Last week Tim Hess (producer), and Richard Iggo (product manager), from Sammy Studios, took some time to talk to members of the press some more about their upcoming Xbox game Iron Phoenix, which is set to release in February of 2005.
Iron Phoenix is a pretty ambitious project, and something I think, if done right is going to be a step in the right direction for multi-player on-line gaming. The game, is a multi-player fighter where teams of up to eight players can go at it to prove who’s the best.
To start things off we talked a little about the darts, which are the games projectile weapons. They currently come in three types: A regular dart that does a set amount of damage, a stun dart and a poison dart. You can carry up to 20 of one type of the darts by equipping them through your action menu, which you can activate by clicking the right trigger. Once the darts are equipped, you can fire them off at your target with the X button, almost being guaranteed a hit with the lock on system. Since the arenas are 3D, you can lock onto targets from varying elevations and long distances.
The effects of the special darts are fairly self-explanatory: the poison darts turn your health bar green and slowly drain your hit points, whereas the stun dart will turn your stamina bar purple and slowly reduce your speed. You have the added effect of using some of your Chi, basically, magical energy, and charging the dart up to do extra damage.
Next we discussed Relics, these are the magical items that you can pick up in the game. Some of the effects of the Relics will include increased defense/attack, chi regeneration, invisibility and increased speed. These items will only last a set amount of time. They can be dropped and shared between teammates, and with the use of the A button you can swap them on the fly as you run over them. As you do this, the effects of the last Relic you had will continue to work for a few seconds giving you a chance to quickly bulk yourself for a quick attack on another player if you time it all right.
As mentioned previously the game has nine different weapons each with a set of 20 unique moves. As there is no standardized combo system in the game you can mix and match your moves for any number of different combos as long as you possess enough Stamina and Chi to do the next move in the string. Tim and Richard stressed that they wanted each persons fighting style to be different and that the fighting engine stressed this by allowing each player to be creative with their combos as long as they watch their status bars.
The game is designed around the idea of being mostly offensive. The ability to block and defend are present, but the moves, rates of regeneration for your status bars and items are all geared towards a fast paced offensive game.
The fighting system also includes a duel feature that the developers are calling a Blood Clock. This feature allows you to choose one player out of the opposing team and engage him in one on one combat. The dueling system functions by having you lock onto your enemy and issue the duel invitation. The opposing fighter needs to then lock back onto you and return the duel command. Once the duel is accepted you and your opponent will be locked inside of a red translucent orb and the two of you will be able to fight to the death without any outside interference. The orb that you two are locked in will move with you around the screen and as long as you stay within a certain distance of each other you will stay in the Blood Clock duel. If the two of you stray to far apart the duel will be broken and you will return to regular combat.
The team system allows for setting up and organizing tournaments of 4 teams of 4 or 2 teams of 8. The ability to host or have your Xbox run as a dedicated server will be present in the game. People who choose to run their own servers will have a multitude of options, modifiers and game types to choose from when setting up the server. The guys at Sammy are hoping that this is an idea that catches on with players negating the need for any major centralized hosting of the game.
Last, we talked about the single player campaign. Initially there was not a lot of strong focus on the single player aspect of Iron Phoenix as most of the excitement revolved around the multi-player system. After a while though the team decided that a more in depth single player campaign was necessary and fleshed out the game. The plot, although nothing too intricate helps to flesh out the weapons and character backgrounds and is complete with cut scenes before each fight giving you a bit of background on why you are here and fighting the person in front of you. They feel strongly that the one player game will be enough to attract players who are not necessarily looking for the on-line experience. When comparing the single player campaign to something such as Soul Calibur’s Weapon Master mode, Tim and Richard assured us that one player game for Iron Phoenix is much more complex and focused.
After learning what I have thus far about the game, I’m fairly excited for the release. If it comes out as good as the developers are hoping I think that this is going to be a popular game for years to come and will set a new precedence in multi-player gaming. Based on how this game fares in the market I can see many clones coming out in the next few years attempting to copy and improve on what Iron Phoenix hopes to do.