Auto Assault


posted 9/8/2006 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PC

As expected, this is a sluggish process.  Like any decent phone sex operator, this MMO knows how to keep you on the line long enough to suck up your funds.  The only way to grasp a decent handful of experience is to tackle enemies a couple levels your senior, but actually hitting your leveled-up target can be a harrowing process.  You can see the words scrolling up in your combat dialogue box now:  Miss.  Miss.  Miss.  Deflected.  So you turn to easier pickings, to lesser experience crops … to longer grinds.  Like any regular farmer in the dell, you’ll be putting in a lot of hours. 

We in the West are becoming mighty spoiled with our no-grind expectations of newer MMOs (many Asians, for whatever reason, are still accepting of the old model).  But producers will have to conform to Western Civilization’s demand for faster results, or they will suffer at the hands of our ADHD prescription pills and ticker-tape attention spans.  Does this make any particular side of the Pacific higher minded?  No.  Of course not.  But the demands have been made and the trends are in motion.

But where does this leave Auto Assault?  Player population is up, due mainly to the singular server merger, but the roads are still low in player turnout.  Project Lead Hermann Peterscheck said in an August interview that “nobody’s playing because nobody’s playing.”  That may be the truth, but it isn’t the whole truth.

With so much of the content solo-able, this game has been dubbed a “massively single-player” online game on multiple occasions.  The chat channels are chattering.  The guilds are forming.  But the grouping, despite an icing-on-the-cake experience bonus from forming a convoy, is still a rarer occurrence.  Several polls on the load screen show more than 50 percent of the player populace is voting for increased solo content, or stating that they look forward to solo missions more than PvP or arena combat.  Odd, considering the fact that Auto Assault screams PvP from the get-go.

Net Devil is putting forth a thoroughbred effort to keep their current players corralled, and even putting lassoes in the players’ hands to rustle up more cattle.  After only four months it’s hitting bargain bin prices, which has got to have the creative minds behind Auto Assault scratching their heads.  Where did all the momentum from the E3 hype machine go?  NCsoft label mates Cryptic Studios pulled off the genre-busting City of Heroes (genre-busting for the typical swords n’ sorcery MMO field), so why is the genre-busting Auto Assault getting hit with assault and battery?

This might be answered by a mantra that many real-world artists pack around in their hemp-lined pockets:  You don’t have to make the right artwork … you just have to find the right buyer.

There is already a faithful core of players forming.  They can’t tread water fast enough to keep the game’s nose above water, but if Auto Assault can hang on for another year, then their niche audience will inevitably throw out the life preserver that Net Devil is paddling for.  Net Devil is following as many rules as they can while still setting a fresh table:  Easy to use grouping tools, tall crafting trees, player housing, incrementally increasing loot drops -- it’s all here.  Now if only the right people would put down their swords and pick up their car keys then this massive game would start to fulfill its obligatory multiplayer aspect.

This vehicular action/MMO hybrid may be a tad ahead of its time. Grind-core audiences have too many combat variables; pulp action audiences have too many RPG-growth elements. But all the MMO staples are here in one form or another (to greater and lesser effect), with an added bonus of fully destructible environments. Auto Assault just needs to find a niche and scratch it.

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