NB 18/10/2004: Neocron 2: Dome of York has been released by Reakktor. It claims to offer a better version of the graphics engine (the game looks the same), a cyberspace warzone called 'hacknet', new weapons, the ability to conquer outlying settlements like Tech Haven, and new weapons - along with the eponymous Dome of York itself. However, reactions have been extremely mixed, not least of all because the game looks exactly the same, is a over a year late and was meant to be free. I haven't been able to try it yet, although you can transfer your characters from the first game over.
Neocron is a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game by Reakktor. It was released for retail in September 2002.
Neocron is set in the year 2750 (at the time of this writing the in-game calendar indicates it's actually now 2786). In 2143, nuclear war broke out between China and the West over the alleged destruction of a Chinese colony spacecraft heading for a recently terraformed planet known as Irata III. For 400 years, mankind is reduced to an iron age/early industrial age existence on the severely ravaged planet, until a remarkable discovery is made. The Ceres Project was an archive of all of mankind's knowledge up to the 22nd century, and was sealed in a secure bunker which has survived until a group of warriors discovers it.
Using the knowledge, they build two huge cities with modern technology - Neocron in the south, and the Dome of York in the north. A war soon breaks out between the two city-states, and Neocron subjugates the Dome of York. Meanwhile, orbital flight is attained and a third city, Tokyo II is discovered in Asia, although its inhabitants want nothing to do with Neocron. Contact is also established with the Irata III colony, and a mass exodus from the polluted Earth to the lush paradise of Irata III begins.
The player joins the game in a city greatly emptied as a result of the great treks. The dictator Lioon Reeza runs Neocron, opposed by his former comrade Haagen Yager and the Twilight Guardian terrorists. As the game begins, strange events are taking place around the Dome of York...
There are four character classes available:Private Eye (PE): Joe Average. Master of none, but able in all. Probably the easiest, fastest type of character to make, and the best for a new player. Can, in theory, do anything, just not very well. The Marine from System Shock 2.
Spy: The 'weak but smart and fast' class. High intelligence and dexterity, weak physically, best suited to long distance combat or tradeskills. The Naval Operative from System Shock 2.
PSI Monk (Monk): The wizard/magic user class. Moderate intelligence, very weak, but with time can develop devastating attack powers, or magnificent protective and healing powers. The OSA from System Shock 2.
GenTank (Tank): The barbarian, badass class. Low intelligence, severely limited PSI abilities. However, immensely strong and tough, able to use large, powerful weapons.
The skills are divided into five categories:INTelligence. Affects most tradeskills, weapon aiming speed, and bartering ability. Also, some impact on PSI.
STRength. Ability to withstand explosions, use of large weapons and melee weapons, and maximum equipment load.
DEXterity. Use of small arms, vehicle handling, and some tradeskills. Also, agility.
CONstitution. Ability to resist different types of damage, endurance, athletic ability. Also overall body health.
PSIonic Power. Determines strength, duration and frequency of Psionic use.
Pistols. Short range, but good rates of fire. Decent damage. Available as tech (energy weapons) or lowtech (projectile).
Rifles. Long range, better rate of fire. Good damage, slow to aim. Available as tech (laser, ray, plasma, fusion) and lowtech.
Heavy. Medium range, high rate of fire, huge damage. Very heavy, but devastating if used well. Tech and lowtech.
Melee. Close range only! Guaranteed hits. Knives, claws, swords, laserblades, tasers. Tech and lowtech.
Aggressive PSI (APU). Hurts the target. Can be halos, beams, bolts or balls.
Passive PSI (PPU). Heals or does not injure the target. Can boost damage done to target, shock target slowing it down, or distract the target. Also can cast 'soulcluster', autonomous entity which attacks with energy bolts.
Drone. Small, remote-controlled hovering robots do the fighting for you. Akin to the Flycam in Project Eden, or numerous other remote weapons platforms in other games. Mounts a variety of weapons. Still undersupported in the game, and requires you to have a good hiding spot, as you cannot communicate nor defend your physical being while flying your drone.
Repair. All items degrade, so this will restore their condition. A higher repair skills reduces the overall loss of quality of the item (things eventually wear out after a very long time).
Research. The ability to produce a 'blueprint' of an item. The blueprint is stored in a datacube which lists the necessary components for construction. Can also be used to identify rare parts found in vanquished high level monsters.
