I previewed Nosgoth years ago. I had plenty of good things to say then—a multiplayer deathmatch game set in the Legacy of Kain universe, playing as either the human survivors or as members of the vampire clans formed by the title character, whose Legacy amounted to plunging the world into vampiric darkness and defying reincarnation. Playing during the unseen vampire/human wars is automatically a plus, and the asymmetrical gameplay and enjoyable combat appealed to me.
A team was nice enough to let me preview the new map, Silenced Cathedral. An overgrown cathedral, the sight of a superweapon designed to kill vampires, before being overrun and turned into a web-coated ruin (presumably by Zephon's arachnid kin). Webbing and ruined walls dominate the setting, with archways and towers rising up amid the tangle of webs. It's suitably dystopian, with corpses, broken masonry, and an oppressive atmosphere, much like their other maps. It's quite atmospheric, loaded with the dead and devastated by the war that's killing the world.
I ran several maps with the team, playing as either vampires or humans. They reminded me of two things. Firstly, I am staggeringly bad at this game—my general lack of situational awareness led me to constantly be slain, over and over. But in between countless defeats, while flying about the battlefield in my Razielim Sentinel, I came to assess the battlefield.
The key element of the map for Nosgoth is to have a multi-tiered arena that granted two-sided benefits. What acts as cover for a ground-bound human party becomes a vantage point for a climbing vampire. And this map provides several nooks and crannies to hide in to shoot swarming vampires, or leap down upon unsuspecting blood-bags. I found a roughly-hewn tunnel underneath a stone walkway at one point, while running away from a ravening horde, which helped me escape from them—though it only bought me a few seconds. It's the kind of place you can get lost in the heat of battle, especially given how close the camera seems to be behind you (which adds to the chaos, and requires you to pay careful attention to your surroundings). I was warned that there were some areas which couldn't be climbed which looked traversal-capable, and I found these during battles—for the most part, the map was stable, and we had little issue. What's best is that there wasn't one single best place to stand and fight—Nosgoth maps are best when they have a balance of different areas, with merits and flaws for defence.
Is it as good as the other battlefields? Well, yes, and that might be a problem as well as a benefit. The map is largely similar to the other ones. It has the towers and archways vampires need, and the terraces that humans do. It feels like an actual place someone would build, rather than just an arena—the docks map was the same, with its market stalls and bell tower. While running around, it felt largely the same as any other battle—constantly searching, fanning out, and marking targets, ducking into structures as a human to choke off the undead onslaught, while diving in to pick up that pesky alchemist as a Sentinel and dropping them into the alleys below.
I would actually like to see some maps with some different elements that complicate matters in order to add another layer of strategy. Traps come to mind – a nest could be home to swarms of monstrous spiders, for example, which humans would have to avoid (or lure hungry vampires to and watch irony unfold). Nosgoth maps are largely static from my experience, and while the focus of the game is on the characters and moving about the arena, it would mix things up to have some turrets or ignitable barrels.
In the end, Silenced Cathedral is a fun map, and I look forward to it being added to the rotation. It's distinct in its design and decor, if not entirely in its topography. I hope that future maps invent a bit more, but this one is a solid addition to a well-established philosophy.