Nosgoth: It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s Winged Blood-Sucking Doom!

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It’s been about two years now that Nosgoth has been in early access. So how’s the humans vs. vampires third-person shooter doing?

Depends on what you’re here for, as it turns out. Nosgoth is a team-based shooter set in the Legacy of Kain universe, and for fans of the franchise there’s very little here as far as lore or story goes. And by “very little,” I mean “practically none.” While it was originally planned to have its own single-player storyline as part of Legacy of Kain: Defiance, that game’s cancellation means what we’re left with is the threadbare lore present in the multiplayer.

That’s okay, though, because Psyonix’s Nosgoth a pretty competent little third-person arena shooter that adds the distinct class dynamics – a formula that’s suddenly found itself very vogue recently with the upcoming releases of Blizzard’s Overwatch and Cliff Bleszinski’s LawBreakers.

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Each match consists of two rounds, and you’ll play a human character during one and a vampire during the other. The two factions have five classes each (up from three back when access first opened), with more on the way. You’ll play 4 vs. 4, although a 5 vs. 5 round is occasionally available for testing.

Humans are mostly pretty familiar-feeling: a Hunter is a basic ranged class and sports a crossbow, which you can supplement with abilities like bolas (which disable enemy attacks for a time) and explosive shots. Scouts use a longer-ranged bow, and can mark vampires so they take more damage from your team. Prophets sport dual pistols, and can steal vampires’ life.

It’s the vampire classes that make Nosgoth interesting, though. Where human characters run around on the ground in usual shooter fashion, vampires can climb walls, leap huge distances, and in some cases even fly. It gives the game a very nice feeling of true asymmetry. There isn’t the same kinetic feeling you get from the parkour in Titanfall or Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, but playing as a vampire still feels very distinct from playing as a human, and your paths around the map, your choke points, and fallback positions will be vastly different depending on your faction.

Teamwork is essential as well. Lone humans are unsurprisingly vulnerable to stealthy death from above from vampires, but a single vampire caught out in the open can easily be trapped and taken down by a cohesive human team. You’ll want to stick with your team and communicate as much as possible.

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It’s been a few years since Nosgoth was announced, however, and the Unreal 3 aesthetics aren’t going to blow anyone away. Certain maps reminded me strongly of maps from Unreal Tournament, and the character models and animations are reminiscent of older Unreal titles as well. That’s fine, though, and even though it does look and feel familiar, there’s a weird, colorful-yet-gloomy atmosphere that works well for Nosgoth’s setting.

There are problems, however. First, it can take what feels like forever to find a match. There isn’t a huge player community, sadly, which means that linking up with a team often means sitting in a queue for more than five minutes.

And there’s still all the awful free-to-play menu gibberish surrounding everything you do in the game. I don’t take issue with free-to-play on principle, but when it actively gets in the way of playing the game, I get to grumbling. There’s a daily prize wheel you spin when you log in, and for some reason it takes ages to load. There are at least three kinds of in-game currency to collect, in addition to experience levels for each class and global rank. You’ll need to do a fair amount of grinding to unlock new weapons, abilities, skins, and classes, and when it takes a long time to get into a match at all, that can be a major headache. It also has its very own launcher, which continues to run in the background after you exit the game, unless you manually shut it off. Irritating.

But your patience for this kind of thing may be longer than my own, and even if it isn’t, Nosgoth is very much its own game and serves up gleefully grimdark vampire hunting action even if you don’t feel like investing anything financially.

You can check out Nosgoth for yourself at the official website, or on its Steam store page.