Construct. Allows you to assemble items from components and a blueprint. A blueprint is essential for making an item. The higher your skill, the better quality your result.
Recycle. Lets you turn raw materials (junk, meat, etc) into construction components and chemicals, or even ammunition. Your skills must be at least the same level as the item you wish to produce from the crap.
Hack. The ability to access computers, unlock dead robots, open certain doors. Most crucial in outpost wars for taking control of an enemy outpost. The higher your skill, the easier the process.
Implant. Allows you to implant yourself or other players with the various implants found in the game. Your skill must be at least the same level of the intended implant.
Each tradeskill has its own tools which are required to perform the selected task. Some tools have multiple levels.
Armour: For the legs, head, chest. Boots are available as well. You need a certain skill (PSI, DEX or STR) to use certain types. Each provides a varying level of protection.
Belts: Come in various forms, some are general protection, while others specialize in protection against a particular type of damage.
Implants: For the brain, eyes, heart, spine. Increases your skill above its natural (base) level. Allows you to use items and equipment that would otherwise be beyond your means.
Bone Enforcements: For the head, chest, arms, legs and feet. Provides additional protection, like armour. Arm enforcements improve melee ability, the legs and feet improve agility.
Gloves: Allows the use of PSI. Other gloves are intended for a specific tradeskill.
Drugs: Increase certain skills for a short period. Often followed by a period of intoxication where your vision and movement is impaired.
The world consists of a 15x10 series of zones, each 2km across. In addition, there are numerous towns, installations, outposts and cities to visit.
Places to visit in the wastelands
Neocron. The major city, one of only three on Earth. Protected by a magnetic radiation shield, it is divided into four increasingly grotty sectors: Via Rosso, Plaza, Pepper Park and the Outzone. Policed by the NCPD's Copbots. Home to the majority of the factions. Located in the south of the world overlooking the Midworld Ocean.
The Dome Of York. Presently closed to outsiders, this mysterious city boasts a huge dome to protect it from radiation. They have a large and powerful army, which is causing great concern to Neocron's citizens.
Tech Haven. Research base in the mountains, operated by the Fallen Angels. Completely underground, lit with cool blue lights. Near the centre of the map.
Military Base. Large installation in the top left corner of the map. Isolated training camp for the CityMercs, surrounded by miles of dangerous countryside. Good hunting for high level players.
Twilight Guardian. Canyon stronghold of the eponymous terrorist faction. Extremely dangerous surroundings. Located on the eastern edge of the map.
Regant's Legacy. Named for a former ruler of Neocron, this is an old fortress in a swamp (although it hasn't sunk into the swamp yet, heh heh) currently occupied by an army of mutants armed to the teeth with stolen energy weapons. A very dangerous place.
There are many ways to get around Neocron. They include:Walking. Not recommended for any long distances, or in dangerous territory.
Driving. Great, as long as you have a car or bike.
Venture Warp. Teleports you to a random spot of the world. Sort of an instant action function. Pretty worthless for travel unless you're very lucky.
GenRep. Teleports you to any other GenRep in the game world. However, you must have activated the GenRep on the other end in person before you can teleport there. Meaning you'll have to travel by conventional means at least once.
Outposts are industrial and military installations located throughough the wastelands. If you run a clan, you can hack one and occupy it. This in turn grants you increased abilities when in the outpost. As an example, building weapons while in a friendly factory will produce better weapons. Occupying outposts is a show of strength for a clan, and they are jealously guarded.
You must choose a faction when you create your character. Each faction represents a group or major corporation in the game. Some hate one another, others are allied. You are guaranteed to have at least two factions hate you regardless of whom you choose. Your loyalty is shown in points, from 0 to 100. You can change to another faction if you have 50 points of loyalty (or 'sympathy') and 300,000 credits to cover 'administration charges'. The factions are:
Tangent Technologies. Makes weapons and computers.
Biotech. Makes implants.
Protopharma. Makes drugs.
Fallen Angels. Scientists.
NeXT. Makes vehicles.
Diamond Real Estate. Lets apartments and buildings.
CityAdmin. Government of Neocron.
Anarchy Breed. Punks, moshers, anarchists.
Twilight Guardian. Rebels, out to destroy CityAdmin.
The Crahn Sect. Official religion of the PSI Monks.
Tsunami Syndicate. Crime syndicate. Prostitution, nightclubs, etc.
Black Dragon. Triad. Drug dealers.
Note that you do not get any special character bonus from your choice of faction.
