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Etherlords II Interview
(hx) 10:36 AM EDT - Jun,21 2003

GGMania got a chance to chat with Nival Interactive's Project Manager Andrey Yemelyanenko to find out more about Etherlords II, the upcoming sequel to their fantasy turn-based strategy game. He graciously filled us in on many details in this Etherlords II Interview, which is accompanied by three exclusive screenshots.


GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little bit about what you do on Etherlords II?

Andrey Yemelyanenko: I'm Andrey Yemelyanenko and I was the Project Manager for Etherlords and now Etherlords II. When I'm not cleaning up after my Jack Russel Terrier, I'm making sure that the whole development team is staying on schedule and making the sequel even greater than the original Etherlords.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the storyline for the game?

Andrey Yemelyanenko: I can't give away the ending - which should come as a complete surprise when you finish the game. We created this incredibly rich and interesting world in Etherlords and we really wanted to get you much deeper into it with the sequel. You play a hero from one of four races that inhabit the Etherworld and from the start of the game you are faced with dire circumstances that threaten your people, the origins of which no one can fathom. Throughout the game as you advance and play for other races you're continually gathering more and more information about what is happening, how it concerns each race, and eventually how to overcome the menace. The best part about the story is that, like any good mystery, there are a lot of twists and turns - so that when you get to the end, the final revelation won't be even close to what you might have thought when you started the first campaign. There are a lot of very fundamental changes that we made to Etherlords II and the story is a very important part of these.


 


GGMania: What are the biggest changes in Etherlords 2 over the original Etherlords?

Andrey Yemelyanenko: The biggest change has been taking the game from strategy to adventure. This was a great opportunity to rethink many central elements of the game like interface, story and maps. Etherlords was a very complicated game with a rather steep learning curve. We wanted to make Etherlords II much more accessible without giving up the depth that attracted many hardcore fans. This led to us moving a lot of the interface off to the map and letting the game handle repetitive tasks automatically so that you now spend a majority of the game either exploring or fighting. Speaking of fighting - we made a lot of changes to expand how you approach tactics in combat. With the addition of the colorless or Pale creatures and magic we've added to the different combinations that each player can use for any duel. We also upped the number of active spells to 16 and changed the entire spell purchase and use interface so that now you can change between your active and reserve spells either before or after a duel - this opens up all kinds of new options to try out different mixes of creatures and magic to find the most effective ways to destroy your adversaries. We really had one major goal in mind when making any change in the game from big to small - minimize management and maximize the fun.

GGMania: Could you describe some new spells, monsters and heroes? What is your favourite one? :)

Andrey Yemelyanenko: All of the original spells creatures and heroes are also included in Etherlords II as well as the new colorless creatures and their magic, which we call the Pale. There are 15 new Pale creatures and 45 Pale spells, all of which can be mastered by any of the four races. These new creatures and spells not only complement your own magic, but can also used against you by other heroes and Pale monsters. This new force brings a whole new element into the game as even the least "expensive" of the Pale creatures are very powerful against almost any Etherwordly foe, but in most cases in order to use them you have to sacrifice one of your own creatures or discard spells. Their magic and special abilities, on the other hand, are more useful against other Pale creatures and largely ineffective against color creatures. This brings in a wealth of new tactical possibilities, making combat even more interesting. The Pale creatures and monsters are inspired by very earthly ancient and medieval cultures like Egyptian, Hindu, Feudal Europe and Japan as well as Native American and somehow tend to look even more menacing than many of our original creations for the first game! Their magic is largely based on their abilities to return to their own dimension - while there they appear as ghosts and are unaffected by any Etherworld magic. On the other extreme you can eventually acquire magic spells that will both harm and kill them even when they are in their own dimension, at which point you will be able to say that you truly have mastered their magic. One of my new personal favorites is the Pale Slayer - He has 6 arms holding a number of battle-axes and swords and a truly hideous face - of course with almost 130 creatures and over 320 spells in the game - you can afford to have many favorites.

GGMania: How many campaigns will there be, and how varied will they be?

