Developer: Frozen Codebase
Release Date: June 18, 2008
One of the coolest figures in all literature, film and gaming is the mad scientist. This diabolical genius, gifted with a brain the size of a Buick and the propensity to use his abilities for destruction and chaos, makes the cackling crackpot a very worthy character indeed. In most instances, the madman must be stopped, and it is up to some dashing and brave hero to save the day. Elements of Destruction flips the script, though, casting you as the brainiac scorned, swearing to get your revenge on those who have wronged you. The result is a madcap adventure in weather manipulation that will leave you feeling like a total badass.
Elements of Destruction casts you as Edgar Herbert, a devoted scientist who has spent the past 60 years working diligently on behalf of the AIC. Edgar is happy in his work researching methods to control weather and thereby weaken the harmful effects of natural disasters, until one day the AIC fires him, steals his ideas and throws him onto the street with nothing. Obviously, this sort of indignity cannot stand, and Edgar quickly hatches a plan to get back at those who have taken away his life's work and left him broken and alone.
It just so happens that Edgar has under his control a remote control weather device that allows him to summon lightning strikes, earthquakes and even tornadoes on demand. Using this machine, he intends to strike back at the corporation that ruined his life, obliterating its offices and wrecking its defenses all in the name of revenge. This setup serves as the backdrop for the game, which is about utterly wrecking everything you can as quickly as possible. It's not as if you needed any reason to use the forces of nature to decimate a city, but at least now you can do it all with a clear conscience since your mass chaos is all in the name of teaching an evil corporation a lesson.
As mentioned above, Edgar has the power to summon tornadoes, lightning bolts and earthquakes of varying intensity. Every element has its own unique command prompts, and once you select your disaster of choice, you have a few moments to attempt to maximize its power. Lightning strikes use a sort of power meter where you have to stop the cursor in the sweet spot in order to get the best strike, while earthquakes rely on you mashing the A button, and tornadoes call on you rotate the thumbstick in a circular manner to jump-start your cyclone. Earthquakes and tornadoes can also be intensified during the attack itself at the expense of extra energy, so if you really want to dig into a building or get a big tremor, the opportunity is definitely there. The added mechanics draw you a little further into the game and bump it up a notch from a boring point-and-click affair.
Each level has a number of set objectives, such as wiping out a certain number of buildings or taking out specific targets, as well as an overall destruction goal (expressed in dollar amounts), which you must try and achieve within a certain time frame. However, don't think that you can just kick back and blow up buildings at your leisure, as the AIC won't take your attacks lying down. In fact, the company has its own army of equipment designed to stop Edgar, and it won't be long before tanks, jets and mechs show up to try and ruin your fun. The enemy also employs specific structures intended to render your skills useless, so whenever you see a Tesla Tower (which will draw your lighting strikes away from a target and absorb them into itself), you'll know that you need to bring it down with an earthquake or tornado before you can effectively wipe out the surrounding structures. The experience ultimately culminates in a Rock-Paper-Scissors effect, and part of the Elements of Destruction's challenge is learning which types of attacks are effective against certain buildings and enemy units. This mechanic, combined with the fact that you have to effectively manage your time between beating back the bad guys and taking out targets, make for a frantic, exhilarating affair, perfect for a game all about causing mayhem.
After each mission, you earn research points that you can use to upgrade your attacks, and each element can be upgraded up to a maximum level of three. Now, that earthquake that used to only take out one house can ravage entire city blocks, and suddenly your tornado has the capability to rip down even the sturdiest of office buildings. The visual and audio effects of the elements are quite stunning, with each one sounding appropriately menacing and dangerous. When you deploy a level-three lightning strike, you don't get a weak little rumble of thunder. Oh no, what you end up with is a deafening peal, one that would very likely leave the troops who are fighting against you scrambling for cover and cowering like babies after the first blast.
Further adding to the ambiance are the voice acting snippets, each of which add a bit of life to the proceedings. Edgar's wild exclamations for "more destruction!" will leave you grinning wide, while AIC news reports and troop deployments will keep you cleverly updated about what to look out for next. The dialogue here is good, but Elements of Destruction definitely could have done with more to really keep things lively. As it stands, though, the comments that are in the game manage to stay out of the way, while still punctuating the levels with just a bit more personality than you'd expect in a title such as this.
Elements of Destruction boasts three single-player modes, with additional competitive and co-op multiplayer via Xbox Live. When flying solo, you can choose from the normal mode, or a free-for-all option where you can return to levels you've already finished and demolish the scenery at your own pace. Also, once you finish the game's normal mode (four levels with three stages each, including three boss fights), you can jump into Survivor mode, where you are tasked with replaying the levels with your energy constantly draining. This option means you've got to be quick and efficient when taking down targets, as well as do your best to stay out of your enemies' line of fire and effectively zip your way back to recharge stations when things start to get ugly.
Multiplayer allows you to get four people going in a competitive game, or two sharing the duties in co-op. These matches are all about how quickly you can reach your destruction targets and bringing along a friend or three to join you in mad scientist cackles and maniacal hand-rubbing. The multiple single-player modes as well as the complementary multiplayer fare mean this game has more girth to it than the average downloadable title, so you're definitely getting your money's worth.
Really, there are very few reasons not to recommend Elements of Destruction, and a lot of reasons to support the title. The single-player campaign is short, but it manages to stop before it gets tedious or trying. Also, the graphics are nothing special, but it's not an ugly game, either. While the landscapes are rather generic, the weather effects, especially those of the tornado, can be quite impressive. Besides, this is a game about using the effects of nature to strike back at the heart of corporate greed. How can you possibly not love that?