Neocron sports a highly developed internal clan system, with clan apartments, bank accounts, ranking systems, shared storage areas, and a lot more. You're missing out on a great deal of depth and fun if you don't join a clan at some point. You can even found your own, although you must first complete your faction's 'Epic Run' quest.
Neocron is played from a first person perspective, much like many action games. You can run, jump, crouch, climb, swim, just like in those action games.
Combat is handled in real time, like a first person shooter. Just pull out your weapon, point it at the enemy, and fire. Your character's skill determines how quickly you'll aim, how fast you'll fire, and how much damage you'll do. This is a major difference from the majority of MMORPGS where combat is often a disconnected, turn-based or automatic affair.
Player Killing (pking)
Neocron handles this issue with style. All new characters start with a law enforcer (LE) chip implanted. With this in, they cannot attack, nor be attacked by, other players. However, this prevents them joining a clan and enjoying the full scope of the game. Removing your LE allows you to attack and be attacked. You can remove and insert it as often as you wish, although a recent patch has dictated that you cannot reinsert the LE once you have passed rank 30.
Neocron suffers from synchronisation errors, fatal runtime errors, crashes, freezes and other problems. Some players have no problems, others suffer greatly. Lag can be a factor, and the graphics engine does not take full advantage of one's 3D accelerator. Fortunately, it also has an ingame GM rescue system, reset codes if you get stuck, and generally most problems aren't too serious.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
This is where I quickly stuff in all the other neat things in the game into a nice list. Neocron is a vast game, far more detailed than I could hope to put into this WU.
The GoodHuge gameworld with diverse locations
Decent graphics engine
Realtime, FPS-style combat
Inbuilt navigation system to important locations
Ingame forums, email, and other functions
Huge, varied character creation options
Friendly, customizable interface
Low monthly fee (10 euros per month)
Multiple characters allowed on most servers
n00b protection from pking
The BadDodgy game engine is unreliable
Not all features work perfectly, if at all
A bit of level treadmilling, especially if you're inexperienced
Utterly baffling for new players
Overambitious developers fiddling with weapon strengths in each patch
The Ooogly!Entire cabinets of items disappearing from your apartment
Some servers full of heartless pkers (gankers) who prey exclusively on weak, low level characters
Frustrating bugs that have been in place since the beta versions
Arms race to create the 'perfect character' leads to dozens of players with identical stats.
Personal notes and conclusion
Neocron is great. It's a hidden gem of an MMORPG, far superior to many of its competitors. Badly marketed on launch by its former publisher CDV, it nonetheless has a large, devoted following and a friendly, lively community.
I have been playing since the fourth beta version, and have enjoyed myself greatly. If you've gotten tired of the constant swords/beards/magic of most MMORPGs, Neocron could be just the breath of fresh air you're waiting for.
An addon called "Beyond the Dome of York" is due later in 2004, and is meant to seriously vamp up the graphics as well as starting a new storyline and finally allowing access to the dark, gritty depths of the DoY itself. The addition of airborne vehicles is greatly anticipated!
Recommended Character types
Pistol PE: The PE takes a lot of damage and moves fast, making them a perfect choice to run up to somebody's face and saturate them with uzi or pistol fire. With the Liberator, the ultimate uzi, in hand, PEs are positively lethal!
Rifle Spy: The Spy's weak body but high dexterity makes them a good choice to attack the enemy from afar with a rifle.
Melee Tank: Able to run fast and soak up heaps of damage, a Tank with a laserblade or claw can be a major threat to both monsters and other players alike.
Hybrid Monk: The trickiest to achieve, but virtually unstoppable if perfected, the Hybrid uses both APU and PPU PSI powers, and is able to both heal themselves and attack with great force. The developers are making it harder and harder to make a viable Hybrid, though, so most Monks now specialize, and take a comrade of the other discipline along for the ride instead.
Jupiter (1 char)- German. Only play here if you're German.
Saturn (4 chars) - English. Very populated, but very dangerous. I play on it, and it's a rough place. Fun, though.
Uranus (4 chars) - English. Less people than Saturn, but safer and with a much closer-knit community. Despite this, it's the quietest server of the bunch.
Venus (1 char) - French. Arguably the nicest community, for the French speaking players.
Pluto (1 char) - English. Meant to be the unofficial 'US' server, it instead seems to be something of an enclave in terms of its players' interaction with the rest of the community.