Have you ever wondered how those old Renaissance minds like Leonardo Da Vinci would have fared in the whole first person shooter thing? Sure, Da Vinci’s been credited with a number of inventions that are invaluable to us even today, like the parachute, the armored tank, even the machinegun; but could the old genius have scored a perfect headshot in mid-air, after launching off a jump pad? I’m not so sure, but we’re about to find out. Renaissance Heroes is an upcoming online multiplayer shooter published by ChangYou.com on the GameFuse PC platform, that’s set in a re-imagined 16th century Renaissance and is currently in an open beta phase. Den of Geek recently took some time over the past week to get more in touch with our European ancestors,and preview what Renaissance Heroes has in store for ye olde FPS fans out there.
Right now, the beta features six different playable characters, including the Bart and the Medici, with the promise of more to be unlocked in the full commercial release. Each has their own set of perks and abilities, but the real advantage comes from learning how to upgrade your weapons and experiment with different layouts to fortify your character build. The game even tells you not to worry too much about which character you choose and that simple assurance reflects the level playing field you’ll come across regardless of the cast of heroes. But before you jump right into the online world of Renaissance Heroes and start monkeying around in Da Vinci’s workshop, you’ll be put through a quick and humorous tutorial, where your guide will constantly call your adversaries “fools” and “trash” and invoke the sardonic and “ladylike” spirit of GLaDOS from Valve’s Portal series.
There are tons of little touches in the beta’s presentation that really drive home the 16th century setting and make you feel like you’ve really stepped foot into another time period. For instance, instead of lobbing grenades, you throw miniature bombs and tiny vials of blue potion act as health upgrades. Another awesome game mechanic is that players are actually rewarded for taunting an opponent after you kill them. Because, you know, it’s what the real Medici’s would have done. If you’re lucky enough to stumble on a coveted bonus pickup, you’ll be granted an invaluable advantage like dealing double damage for 30 seconds or getting to use a special weapon that literally demolishes everyone who’s unfortunate enough to stand in its path.
The gunplay feels great and it’s so much fun cycling through an arsenal of medieval-based weapons like a Caliver-R, a Cross Shooter and the special Golden Spark, which looks like a miniature cannon you can carry around at your side. There is also a really cool melee feature, which automatically activates whenever you start sprinting and equips your character with a deadly spiked battle club to bring on the 16th-century smack down. Powered by the Unreal 3 Engine, the smooth game build reminds me of the Doom and Quake era of FPSs, only set in the Renaissance and geared as an online shooter. While the gameplay itself is fairly simple, the Renaissance Heroes beta offers an incredibly deep weapon upgrading system and hundreds of different achievements to unlock.
In my time spent with the beta, I found the online servers to be somewhat hit or miss. At first, I had a hard time even finding a single game room to join, but luckily the beta offers an offline practice mode against bots where I could touch up my skills while I waited for more players to come online. The best part about practice mode is that you can still earn many of the achievements and in-game rewards just as you would playing against other people; but this could easily be seen as a cheap way to play, as you can just set the bot difficulty to “easy” and be on your way. Once you do manage to find some other human renaissance heroes to play with, you really get to see how smooth the online interface runs, with hardly any wait time in between games and clean game lobbies with a seamlessly-integrated chat feature.
While a few scenarios call for strategy and stealth in favor of brawn, the real focus of Renaissance Heroes is definitely in blasting your foes to bits with your early (and often hazardous) weapon prototypes. And why shouldn’t it be? The shooting mechanics are awesome in this game! In addition to your typical Death Match, Team Death Match and Duel game modes, the beta also introduces a fun capture the flag-esque Seize the Scrolls game type and my personal favorite, the new Touch Down mode. In a Touch Down game, players must traverse the length of each map and make it into a small circular area inside the enemy’s base. What’s cool about this is the second you step foot in the circle, you score a point for your team and are immediately teleported back to the start so you can make another run. Did they play that kind of football back then?
But I have to say my favorite part about the Renaissance Heroes beta is the breathtaking architectural landscapes, which really capture the look and feel of the 16th century Renaissance. The beta includes a nice selection of outdoor and indoor environments, from a library annex, to a villa and water channel and even a haram garden. Hands down, my favorite map is the recently released Castle Skyros, with its formidable stone walls and death-defying drops into the pit of a canyon, where parts of the fortress have crumbled away from age (or more likely, the flaming cannon shots that everyone in Renaissance Heroes loves to fire at will).
As of now, I only have a few minor gripes with the Renaissance Heroes beta: the biggest one being the voiceover game announcements that get so repetitive they cross the line into the realm of the maddeningly annoying. In a single game of Touch Down, I must have heard the phrase “Blue team increases their lead!” every five seconds and I’m not just complaining because I was on the Red Team. Another thing that’s immediately noticeable in the beta is that your character’s turning and aiming controls are disproportionate to the faster speed at which they walk, but I’m sure that’s nothing a little adjustment of the mouse sensitivity couldn’t fix.
While the full commercial release date of Renaissance Heroes is still in the murky TBA timeframe of late Q1 2013, players still have a few more days to get in on the open beta before it closes on February 6th. As if this preview wasn’t incentive enough to hop on, the beta period also offers daily prizes, sweepstakes, special multiplayer events and character data that will carry over to the full retail game. And if you’re looking for an easy kill online, you can always find me (TrashBoat416) hiding somewhere in the corner of Da Vinci’s workshop and trying to invent some kind of shield that keeps me from dying so fast in the game.