Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Black Hole Games
Release Date: November 30, 2004
Buy 'ARMIES OF EXIGO': PC
Both Armies of Exigo and Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth, two new real-time-strategy games, were launched by Electronic Arts at remarkably similar launch dates – just about a week apart from each other, really. And while Armies of Exigo managed to launch first, it’s been obviously ignored by the public, especially since that big-name game launched shortly thereafter. Perhaps surprisingly, Armies is not a bad RTS at all – it’s pretty good, in fact. While it certainly doesn’t revolutionize the genre, it’s a great title for fans of it.
Naturally, there are a few warring factions. In Armies, there are the the Empire, the Beasts, and the Fallen. The Empire consists of your basic generic human and elf type. The Beasts are a bit more creative, sporting some diabolical looking armor over their grisly dark skins. The Fallen are something of a buggy, alien race that spend a lot of their time underground. While all three sides don’t sport a particularly impressive number of units – a little over a dozen for each – they all are well balanced.
Strategy is key, of course. Taking up some basic units from the Empire against some from the Beasts will probably be suicide; flanking the Beasts with a couple specialized units will probably cause them to urinate in their suits of armor. The AI is generally decent. For the most part, your units will organize themselves into intelligent formations, with long-range soliders in the back and more better-armored drones in the front. Or if you’re playing on the Fallen side, you might be able to upgrade your units with wings and have them swoop in and infect enemy troops with some handy-dandy poison. Pretty nifty.
Gathering resources is one of those things that isn’t particularly enjoyable, but seems to be required until some developer can come up with a better idea. The developers of Armies of Exigo aren’t those guys. The game offers up wood, gold, and gems, each with their own important uses, and without enough of them you’re bound to be in a tight situation. Although there are a couple of extremely frustrating missions you’re bound to come across, the folks at Black Hole were kind enough to give you at least enough material to get the mission accomplished – but little more than that. Be prepared to protect your base constantly while your worker bees gather up the moolah for your next big purchase.
There is a cool element of the game that involves underground caverns. This is fitting, seeing as the Fallen make these their homes, although any race can use the underground for whatever they see fit. Thankfully, traversing between it and the overworld is easy as cake: the minimap can be switched to either above-ground or below-ground with a quick tap of the Tab button, and with a unit or a group of units selected you simply right-click on the opposite mini-map to make them move vertically. Assuming they are near an opening in the ground, they’ll emerge quickly – if not, they’ll have to rummage about before arriving at their destination. This is a cool feature and lends itself to the strategy of the game nicely. It is much appreciated.
The game offers up an interface that is easy enough to use, if not perfect. The menu at the bottom is a wee bit cluttered, but it isn’t hard to figure out how to do something. Imagine Starcraft’s interface with a few more buttons and the ability to combine multiple groups of units into huge groups and bind them to certain keys for easy selection. The basics are covered as well: double clicking a unit to select all of its kind, and things in that vein. Strangely, the camera can quickly be moved by holding the mousewheel and nudging the mouse, but not rotated – which is a shame, having a 3D game like this.
The graphics in the game are very, very nice. If you want a strategy game to show off your new computer’s power, this may well be it. There is a ridiculous amount of detail in the game, and it’s never static. Trees sway realistically alongside oozy shadows that give you the real feeling of travelling through a forest. Birds fly across here and there, bugs or other little crittles scuttle along the ground and offer up more immersion. Animation is excellent, too. While the whole “I’ll just swing my sword from a distance and look, I’m hitting you!” sarcastic feeling is definitely still evident in combat, your troops look simply great when running or doing other tasks.
The sound in the game is very good, as well. There’s a subtle soundtrack accompanying you the entire time, but it really ramps up when a fight or important event arises, and gets you in the mood. Sound effects are more than adequate, with your standard clicks and grunts and swishes and fire cracklings. The voice work is certainly the least impressive of all the aural pieces. Quite frankly, it’s not great – when it’s decent, it sounds pretentious, and when it’s bad it simply is bad. It doesn’t help that the dialogue isn’t that great to begin with.
The most disappointing thing about Exigo is that the gameplay just isn’t all that exiting. Everything looks nice and is well-balanced, but there’s little here that hasn’t been done before. Excluding the underground part of the game, there’s almost nothing. Still, though, the game is a lot of fun. It can be very challenging. It’s well-balanced enough to be worthy of a play-through or two. The units can be interesting, even if there isn’t an overly large number of them. And the campaign is engaging enough to offer up a fair emount of pleasure, with a multiplayer mode to back it up. For the casual gamer, it may not be worth viewing, but this game is definitely asking for a second look with the strategy enthusiast crowd.
More articles about Armies of Exigo