Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Developer: Left Behind Games
Release Date: Q4 2006
From Troy Lyndon, the developer of the original John Madden Football, comes a new RTS set in the universe of the hit Christian book series, "Left Behind." Lyndon, who has served the ministry for a number of years and has a track record full of game development and managerial experience, is perhaps the perfect choice for executing the new Christian-driven game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces. Without the religious theme, Eternal Forces would have been a solid RTS with some interesting gameplay mechanics and a very well-recreated Manhattan setting. The Christian theme, however, will no doubt play a large role in the marketing of the title as well as the gameplay, and it will likely determine whether or not you'd be interested in the game.
Left Behind: Eternal Forces uses Manhattan as the stage to tell its story in the post-Rapture/pre-Apocalypse world of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' "Left Behind" book series. The Rapture has already occurred, sending a large chunk of the world's population to heaven in the blink of an eye and leaving behind the rest of humanity to pick up the pieces. As per the book series' interpretation of the Book of Revelations, the Global Community is born under the leadership of the Antichrist, Nikolai Carpathian. You control the Tribulation Forces, whose role is to attempt to thwart the will of the Antichrist on Earth and perhaps earn their way into heaven by converting as many people as possible to the side of "good," and wiping out the unrepentant when necessary. The Global Community would prefer if the Tribulation Forces were all dead, so their goal is much simpler.
Eternal Forces has all of the standard features of an RTS. You control your units from a top-down viewpoint, and have a mix of units which do many different things. You'll have disciples, doctors, builders, bankers, musicians, and, of course, soldiers. You'll attempt to gather as many resources as possible – money, food and housing – and will buy up a bunch of buildings in downtown Manhattan to use for your various purposes, such as tech buildings that can research new technologies, or banks, which provide income.
Manhattan has been recreated quite well, with over 600 blocks having been photographed and used to accurately render the city within the game world. If you live there or are at all familiar with the city, you'll probably get a kick out of finding buildings you recognize within the game. This is a cool concept and a nifty synthesis of technologies – a way to combine the ever-more-awesome mapping techniques we've come to enjoy in such applications as Google Earth with more conventional game designs.
The single-player game will offer only the side of good as playable, but both the Tribulation Forces and the Global Community will be playable in multiplayer games, where the objective is to capture territory from other players. The forces of evil mirror the forces of good, with the notable difference that the abilities of evil will decrease spirit, while those of good raise spirit (except for killing, which lowers spirit, no matter what). Additionally, evil units can curse to lower their spirit, while good units can pray to increase it. The evil player needs to be careful to not allow spirit to fall too low, however, or else demons will begin appearing, malevolent beings that will first slaughter the good guys and then turn around and slaughter evil units as well – causing any victory to be Pyrrhic at best.
Violence is present in Eternal Forces but not gratuitous – more of a "Star Wars" style of conflict. There are guns and tanks and people die, but there is no blood or gore at all; people just collapse and then disappear. In some ways, the absence of violence truly can be more desensitizing than blatantly showing the reality of the consequences. "Star Wars" makes combat look cool, like going on an adventure, while "Saving Private Ryan" makes you never want to experience war firsthand and respect those who have survived it.
Left Behind: Eternal Forces is an interesting title, and it's quite likely that it will also be a controversial one. I have no doubt that it will sell well, especially to Christian gamers and fans of the book series. As an RTS, it looks promising and innovative, exhibiting some ideas that I've never seen before, but whether or not this game manages to break through the secular barrier remains to be seen.
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