event-based PvP game with a few advancement elements with controls and style based on Grand Theft Auto.” Even if all the terms are not 100% accurate, potential purchasers will get the crux of what the game offers. It is not a Grand Theft Auto MMO. The NPCs are either advancement props or point props. All the action that I saw was provided by players.
Here’s how the game works: I see an ambulance parked haphazardly on a curb. Since it is not parked at a perfect right angle, I know another player has taken it. I hop in and a little event pops up telling me that this vehicle was stolen. I can complete the event by driving the car back to the drop off. So, I do. Except that Criminals are alerted that I am trying to get this car to the drop off. A few Criminals are sent a message saying something like “an Enforcer is returning a car, blow him up” or what not, and if they accept then they are given my current location and the car’s drop off point. I am pretty sure that these notifications are sent out in a balanced method. There were two Criminals in red, which means event opposition, at the drop off point.
I had a few events with four Enforcers on my pick up group, which disbands as soon as the event is over, and I had plenty of 1v1 events. My favorite was stopping a Criminal from setting fire to a few cars. I joined the event after she had already set fire to one car out of three. Enroute to her and her targets’ locations she got another, and I ran her over as she ran to the third target. The event is time-based, and she respawned a little ways away from the third target, which I started camping with my Uzi. In another 1v1 event, I had to take down a small-time Criminal three times before he escaped Enforcer notice.
Players can merely start events on their own by returning stolen cars or killing civilians, but the advancement prop NPCs I talked about can also give out events, which when completed boosts the players influence with the NPC. There are levels in a sense with gates to gear and certain NPCs, but for better or worse, I largely ignored it as I went out in to the wicked world to take down whatever Criminal crossed my path. Seemed to work out pretty well too.
These player-opposed events are the essence of the game, and I agree that Realtime Worlds should be worried about “mixed” reviews. Their marketing previews seemed to not hit the true mark of the game, as they seemed to want to market the game as something a tad more comprehensive (read: MMO-like) than it was, and I believe Realtime Worlds chose the wrong business model.
I had an absolute blast in this game, and there is really nothing like it out there now. The closest comparison is Warhammer Online’s RvR, but with a generational leap ahead. Still, with all the other PvP games out there, I just cannot find it in myself to buy a game that bars/grants access based on time. I don’t want to be thinking about the hours I have left when I am immersing myself into taking down scumbags, and I do not want to support a subscription game where players are the content. I wish Realtime Worlds the best success, but this business model is not for me.
The bottom line is that this is a really fun game if a player comes at it from a Team Fortress 2 with tons of map objectives in the wool of Grand Theft Auto rather than anything more computer-controlled MMO-y. There are, of course, some beta bugs, slow loading times, and unnecessary resource hogginess. The game could use another month to polish the engine, but I think for how the gameplay was designed, it feels sound. Maybe when I see a Steam sale, or they change the pricing model to something a tad more current, I will buy the game and play until my time runs out.
in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself