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A Brand New Role...

Thursday, May 11, 2006, 10:53AM EST

Flagship Studios' PC title Hellgate: London, with its hideous monsters and exotic weaponry, may well be mistaken for a DOOM clone. Looks, however, can be deceiving. "Hellgate is, first and foremost, a role-playing game," Bill Roper, CEO for Flagship Studios, says. "There's everything you'd expect in an RPG: quests, skills, spells, statistics, the gaining of experience and the acquisition of items through battle and barter, and, of course, a world and story to explore.

"A lot of people think [London] is a first-person shooter with RPG aspects, when it is really an RPG that has been influenced by a lot of other game types, including FPS, adventure, puzzle, and even games as varied as Half-Life and Animal Crossing."

At E3, Roper and Flagship are debuting a new character class, the Cabalist, to complement the already-announced warrior-esque Templars. He says, "As delvers of arcane knowledge, students of the dark arts, and explorers on the fringes of science, they use the powers of the demons against them. Just as the Templar is designed for players [who] want to dive into the thick of things, the Cabalist will appeal to those who want to play a powerful spellcaster or summoner." London's multiplayer options are being shown for the first time at publisher Namco Bandai's booth.

Flagship isn't the only studio to be pushing the boundaries of RPGs. Irrational Games' (known primarily for the superhero RPG Freedom Force) BioShock (2K Games) plays out in the first-person perspective and forces players to collect biological material in order to alter their character in strange, new ways. The idea has been done before, notably in the shooter-RPG hybrid Deus Ex, but BioShock combines it with enemies that are motivated not by a series of predetermined patterns, but rather a series of instincts. This has led to the creation of an ecology of sorts for the game's monsters, with certain creatures feeding on one another--and the game's humans becoming dependent on materials produced by the creatures.

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