SAGA, the self-proclaimed ‘World’s First Collectible Online Real-Time Strategy Game” went live today. Open-Beta commenced on February 26th, 2008 and was concluded shortly before launch. Boasting a persistent online RTS-oriented world, SAGA allows player-designed cities that grow perpetually coupled with RTS elements of gathering, building and waging war. Players have the option of battling on other players or build their empire through diplomacy and minimal conflict. Additional resources can be acquired through expanding your empire and new technologies/abilities can be researched and unlocked over time.
Gameplay can be essentially divided into nation-management and RTS battles. The Army seems highly differentiated with over 100 unique units, each of which can be fitted with thousands of weapons to create a truly unique military identity. However, this may be misleading as each race in the game is limited to its own set of units. Additionally, there are over 100 city structures to choose from and players can eventually transform their cities into mighty, impenetrable fortresses. While PvP is an element in the game, there is a back story to the world, and players can engage in quests and campaigns that unfold the story over time, while simultaneously engaging the player in the RTS elements.
There are two sides to choose from, The Order and The Brotherhood, your basic Alliance and Horde with fairly comparable races as well. A persistent world implies you keep what you make and your empire continues to thrive and operate even when you are logged out. Killed troops stay dead until resurrected, demolished buildings stay demolished until repaired etc. However, a persistent world also implies that even when you are logged out, your enemies can send spies to steal your secrets, destroy your buildings and kill your peasants and troops. An intuitive match-making service allows players of similar ‘levels’ to go head to head in online battles in the world.
In a stark deviation from the MMO genre, SAGA has no monthly subscription fee. However, in order to improve your army and advance your empire, armies are bought (yes with real money) in Booster Packs. Seems a bit convoluted as it implies that a rich kid can amass a massive army hell-bent on destruction, which, understandably, would give that player an unfair zerging advantage, despite the experience of the opposing player and his/her units.
The game received its first review from Strategy Inside: a dignified 8/10. Average user scores thus far rate it at 9.6/10 on the website. (You can read the full review here.) It’s an interesting concept, and a bold move by aptly named Wahoo. You can try it for yourself for a mere $19.95.