Jay Kyburz is a man who likes spaceships and zombie centaurs. Having worked at 2K Australia on BioShock 1 and 2, he left the studio to make Neptune's Pride, a browser strategy game centred on space diplomacy. It contained spaceships. Now he's working on his next game, Blight of the Immortals. Guess what it contains?
Neptune's Pride was the most intense strategy game of the last year. Orders could be given in a few minutes, but your fleets would spend the next 15 hours carrying them out. You'd spend the entire time thinking over your plans, plotting the inevitable moment when you turned on your friends. My first game took three weeks, and backstabbing was key.
So it's interesting that Blight of the Immortals is mainly cooperative. Its fantasy world is being trampled by undead hordes – the title's 'Immortals' – and players work together to fight back against them using armies of fantasy creatures. The core structure remains the same: a few minutes of activity, a long, stressful wait as your forces march across the world.
But this time it is a world, and not just a colourful background. Your army units are no longer just raw numbers, but creatures with special abilities, such as Elven bowmen, wizards and trolls.
“Each creature has a unique ability, and the undead version of that creature has a similar but perverted version of that,” says Jay. “The player's job is to recruit creatures who have abilities that complement each other.”
As an example, Jay tells us about how the Cyclops has the ability to place an army into a trance, which prevents it from moving. You might choose to slow the advance of a zombie horde with your Cyclops, giving you time to move your Centaurs into position. Since Centaurs are fairly weak, you might bless them with your Enchantresses for a combat bonus.
But if any of your forces fall to the zombie onslaught, they become undead versions of themselves. “The Wizards, for example, summon fierce storms above an enemy, lashing down to disperse armies,” says Jay. “When those wizards rise up as undead creatures, they're no longer able to control the storms and, as a result, thunder and lightning follow them everywhere, lashing out at nearby armies.”
The result is a strategy game with more tactical depth than Neptune's Pride, but one that is hopefully less exhausting and more accessible, because you're working together with friends.
But if you still want to backstab your buddies, there is a PvP mode. Like Neptune's Pride, you're fighting for control of the map, with the first army to conquer half of it being declared the winner. The zombies remain, though, forcing you to rely on shoddy alliances.