The lights are on
I almost feel guilty about choosing Chromehounds for my Time Sink feature. By the time you're done reading this you'll want to go jump in a giant, lumbering mech yourself. The only problem is, you can't.
FromSoftware's Chromehounds wasn't an online-only game, but it might as well have been. The single-player campaign was more of an extended tutorial that introduced players to the six different classes of the titular "HOUNDS" (scout, sniper, soldier, defender, heavy gunner, tactics commander). The real fun was joining a squad.
The online experience was called the Neroiumus War, a persistent skirmish between three warring nations. Squads allied themselves with one of the three, with allegiances up for grabs at the end of each two-month period (or unilateral victory, whichever came first) when the conflict reset. The different territories each had unique HOUND parts, and our squad strategically moved among them to make sure our 20 members (the maximum number) had everything they needed.
Components in the daily lottery were randomly selected, and scrambling for just the thing to complete the perfect build was a lot of fun. I spent quite a lot of time in my HOUND garage. It's not just where I built my Transformers-themed creations. It was part of the social hub.
One of the most innovative features (for the time) was being able to invite squadmates into your garage. Given that we were all pretty firm in one role (two at most), it was helpful to understand what our teammates were rolling out with. Getting pointers, especially as we learned tricks that applied to all builds, was invaluable.
Once we were ready to go to war to defend one of our country's capture points (or invade an opposing nation), six players would enter a lobby. There, the team leader would choose one of the base options (typically three different locations on the map). The strategy of choosing a stronghold to defend offered layers of complexity.
Terrain, composition of our forces, and proximity to communication towers all factored into our decision. Most of the time, we'd get matched with a squad of humans, but after a short matchmaking timer, the game would put us into battle against AI forces. Battles against the computer were less valuable for the war effort, but we always got to play with minimal delay.
I nearly always served as our team's commander, the only RT (class) with a communication array. Commanders also were the only RT that could see enemy movement within the communication zone. Within the bubble, players could converse freely. However, expanding the comm net meant going into the dark zone and out of communication with the rest of the team. (Note: Chromehounds' heyday was prior to the Xbox Live party chat feature.)
It was always tense, as we wondered if our scout would get ambushed and killed before reaching his destination. We always sent him to a distant tower, because claiming one raised a flag that was visible from the ground. Capturing communication towers, while crucial for coordination, could bely troop movements or, worse, which base was the real one.
The match ended when one team was wiped out or its base was destroyed. One-on-one battles were often extremely difficult, as larger hounds (including my Commander called Prime) maneuvered slowly on most terrain. Location-based damage led to disabled weapons (and their attached cameras), which could severely cripple a player. Staring down two enemy HOUNDS alone almost always meant a quick death.
We quickly learned to keep a guard by my side, as losing the commander meant the entire communication network went dark. As time went on, new builds and counter-builds were developed (the most notorious was called the "Pile Scout," a fast mech with multiple base-crushing piledrivers for weapons).
Sometimes people got a little crazy. This beast could barely move.
I've only played one MMO seriously, and it wasn't nearly as addictive or time sucking as Chromehounds was. The way we approached our squad (our guild), the scheduled meeting times (our raids), and our attachment to our HOUNDS (our toons) may be what MMO players experience.
A part of me died when Sega shut down the Chromehounds servers in January 2010 (effectively making copies worthless). Deep down, I hope some day that FromSoftware will take a break from its jetpack-enabled Armored Core series and spark a new Neroimus War. If not, perhaps someone else will step forward and create an experience like Chromehounds.
Until then, I'm looking for the next game to sink hundreds of hours into.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.
I loved that game,spend more then 500 hrs in that game.I'm the one responsible for these mechs.ostrich,johnny #5,scorpion.I think i spend more time building new mechs then fighting.>I was the ingeneer of my clan.It would be awsome if a chromehound 2 was coming in next gen consoles.
I loved Chrome Hounds. Online got kind of annoying for me because of the ridiculous builds that started showing up (I mean the ones with the weird offset, fully obscured by armor cores that would leave an actual pilot blind). I wasted so much time building badass Hounds. Some of them were just for fun, like a hound shaped like a scorpion with an artillery tail and rocket claws.
I have never even heard ofthis but Futter sure does sell it
Time Sink: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2. 3 playthroughs. 70 hours each.
Holy crap, this game ruled. I can NOT believe there has been no sequel. The day the server was taken offline I shed a few tears. This game ranks in my top 5 for all the reasons Mike mentioned. Chromehounds 2 please! I seriously would buy an Xbox One just for this game, and that says a lot.
Probably too late a post to gather any interest, but I hear ya... everything you say about this game. I sank hundreds of hours into chomehounds, and it was one of my all time great video game experiences. It was the first game where my online interactions combined with my real life - my squad mates began as fellow gamers, became friends, then I felt they were part of my family. It was crazy. And I also thought (at the time) that this is what online gaming was going to be, for the rest of my life. Little did I know that when the squad quietly died, and then ended, then the servers closed - this section of my life would never be repeated, EVER, in any game. Just thinking of this game makes my heart hurt in a way I can't truly explain, or really even want to admit to... and this was just the community side! I loved this game - Its slow action fit my personality, and I was generally able to out think my human opponents, and I maintained a very high winning percentile. But I did get owned, and these people know who they are, because they must of been some of the best players in the game. I remember playing 3 one on one matches in a row against a Japanese player with this super unorthodox one rifle, one cannon, quick biped - and just being astonished how easily I was defeated in each match. I remember the satisfaction of a tri-sniper build I had that hit pinpoint, simultaneous fire, at great distances. And my love of howitzers... the best howitzers in any game I've ever played. This game was so love/hate too.. the exploiting of cannon builds, then after the update, grenade builds. the terrible design flaw of damage going strait to the cockpit after a part broke... that really limited practical mech design. But OMG this game was fun, and a RUSH - sweaty palms, fear around any corner, and the high stakes of PvP matches - the only game I've ever played that even comes close to this rush is demon souls, then dark souls (interestingly, from software titles) eh, the book I could write on this game - I've been watching the anime gundam 00, and it just amazes me the potential of a game like chromehounes set in the political framework of this well done anime - and WHY a game like this does not exist. I do love armored core, mostly for the garage and complexity of mech design - but they just don't hold a candle to chromehounds. Please From Software, please, make a sequel to this game!
I've never even heard of the game, but it sounds like you devoted the amount of time to it and I did to S.O.C.O.M. 2 back in high school with friends.