In honor of the impending Gears of War 4 (or already arrived for those who got the ultimate edition) today’s gaming idea is going to be a spin on horde mode. The idea I’m going to be suggesting goes beyond a simple alternate game mode, however. I’m going to be explaining a game that revolves entirely around defending a point against waves of enemies.
Let’s take a moment to talk about horde mode. Way back in 2008 Gears of War 2 released with an interesting new play option called horde mode. Unlike in versus mode, which saw players fighting against each other, horde mode was cooperative. Players worked together on one of the maps to fend off waves of enemies.
Up to several dozen enemies would spawn out of sight, forcing the team to kill them all to spawn the next wave. Every ten waves gave the locust horde a stat increase, making the game harder. Complete fifty waves and you “beat” horde mode.
Easy, simple, clean.
It was a major success, more so than I think anybody really expected. It was so successful that when Gears of War 3 released in 2011, it came with horde 2.0. An updated version of the original, horde 2.0 had a lot of extra goodies attached to it.
At its core it was the same as before. Fifty waves of enemies, every ten waves they get a little stronger. The changes began with defensive emplacements, however. Kills scored points for players they could use to capture locations around the map. When a location was captured it unlocked prepositioned defenses. These ranged from barbed wire and decoys to automated and manned turrets.
As a player bought and used the defenses they gained experience for them. Eventually they would be able to upgrade defenses. Barbed wire turns into an electric fence. Decoys blow up when hit in melee. It got to the point where a savvy team could have an impressive array of fortifications at their disposal.
It certainly wasn’t as easy, simple, and clean as the first one. But frankly, it didn’t matter. Horde 2.0 was an utter slam dunk, improving on almost every about the original without losing anything in process. Play was more organized and focused. It left space for more dynamic and interesting fights. The team could, and often had to, cooperate.
Additionally, the fifty waves were punctuated by exciting boss fights. The tenth wave in every set was a boss wave, complete with a massive enemy that could kill in seconds and took forever to die. It always added a huge thrill to the game. It gave players something to look forward to, and something to dread.
Enter Gears of War 4 this coming Tuesday. It’s been a long time since the last title in the series. As the next numbered game, developers Coalition decided to update the classic series staple and deliver horde 3.0.
Gone are the capture points of the previous version. Instead the team has a box called the fabricator that they can carry with them. They still earn points via kills, but now they spend them at the fabricator to build defenses they can place wherever they want.
It’s an interesting adaption from the horde 2.0, and I’m really excited to dive into it. I’ve gotten to play about half an hour of it via an early copy, and so far I’m quite pleased. Being able to move the fabricator on the fly adds an interesting dynamic to the game.
Which (finally) brings us to my idea for today. Horde mode in the Gears series has always been an add on. It’s an important one, certainly. But it’s still one of three legs that the game stands on. I’m suggesting a game that revolves entirely around horde mode.
To start with let’s describe the setting. I’m thinking of something post apocalyptic, but still futuristic at the same time. The world is in ruins, and there are monsters everywhere. At the same time, however, what little of humanity still lives has access to powerful weapons and technology.
Players would group up and generate their own little chunk of the world. It would have a definite limit, but it would be very expansive. Ideally it would be randomly generated every time a new game was created. It would be generated from larger blocks, however, so that players could still get a good feel for layouts and item placement.
Waves of enemies would spawn periodically, assaulting the players until one side is dead. So far we’re not breaking any new ground here. The players would have the option to take resources and construct defenses around the map. They would be able to build their defenses wherever they wished. There would be no central base or capture point. The elements of defense, however, would generally be static. This would encourage players to build them close together and in a highly defensible spot.
A major departure from the norm, however, is that there would be a significant amount of time between waves. In Gears of War, for example, there’s about thirty seconds from one wave to the next to give players a breather. In my ultimate horde mode game, this gap would be closer to thirty minutes.
The reason for this is thusly: they need the time. Construction of defenses in this game would be deep and complex, with a large variety of options. Additionally, different constructions would require resources beyond a basic one acquired from dead enemies. They’d be forced to go out and collect these resources. They’d be rushing against the clock and still contending with random enemies around the map.
To extend this idea further, the game would have RPG elements. As the waves progress and enemies are killed, players would level up, increasing their stats and acquiring new abilities. It might increase their carrying capacity, lower constructions costs or time, etc. There could even be an in depth crafting system for gear. Advanced weapons could be found or built, and they could be upgraded and fined tuned.
Play would get harder over time in a handful of waves. Weather effects might come into play, growing stronger and more frequent as time passed. The enemies would obviously show up more often and in stronger varieties. The time between rounds would could shorten, or periodically just be shorter.
It would create a natural flow to the game. Players start off madly scrambling about because they have no home. As time passes they pick a holdout and erect defenses. They build and advance, growing stronger. But the enemies do too, rivaling the players at every point.
Play could last hours, and the joint map could be saved to allow a team to return to the game. Since the entire game would be built around it, there could be a frankly obscene number of options for players. Every time they come back and generate a new world everything could be different. Each world could take hours to finally kill the players, and they’d always be excited to come back for another go. They could save multiple worlds, allowing players to defend whatever kind of encounter they would like.
It’s ambitious certainly. There would be a lot, a lot, of moving parts. It would also be an entire game built around this. Would it have the staying power to keep people coming back? Honestly, maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to say. But personally?
I’d buy it.