Andrey Yemelyanenko: There are four different races in the game - the Chaots, the Vitals, the Synthets and the Kinets - each use a different strand of Ether that affects their magic abilities as well as their look, environment and culture - and of course, each have their very own campaign - as in the first Etherlords. There is also a fifth campaign for Diamanda - a central character to both games. Her campaign came about because of the story - here is where you solve the great mystery that has been driving your heroes through each campaign - and it also contains one of the most popular fan wishes - a character that can combine and master the magic of all four races as well as the new colorless monsters. The structure of the campaigns is a little different from most games out there - you have a choice between the first two - the Chaots and Vitals, then the next two, the Synthets and Kinets, before going on to the fifth - meaning you can play 3 campaigns to get the full story, but you can also go back and replay the other two campaigns to master their very unique magic. Each campaign has distinct heroes, goals, side-quests and characters, and of course, plenty of great combat :)

GGMania: What other unique gameplay aspects will be featured in Etherlords II?

Andrey Yemelyanenko: This one could very well be my longest answer - but I'll try to stay focused :) Although many people who played Etherlords didn't specifically say that they wanted to play an RPG - the association between fantasy and the genre are well known, so we received many requests for a single hero, NPC's, side-quests, a journal, inventory, etc. etc. These RPG elements fit in perfectly with what we are trying to do with Etherlords II - and unlike most feature requests, actually helped streamline the design - not just the gameplay, but also technical decisions like interface, which I mentioned earlier. Now movement on the adventure map is done in real-time, you control a single hero that you keep throughout an entire campaign, and that hero grows in level and experience, and even in appearance - becomes more powerful and faces even tougher challenges. You have a journal that keeps track of your adventures, side quests, conversations and combat as well as an inventory for your spells, artifacts and specializations. The new inventory system doesn't just help you keep track of multitudes of different magic and creatures that you can summon during combat, but also lets you change up your reserve and active spells, so you can change your tactical approach before any combat - increasing your chances of success. The new Pale threat also presents a unique challenge in the game as Pale does not only refer to specific magic spells or creatures themselves, but to environments as well. Paleness can also affect place, which in turn disrupts your race's magic and makes it do really screwy things, this keeps you on your toes tactically as you learn how to deal with all the different elements of combat. I knew when I started answering this question that I would have a hard time stopping - so I'll just say that we have a lot of surprises in store for both new fans and old alike.

GGMania: Can gamers expect a huge improvement in graphics?

Andrey Yemelyanenko: Yes - especially in the adventure portion of the game because we are providing you with an entirely new close-up view while still retaining the look and feel of the first with many recognizable elements. We have also designed some new battle arenas for combat as well as new monsters and spell effects. As good as the first Etherlords looked, Etherlords II looks even better.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the multiplayer portion of Etherlords 2?

Andrey Yemelyanenko: Fans of Etherlords enjoyed online combat so much that they kept asking for more - so we're giving it to them! To start off with we are adding our own matching and tournament server that will include personal stats for any gamer who plays Etherlords II online. The server will feature auto-ratings and track your success in both informal PvP duels as well as ladder tournaments.

Etherlords II will also have two additional multiplayer modes called Sealed and Draft. Sealed pits 1 player against another where they both draw from a random "deck" of spells and then face off against each other - as opposed to normal combat where each player handpicks their cards.

Draft is a little more massive, allowing up to 8 players to get in on the action in Olympic-style elimination rounds. Somewhat similar to Sealed - each player draws his spells from the same deck, the difference being that as each player draws one spell, the deck is passed to the next player and so on until the deck is gone, then the match begins!

We've also added the ability to record and even add commentaries to recorded battles so that they can be used for showing other players different tactics or just to show your buddies what a vicious killing machine you can be :)


GGMania: Currently what is the status of the current progress of the game and when can we expect to see it in stores?

Andrey Yemelyanenko: We're in the home stretch - we've finished the campaigns and we're adding in voiceovers for the characters and NPC's, (we have some great voice work for the English version!), maps are being enhanced, some graphics and effects are being improved and we're doing a lot of testing - especially on the multiplayer modes and new server. You'll be able to grab a copy from your favorite store sometime in early fall.

