As some of you may remember awhile back we dedicated a week to showcasing some of the gameplay elements that will differentiate Dawn of Victory from Sins of a Solar Empire. Well, the time is right and some of the major elements we've been working on are nearing completion, so we feel it's appropriate to reveal some of the new mechanics you can expect in our first release. First up is probably one of the biggest changes we've been working on:
Dawn of Victory is pretty slow. Not in the base SIns sort of slow - after all, you won't be doing a lot of colonizing. It's more that fleet actions are deliberately slow: we want people to have time to strategize and set up their fleets.
In testing I quickly realized that even the smallest maps were much too slow, both for utility reasons (it's hard to test) and gameplay reasons. Sure, somebody with a couple hours to burn would be good with the maps we've done already, but there needed to be a quick play mode. At the same time, many of the historical actions in Dawn of Victory's backstory weren't slugouts between fleets at separate stars.
Enter the Assault gamemode. Assault is a separate gametype, meaning all maps that use it will be designated on the map screen. Right now, our prototype Assault map is Hammerhead Depths, or the invasion of German-occupied Tanarsus that sparks the Soviet/German war. Keep in mind this mode is still under construction and the final result may be different, especially when referring to specific times.
Instead of two sides with planets at which they build structures and ships, Assault is attack/defend. This means that only the defender has one key "objective" planet, and they are limited to this planet exclusively. Their job is to defend by holding choke point planets connected to the planet they must defend. If they manage to defend their planet from invasion for a specific time (map-dependent, from thirty minutes to an hour typically), the USSR loses their rally point and the game. If not, the USSR player wins. Pretty simple.
The attacker begins at their Rally Point. For the first 5-10 minutes, jumping out of this rally point is restricted. The defender won't have all the fun during this time, however, since the attacker starts with no ships.
Instead, ships are called in through three separate structures. Each has three different premade selections of their appropriate class of ship. For example, the Frigate rally can spawn three different assortments of Flak Frigates, Torpedo Frigates, Destroyers, and Resupply Cruisers. Each assortment has a different role - some are centered around raids or quick strikes, whereas others are heavier, slower selections.
At the beginning of the game, a player will be allowed to choose one of three of these selections. The others will be unselectable for a fixed amount of time (around 8 minutes right now). The ships will warp in and then be your units. After that fixed time rolls around again, you'll get another three selections at each of your rallies. After your third selection, you'll be near the time limit.
During setup you will also get free fighter building and time to arrange your ships and fleets. As a result, both the attacker and the defender should be pretty busy until they can start attacking
Right now, the defender can warp to your rally point, but you will be granted a damage and speed bonus when in range of the rally point to prevent camping. The individual spawning rallies are indestructable, as is the rally point itself. The defender is supposed to defend his choke points, not camp your spawn. We are currently working on resolving this problem by making the path to and from your rally point only accessible to the Soviet player.
So how is the defender supposed to hold their single planet against three different lines of attack?
Keep in mind Dawn of Victory, unlike base Sins, has droppable mines. Assault also allows the player to drop smaller versions of the turrets that they can normally construct around gravity wells. So the defender is given several minelayers at the beginning of the game, a couple recon scouts, and encouraged to heavily entrench around these choke points.
During their setup time, the defender is also given various bonuses to income and build cost and speed, and can research at an increased speed throughout the match. As a result, despite starting at a disadvantage, the defender can eventually reach capital ships that outrank what the attacker can be supplied. Defending will get easier and easier as time goes on.
The result is a fast-paced "scenario" game that can be played quite a few times in the time it would take to play a normal game. We're hoping to get two or three Assault maps in the first release, but that's not a given (you'll see at least one, however).