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PC Review - 'Savage: The Battle for Newerth'

by Eric on Sept. 19, 2003 @ 2:04 a.m. PDT

Combining real time strategy and first person action, Savage delivers the next level in multiplayer gaming. Instead of sending mindless computer drones into battle, imagine organizing real human players on a crusade to conquer your adversary. Choose to be a commander, and you will play an in-depth RTS game, researching technologies, mining resources, and issuing orders to your units. Choose to be a warrior, and you will play an intense game of first person combat, wielding your weapon of choice to strike down the enemy.

Genre : Online Multiplayer
Publisher: iGames
Developer: S2 Games
Release Date : September 9, 2003

Buy 'SAVAGE: The Battle for Newerth': PC

Every once in a while, a game will seem to come out of no where, with not much hype or press around it, and end up doing just about everything right and really surprising a lot of people. Savage is one of those games.

Savage is a really hard game to put into one genre, because it's really 3 games in one. Savage attempts to combine real-time strategy with 3rd person combat along with first person shooting. That is no small undertaking by any means. Most developers have lot's of problems just mixing 2 different genres of games into one, much less 3. Not only has Savages developer S2 Games been able to mix 3 completely different genres into one game, they have been able to mix them all in seamlessly, which makes this title all the more impressive.

Savage is an on-line only game with it's core game play being based in action. The story behind Savage basically goes like this: Long ago man nuked the total crap out of the planet killing off most everything and tossing the earth into nuclear winter. What was left of the human race was nothing more then small tribes of savages that roamed the land. Eventually they all ended up banding together under one leader and started re-developing their technology that was lost and advancing as a race again. At the same time, the animals that survived the nukes started to grow and develop rapidly. Both in size and in brains, to the point where they were as smart as humans. After seeing what man did to the earth before, the "Beasts" where not about to sit back and let this happen all over again. All the Beasts start working together and have one set goal, to take out man before man takes them out, again. It's a pretty good story to say the least.

The core game play in Savage is all about controlling spawn points on the map and taking out the other teams base or "strong hold". Sounds pretty simple, but it is much more complex then that. In Savage there are 2 teams, most of the time it is beast vs humans, but you can also set the teams up as humans vs humans and beasts vs beasts if you want. When you start a level, both teams have one key building on different sides of the map, this is called your Strong hold. The Strong hold is basically your teams starting spawn point, as well as the center point of your base. The Strong hold is the one building you need to destroy to win the game, once it's gone, the game is over and the other team wins. This is where the RTS comes into play. Both teams will set one player as their commander. This person sees the whole world in a typical top down display that is common in RTS games. He is in charge of building different buildings in your base, both for research and development and for defense to aid against attacks. He is also in charge of directing traffic on the map by giving orders to the other players on the team and telling them where to go and what to do. Just like in most RTS games, you have to build different research and development buildings to improve your technology and gain better weapons. To feed all of this building, you need to mine metal and other things like gold to give your commander the resources needed to build new buildings and research new technology.

Each team has a group of NPC workers that do this for you, but players can also take part and help speed up the mining on their own too. Besides the commander, there are 5 classes of units for both the humans and the beasts. At the start of the game there is only 1 class selectable, but as your base grows and gets more advanced, more and more classes will be unlocked. Each of the new classes have a price tag though, and the better the class the higher the tag will be. There are 3 basic ways of earning money in Savage: attacking other players on the other team, attacking the many NPC creators in the game, or by attacking another teams buildings. Money plays a big role in Savage, the more of it you have, the better weapons and supplies you can buy at the Strong hold as well as a higher class character. These different character classes is what most people will end up being when they play Savage since only one person can be the commander at a time. Each of the 5 classes has different abilities. The lower level ones are pretty weak and not that strong, but are quite fast. The higher level ones are much much slower, but are stronger and can take people out in one to two hits.

Once you pick your class and spawn, you play the game via a 3rd person view. All of the games hand to hand combat is played out in 3rd person. All the classes for both teams have set hand to hand combat weapons, you can not change these, but you can improve them. You can also add a 2nd weapon to your inventory. For the humans, most of these are different types of guns, and for the beast they have different types of magic abilities. All of these weapons are used in a typical first person mode and this is one of the many areas where Savage excels. While a great deal of the combat is done in 3rd person mode, switching to first person is done on the fly with a simple button press. You can transition from 3rd to first and back again in real time with no delay when ever you want, depending on if you are doing hand to hand combat or long rang combat with a gun or magic power. This was a great idea by the developers as it gives you the best of both worlds, being able to do hand to hand combat in 3rd person and then switching to first person to have better aim with your long range weapons.

