Lee Eisenhuth on Hero Command

Interviewed by Bill Harms, SSSI consultant. Lee Eisenhuth is one of the Game Designers for Rise & Fall.

Harms: Hero Command looks like it's really going to revolutionize the genre. What was the genesis of its creation?

Eisenhuth: I love games where you can kill lots of things, where you just go nuts and kick some serious ass. Hero Command lets me do that. For a few moments at a time, I can actually go down to the battlefield and become one of the greatest warriors the world has ever known, a hero like Alexander the Great, Achilles, or Julius Caesar.

When you enter Hero Command, you're immediately down on the ground, in the thick of the battle, leading your men against the enemy's position. For a very short period of time, you actually become the mightiest warrior on the planet. And during that time, you're a juggernaut who's slaughtering hundreds of enemy soldiers with your blade or cutting them down with your bow and arrow.

And you're actually having a colossal impact on the outcome of the battle, because your actions can turn a certain defeat into an uplifting victory. You can truly turn the tide of a battle, and thatís what gets me so excited about Hero Command. I've never experienced anything like it in any other game.

The other reason we created Hero Command is that it lets us address a shortcoming in real-time strategy games. The camera in most RTS games lets you zoom down and get a close view of the action, but there's no practical reason to go down there. It looks cool, but you can't do anything to impact game-play.

So we decided to give the player a reason to go down to the battlefield. Hero Command lets you experience this incredibly rich and detailed ancient world that we've created, and you will have a direct impact on that world. It's totally different from any other RTS game that you've played.

Harms: How often will the player be able to enter Hero Command?

Eisenhuth: Taking command of your hero is going to be a tactical and strategic decision that is totally up to you. Rise & Fall is a strategy game, after all, so you're going to have to be very careful about when you use Hero Command because your time in that mode is very limited. You can't just jump in there and kill some guys for the hell of it. That's not the purpose of Hero Command; it's far too precious for that. You have to wait for the pivotal moment, the moment when the battle's outcome is on the line, when your men are faced with overwhelming odds, and only you can win the day.

It's at that moment when you unleash this heroic super weapon and turn the tide of the battle.

Harms: Is it possible to die while commanding your hero?

Eisenhuth: Your hero doesn't have health, he has stamina, which determines how long you can remain in Hero Command. So if you lose all your stamina during a battle, you return to RTS mode. In order to reenter Hero Command, you'll have to wait for your stamina to recharge. Your hero can still fight, but only in the traditional RTS sense. Your hero is no longer the ass-kicking warrior he is when you're controlling him.

However, as the game progresses, you gain a resource called Glory for performing actions like exploring the map, expanding your city, or defeating the enemy. You can use Glory to purchase a variety of upgrades, but you can also use it to level up your hero. If you level up your hero, it increases your hit points, strength, abilities, and most importantly, your hero's stamina. As you hit the higher levels, you have more opportunities to command your hero and lead him into battle.

That said, Hero Command is still very precious, no matter how much stamina you have. Proper use of Hero Command is always going to involve making smart strategic decisions.

Harms: How many weapons will your hero be able to use in Hero Mode? Will there be any special attacks or powers?

Eisenhuth: We're going to have a lot of different kinds of hero-specific weapons in the game. Just to give an example, there are several unique bows, and each one offers a different kind of attack. In addition to the standard Companion Bow, you'll be able to unleash the Medusa Bow, which fires multiple arrows simultaneously, and the Hercules Bow, an extremely powerful weapon. It's so powerful, in fact, that a single arrow can go through ten guys in a row. It's the perfect weapon to unleash against a tight phalanx of enemy units.

The bow that's going to quickly become a favorite with gamers, though, is the Pharaohís Bow. The arrows are wrapped in swaths of naphtha-soaked cloth and when you shoot an enemy with this arrow, they instantly burst into flames. It's awesome. He'll run around, flailing his arms and screaming, and if he comes close to any other enemies, he'll catch them on fire too.

If your hero is equipped with a shield, you can raise it and deflect enemy arrows. As for special powers, some of the heroes have special abilities.

For example, Julius Caesar has the mastery of siege, so he can remotely direct artillery to fire on his area. His catapults will fire upon his command, then he needs to clear out of the area, lest he get caught in the blast. Itís a great strategy to rain down catapult fire onto an enemy formation and then rush in and finish off any survivors.

Harms: As RTS games evolve, are we going to see the further melding of genres like you've done with Hero Mode?

Eisenhuth: The genre has to keep changing and innovating, and we're committed to pushing the envelope with each new game. The great thing about Hero Command is that it lets you go down to the ground and immerse yourself in the world; it really shows off a level of detail not seen in other RTS games. I think Rise & Fall is the best-looking RTS game I've ever seen, especially because of how great it looks in Hero Command.