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E3 2009: Heroes of Telara eyes-on impressions

Trion World Network has been working in near stealth mode since it was first launched three years ago but at E3 2009 last week we finally got a chance to check out an actual playable build (hands-off unfortunately) for the company's first product Heroes of Telara. It's an fantasy MMO game that on the surface at least seems like every other fantasy MMO released but when you dig deeper there are some interesting new features.

One of those cool features is the way the game handles your playable character. Normally you pick your character class (Warrior, Mage, Cleric and Rogue) and you are stuck with it unless you make another character. Heroes of Telara lets you actually switch your character class. Yep you can be all those classes in one person. You still have to advance each class individually and there's no real explanation, story-wise, for why your character can suddenly morph from a warrior to a mage but it is pretty cool.
Also in the "cool" category is the new collectible card-style item drops that you can get when you defeat foes. For example we got to see our character fight off and defeat an enemy outside a fantasy town that had the ability to create zombie-like minions to help him fight. When he was killed off he dropped off a "card" that we can collect. Then an even bigger fire elemental threat was spotted in the town itself. Normally we wouldn't have the power to take out this new threat . . . except that this new "card" allowed us to use our defeated enemy's zombie raising power to help take out the new threat. Trion hasn't yet decided to allow players to trade this power cards.

Trion's game are designed to be "server based" meaning that updates to the game can be handled quickly. One example to this was when the fire elemental was defeated. Suddenly the village burst into celebrations, complete with fireworks and a brighter look to the graphics. Trion insists that the actions of one player can actually change the landscape of the world so this was one small example of this idea.

Graphically the game looks, well, pretty generic unfortunately. There are hints of Everquest, Guild Wars and World of Warcraft in the visuals which means the game pretty much looks a lot like all of those titles and many more MMOs. That's too bad since Trion's gameplay ideas do take the genre in different directions.

Trion's meeting room showed off some concept artwork from two more in-development games. One is the collaboration with the Sci-Fi Channel (soon be called SyFy) and is described as an action-RPG MMO that has an alien invasion theme. Also shown was a concept artwork for the Petroglyph-developed RTS MMO which looks like it will have a futuristic military theme.

In the meantime, Trion is pushing Heroes of Telera and while this debut title may be a fantasy MMO those of you who run quickly away from such games might be interested in the new gameplay features. Hopefully we won't have to wait another three years before the game launches.

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