When I last wrote about the ambitious MMO Crowfall, it was very early days—a prototype, lots of ideas, and a Kickstarter campaign. That was a year ago, and while the full vision is still a ways off, there’s now much more to show.
In the new gameplay video above, you can get a look at the large-scale PvP sieges the testers have been up to. For now, these castle assault skirmishes are set up without any context, but when Crowfall is more fully realized, sieges like this will be part of campaigns which can last “anywhere from a month to a year,” I’m told, though the devs will probably stick to whatever length is the most popular.
The campaigns are the bulk of Crowfall’s appeal. Your character will progress and hang out in a permanent overworld (which is just what I’m calling it), but the PvP campaigns are where you'll make your riches. In these impermanent landscapes, player factions will fight for resources, capture keeps, and assault each other’s territory. When the campaign ends, the winning side (whoever has earned more victory points by holding onto strongholds) will take home the bulk of the loot, either to build up their personal kingdom or take with them into another campaign.
During a campaign, a castle siege like in this video will have to be planned. It wouldn’t be very fair to attack an Australian guild on American hours, for instance, so the aggressor will have to declare a window of time when they’d like to attack, and the defender will be able to choose the hour. To take the keep, the attackers must breach the walls and destroy the very magical-looking tree you can see in the video. The defenders can win by either holding out until a timer runs down, or hopping their own walls and taking out the attacker’s own magic trees.
When not sieging, players in campaigns will be hunting down resources, like stone from a quarry, and transporting it to their holdings to improve or repair them. I like the idea that I could be a professional logistics guy, sending scouts and tough guards out to making sure our caravans aren’t sacked on the way back to our keeps. The details of how exactly all this will work remain a little unclear, but it's fun to think about.
Currently, you can access Crowfall’s alpha tests by buying into the $99 ‘Bronze’ package. You can also sign up for the beta for free, though that hasn’t started just yet. When I spoke to creative director J. Todd Coleman yesterday, he said that a more complete version of Crowfall, with the campaign structure in place, will be soft launching at the end of this year or early next. When it's out of testing, Crowfall will remain buy-to-play (cheaper than the hundred bucks it takes right now to get in early), though there will be a premium subscription option that offers some extras.
Skepticism is fair at this point. Lots of new MMO projects are compared to EVE Online, and Crowfall is among them, but how many have really generated the sort of drama EVE has? None have approached it in my view. But the concepts here are cool: spending a few months or a year hunting down resources, building castles, and crashing through my enemies’ walls sounds pretty fun. Coleman says the feedback from early adopters so far has been good, and though I wouldn't personally drop that much money to play such an early build, I like the low-fi destruction we've seen so far—even more so now that EverQuest Next and all its destructable buildings have been abandoned.