Ever been in one of those heated RTS battles where you wish you had an awesome weapon to throw at the enemy and end it all? How about throwing a tornado at his advancing air force? Or spawning an earthquake under his happy little army? That's exactly what you can do, according to Kalypso, in their upcoming RTS, Elements of War, which is set for release later this March.
Elements of War takes global climate change to a new level, as it's the core of the game's backstory. In the not-so-distant future, the U.S. starts experimenting with climate control, and as with every other bad idea in history, it backfires. The U.S. is essentially destroyed by Mother Nature's vengeance, and is left with a "hyper-cyclone" hovering over the heartland. The rest of the world echoes a collective "What the ...?" and leaves us to our fate — until global weather patterns start changing. Europe and Russia send over an expeditionary force to figure out what's going on, and that's where the fun begins.
Technically, the fun actually begins before the expeditionary force arrives, with the game casting you in the role of a military commander battling the Ravens, former military forces who are up to no good. Along the way, you discover the Ravens have captured some very experimental and hi-tech weaponry, which you need to recapture to prevent the naughty Ravens from doing naughty things to the general populace. You start battling it out through some wild urban wastelands to take back those units. Later in the game, the European Expeditionary Forces arrive, and you'll also play as them, so you'll have a whole new mix of units to command.
The battles showed off a mix of the conventional units in the game (helis, infantry, tanks, etc., all based on contemporary units), along with some of the "next-generation" stuff, which included a VTOL aircraft that annihilates the enemy with ball lightning, a roving EMP vehicle, and some exoskeleton units. Many units in the game, from the basic infantryman to the awesome weather weapons, feature secondary attacks, with the goal of letting you play much more tactically than the standard "build a ton of armor units and rush" format of most RTS games. The game also features a useful function where you can pause, queue up some moves and attacks, unpause and let the battle continue. This could be helpful in heated battles when you're trying to manage troops, select targets and make the most of your secondary attacks.
From what we saw in the demo, the game looks pretty solid. The cut scenes and environments aren't perfect, but the units look great. Zooming in on a tank, for example, lets you get an up-close view of its damage and unit decals. Small things, like watching repairmen jump out of their unit and start working on a damaged unit, are welcome additions — though a little crazy to see in a heated battle.
As with most modern RTSes, Elements of War shuns base-building and instead drops you right into the action. Each checkpoint or new mission rewards you with Tactical Points, which can be spent on requesting air-dropped reinforcements. An interesting side note: Because weather is so important to the game, it can affect things like reinforcements. For example, we were shown a segment of a heated battle where the presenter couldn't receive new units because a dynamically generated thunderstorm had moved in. Until it rolled out, it prevented air drops — thus no reinforcements. The weather doesn't feel "cheap" though; it's more natural and dynamic and doesn't seem to be scripted throughout the missions.
Though Elements of War looks like it could be a lot of fun, it suffers from a lack of multiplayer, which may turn off possible buyers. What good is having a lighting-throwing fleet of planes when you can't sic them on your best friend? The game will not carry a full price; instead, Kalypso is looking to release it digitally and in stores for $29.99.
From what we've seen so far, Elements of War looks like it could be a good bet for RTS fans who are looking for something new that isn't too "out there." The mix of contemporary and near-future units will keep would-be commanders on their toes as they slaughter their foes on this futuristic battlefield.
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