GGMania: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview, is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

Andrey Yemelyanenko: We've put a lot of effort into making Etherlords II more accessible for players, including a new tutorial system for beginners to card-style combat, streamlined interfaces, recordable online matches with commentaries and of course - incredible graphics - after all a lot of eye-candy never hurt! We hope to show a newer generation of gamers that the turn-based genre has a lot of kick left in it.


genre: strategy/RPG
release: Strategy First
developer: Nival Interactive
publisher: Strategy First

last 10 comments:

Hjarryposted - Jun, 22 2003 - 01:03
Blech. The design is heading too much in the direction of Blizzard with its latest childish Warcraft look. Where is the dark, gruesome aesthetic of Starbreeze Studios? That's what a game called "Etherlords" should have - not this toy doll look.

CrasHNBurnposted - Jun, 22 2003 - 04:02
Hey I beta tested Etherlords one and that was a great and unique game. It sounds like the game makers have been listening to the players ideas and will make Etherlods 2 a great sucess.

Wisemanposted - Jun, 22 2003 - 16:14
I will be one of the first buyers of this game. I liked the first one. this game smells quality and fantasy

flush it!posted - Jun, 22 2003 - 17:13
If the characters look cool and i can import my own characters after making them then i buy it. Otherwise i scratch the disk ,cut it up. Then i spill lots of gasoline on it. then i put in in fire pit and burn that bloody disk. after that i take the box and burn it. Then i take the ashes put them in a envelope and mail it back to them. enclosing a letter saying "IM DONE PLAYING THIS GAME IT SUCKED YOU CAN HAVE IT BACK".

Zeorymer™posted - Jun, 25 2003 - 04:12
Nice Game! kewl!

NATOposted - Jun, 26 2003 - 06:20
I sounds a little bit more like Magic the Gathering, but I think i am not the first realizing. Etherlords 2 is developing even more into that direction as it seems, hopefully the Etherpool and Ethergaining system stays as it is, its the major improvement of Etherlords

KnBtposted - Jun, 26 2003 - 06:21
@ flush it ! plz wait till u are at least in the tens before posting comments. The game stands and falls with being balanced or not. Putting much effort in a more detailed strategic map is a waste in my opinion. People will try the zoom once or twice in the beginning and thats it. A waste of precious developer time.

Adiposted - Jul, 01 2003 - 07:22
I have played Etherlords I and it was great. Being a big fan of trading card games, I even appreciate more the ideas in Etherlords II. Looking forward to getting it soon!

Balorposted - Jul, 02 2003 - 17:57
Well, I played first one (original Russian version - which is called Demiurges in Russia) - I liked it a lot except for rather simplified combat system (comparative to MTG - no interrupts, for e.g., and too few spells) and strange one turn - one action system of movement. I am happy that they "fixed" that issues somewhat and that balace shifed toward RPG - I like RPGs the most. Only thing I didnot like that they removed global spell system which I really liked... However, it's not very major feature, and I'll be happy when the game will come and buy it at once :)

Concerned consumerposted - Jul, 10 2003 - 06:41
It takes a great deal of effort to balance the spells in a game like this. With balance a priority, more spells is better. No. 2 sounds like an improvement on an already innovative and fun game. However bugs,glitches,conflicts are a sign of poor programming. Gamers the world over are screaming out for games that dont need patches or bug fixes[too bad if you dont have internet connection]. Maybe we need a programming revolution!

michaelposted - Jan, 15 2005 - 01:25
Anyone that does not like this game can stuff it in there @$$!!!, I liked Magic The Gathering but never got in to it, But I have played Etherlords 2, And im hooked I hope they make an Etherlords 3. Cause I'll buy it.

Nathanposted - Feb, 28 2006 - 08:38
Etherlords 3 ... hmmm is there a Etherlords 3 in the works ? There are some improvements that I'd like to see, all of which have already been posted numberous times on other sites.

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