The 3rd person hand to hand combat system is very well thought out and has a lot of depth to it, but at the same time is very simple to use. Both the beasts and humans can preform one basic hand to hand attack. This attack is done with the press of one button, which depending on how many times you press it, will determine how long your attack is. The humans are also able to block other hand to hand attacks, but they will still take some damage even if blocking. The beast on the other hand can't block, but they are much faster and can evade hand attacks by jumping quickly out of the way. While the hand to hand combat sounds simple, it actually plays out in very complex battles of moving around while blocking/dodging the other guys attacks and timing yours just right to take the other guy out. It's a very easy system to pick up on, but it takes quite some time to master. Also factor in different class levels and you can have some really tough battles going.

As was stated before, you can't change your hand to hand combat weapon, but you can improve it as well as your characters abilities. This is done by a levels system, much like you would find in an RPG. You gain Experience points for doing many different things, helping your commander build buildings, engaging in combat with other players, or killing NPCs. Leveling up plays a big big big role in Savage. While you can buy better classes, you can far improve upon these classes and make them far more powerful if you level up. When playing the game, you will notice a dark blue bar on the screen, this is your XP meter. Each time you fill that bar to the top, you level up one level. At each level up, you gain something new. At first, the gains are pretty small, like added skills in laboring. But as you make your way to the higher up levels, you gain very useful and important things like an improved hand weapon that does much more damage, or higher stamina. The whole XP system really adds a ton of depth to the game and is kind of like a game within the game. Since the players with the higher XP levels are much more powerful and can take out the other players with lower XP levels quite easily.

All of this combat takes place on one of the games 11 massive levels. And when I say massive, that is exactly what I mean, we are talking BF 1942 size here folks. Each one of the levels is highly detailed and pretty varried from the next. Ranging from tropical islands to dense forests to snow covered passes, this game has a wide variety of locations. Each level has it's own advantages and disadvantages as well.

The graphics engine itself is not really that impressive, as it is not pushing all that many polygons nor is it using any more advanced features like bump mapping or normal mapping to add extra detail in. But what makes up for this is the incredible lighting system they are using as well as the art style. The lighting in the game, as I am sure you have noticed in the screens, is beautiful. As you battle on the maps, the time of day changes as does the lighting. It is a sight to behold as the lighting changes in real time though out the world. The art style used by the artist is very well done too, all of the trees and models, while not pushing 1000's upon 1000's of polygons, look fantastic. And even though the grass is 2d sprite based and not 3d quad based, it still looks great and really helps bring the world alive even more. The game does run pretty smooth though, even with 64 people per server, which is the max number Savage supports. This is easily one of the more impressive looking PC games out there to date.

The sound effects in the game are pretty standard, nothing really amazing about them but at the same time nothing is really bad about them either. On the other hand, the music in the game is some of the best you will ever hear. It sets the mood perfectly and fits the action great. It also dynamic and will change on the fly. From a peaceful tune while you are working in your base, to a quicker, more urgent beat in times of heavy combat and action. Music wise, it doesn't get much better then this.

In the end, Savage is an amazingly well thought out game, that has come together nearly flawlessly. The game is extremely balanced, no matter what side your on. It's action is fast pace and fun, but with enough depth to keep you from getting bored and to make you come back for more and more. Besides combining RTS with 3rd person combat with a first person shooter, S2 games also was able to toss in some RPG elements with a very well done leveling system. This game truly has something for just about everyone, no matter what genre you prefer. But be sure you remember this is an ONLINE ONLY game, there is no single player or off-line play what so ever. Also due to the quick timing needed during combat, this is one that the 56kers might have some problems with. The game runs like a dream on a broad band line though, with hardly any problems with lag, even with a full server of 64 people. If you have been looking for a new game to play on-line, they don't come much better then this. With the average match time lasting around an hour, this one will keep you busy for many months, if not longer.

Score: 9.0/10

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