Known mainly for their long-running MMORPG Dark Age of Camelot, Mythic Entertainment are trying something very different for what they hope will be their next flagship title.
The year is 2500, set in an alternate reality when Rome never fell, and has instead spread across the galaxy as an empire that encompasses the stars. All was well until their allies the Mayans suddenly turned against them, slaughtering whole cities until they fled to the darkest corners of the universe. Five years later, the Mayans have returned to slowly conquer the Roman Empire. You are one of the Roman elite, and it is up to you to defend your birthright.
The initial setting of this far reaching MMORPG is the pleasure planet Terra Nova, where new recruits are sent to relax after basic training before heading out to the front lines. Only this has been the target of a Mayan invasion and there's no time to rest as you become a part of its hasty defense.
Visuals are lush, somewhat resembling a slightly more detailed version of Guild Wars without bloom lighting. At the moment, it plays like a futuristic Dark Age with sci-fi inspired weapons, gear, and abilities, where the main gameplay consists of following along waypoints to reach various quests and objectives. Combat is a matter of using your various skills that drain from a collective pool of energy, which is currently a little too slow paced for my tastes, not helped by the "stand there and shoot" AI that could use a little more complexity. Though in isolated stations, it's really hard to judge something that is meant to be the proving ground for a massive community.
Imperator is also still somewhat early in development. Aside from pure combat, there will be a great deal of focus on the politics and the overall economy of this universe, as well as an extensive crafting system that hasn't been implemented, but will be similar to the one featured in World of Warcraft, allowing you to gain from it without a great and tedious time investment. Perhaps most surprising about Imperator was the fact that it will be released for both the PC and the Xbox 360, making me wonder how easily Microsoft's future console will handle patches and upgrades essential for MMORPGs.
While the pacing seems a little slow at the moment and there are a number of features yet to be implemented, the interesting sci-fi setting with a twist, and the nuts and bolts of this MMORPG show a huge potential that only needs to be refined and developed into something that's desperately needed in a market bogged down with vaguely similar fantasy worlds and already familiar settings such as Star Wars Galaxies and Matrix Online.