It was immediately clear when I sat down to play Sins of a Dark Age, the upcoming real time strategy game from Sins of a Solar Empire developer Ironclad, that I was playing a game like League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients. Or, as they’re known by the unfortunate acronym for multiplayer online battle arena, a MOBA.
I chose a hero, I was killing AI controlled minions and other players’ heroes to earn xp and gold, I was choosing among my hero’s four skills when I leveled up, I was buying equipment towards a specific character build, and I was pushing down lanes or jungling or some combination thereof. It was all pretty familiar.
But then a banner popped up along the top of the screen announcing something that never happens in MOBAs.
After the jump, what that banner said
At one point during the development of Sins of a Dark Age, it featured something called commander mode. This was a bit like playing a MOBA from the perspective of a traditional RTS. You looked down on the battlefield and gathered resources and controlled units and occasionally applied global powers like weather and rampaging monsters. Meanwhile, other players were down in the weeds controlling heros as if they were playing any other MOBA. You know Natural Selection? It was a bit like that.
But at some point in the development, Ironclad decided commander mode “wasn’t fun”. So they dropped it. But what remains is the idea of global effects like weather and rampaging monsters. So as you’re playing the game, realm quests will pop up, announced and tracked in a banner along the top of the screen. These quests offer special bonuses, or encourage players to fight over certain areas, or maybe even subvert the game entirely. There were only a handful of realm quests in the build I played, but the idea is that a handful of such quests will cycle each week. You’ll know what’s possible, but you’ll never be entirely sure what’s going to happen in any given game.
Following are six examples of realm quests in Sins of a Dark Age.
1) Kill swarms of rabid rat-dog things to make a bioweapon
When this quest is announced, the jungle area between the lanes starts spawning angry creatures called verics. At first, it’s only a few at a time. As the quest goes unsolved, more and more verics start clogging the jungle. Each killed veric earns you a pelt. The first team to accumulate 120 pelts afflicts the enemy team with a bioweapon that reduces their effectiveness. If you don’t want to spend your time hunting verics, just ambush one of the enemy players and take his pelts.
2) Lead soldiers into battle against a dragon
When this quest is announced, each player gets a pair of dragonslayer archers. You can set their stance to determine how readily they’ll attack enemies, and you can even give them commands to attack enemies or go to a specific location. If they die, you can get replacements back at your base. And while they’re perfectly useful pets in any situation, they’re mainly effective against dragons. Specifically, the big dragon that just spawned in the jungle. The team who defeats the dragon gets a special reward. Theoretically, you could get ten heroes with twenty archers whaling away at this poor guy.
3) Slay a troll and bring home his treasure
A troll has appeared on the bridge in the center of the map. None of the AI controlled minions is going to make any progress against him, so the middle lane is effectively shut down until the troll is killed. At which point he drops a big glowing treasure chest. The first hero to pick up the chest and carry it back to base earns his team a hefty cash reward.
4) Make your towers temporarily invulnerable in one lane
This one’s pretty straightforward. The first team to destroy a tower turns his own towers in that lane invulnerable for a period of time. Which basically locks down any sort of enemy progress there.
5) Stop playing a MOBA and instead play a team deathmatch
One of the realm quests is a duel. The AI minions and tower attacks freeze until one team has killed each of the other team’s heroes. In other words, Sins of a Dark Age temporarily turns into a team deathmatch. How well do your builds fare against their builds?
6) Horde mode
This one isn’t implemented yet, but it’s an example of how grandiose Ironclad intends to get with realm quests. As with the duel above, the normal rules of the game are suspended. But instead of pitting the two teams against each other, this quest unites them in a co-op horde mode where all ten heroes have to hold out against a barbarian invasion. This global event will activate for all matches and it ties into the larger metagame that Ironclad isn’t discussing yet. But it’s an example of how Sins of a Dark Age might look familiar at first, but it’s also going to do things you haven’t seen before.
Sins of a Dark Age will start an open beta sometime later this year.