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Armies of Exigo

Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Black Hole Entertainment
Media: CD/2
Players: 1 - 12
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

At first look, Armies of Exigo doesnít look like much of a step forward for the RTS genre, and youíd be right. For the most part, Armies of Exigo is your standard, run of the mill RTS in the vein of StarCraft. Those who look a little deeper will find Armies of Exigo to be a polished game offering some neat little twists that, while not revolutionary, still add some interesting elements to the genre.

After an amazing CGI intro, Armies of Exigo breaks into an equally amazing looking game. Maps are big and full of areas to plan big bases or stage ambushes. The transition between above and below ground areas is also handled nicely. Unit design is pretty standard for fantasy-based RTSs, but I enjoyed the ďfullnessĒ of each character. Units are a little bigger than those found in other games and reminiscent of the painted models found in tabletop war games. Little details are also thrown in for good measure. One of the really impressive aspects of the entire presentation is that you can sometimes have up to 200 soldiers battling it out at once, resulting in epic conflicts.

Voice acting isnít the best Iíve heard, but it suffices and doesnít grate on your nerves. The musical score more than makes up for what is going on and helps to keep you in the game.


Gameplay:

Armies of Exigo takes place in the world of Noran where three factions, the Empire, Beasts, and Fallen, battle for control. The Empire is comprised of your typical fantasy elements like knights, elves, and other magical things, while the Beasts are a magical race with a big chip on their shoulder following their defeat to the Empire. The Fallen, which are made up of dark elves and fallen knights, hail from the subterranean depths of Noran, adding to the gameís twist.

The game essentially provides you with two battlefields, one above ground and one below. Imperial and Beast forces inhabit the aboveground areas while the Fallen lurk underground. Sections are connected by tunnels in which the Fallen can move above ground and other forces can use to enter underground areas. While not genre-busting innovation, the addition of an additional playing field does bring up some new strategies to consider. The most obvious is that instead of just fortifying your base, you must also search out and secure any tunnels -- attempting to control the flow of the Fallen out of their holes. Another consideration is that control of the tunnels is vital to gaining access to other areas of the map. In order to get your army from one base to another, you might have to navigate a tunnel to the other side. Tunnels can also make for good choke points or places to ambush from.

Outside tunnel navigation, Exigo plays much like your typical RTS. Three resources are available to collect: wood, gold and gems -- all of which help to create better armies and branching tech trees. Each side requires different amounts of resource and deal with development of infrastructures (troop creation, resource gathering, etc.) in their own ways. Each also has their own battle styles. The Empire draws mainly on military might, while the beasts can overwhelm with magical creatures like goblins and ogres. The Fallen are a bit trickier, relying on traveling underground to launch surprise attacks. Each side is well balanced for the most part, making strategy a big part in success.

A multiplayer mode is also available, but isnít all that impressive or engaging. Modes like King of the Hill and Capture the Flag are fun after a few games, but thereís very little to keep you coming back to play more, as was the case with StarCraft and even EAís own The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth.


Difficulty:

Missions are challenging, but nothing that canít be overcome with solid tactics. RTS veterans may find the game not as demanding as other games, but wonít emerge unscathed in the end. Learning each factionís strengths and weaknesses, as well as learning to control the tunnels, can go a long way.

Game Mechanics:

After reading about Armies of Exigoís dual-layered map system, images of control problems are probably running through your head. At least, that was the case when I first heard about it. Thankfully, switching between maps is handled by simply pressing the Tab key. Depending on which layer youíre focusing on, all of the controls will work for whatever is on that layer. Tabbing between layers, especially when trying to execute a complicated strategy for flushing out Fallen forces, takes some adjustment. Once you get the hang of it, the system works great.

Each factionís troops level up during battles. The Beasts and the Empire gain experience for surviving battles, making their forces stronger. The Fallen collect experience in a slightly different manner, giving them their main difference from the other two factions. With each unit the Fallen kill, a soul is collected in a Soul Trap. The number of souls collected translates into the amount of power Fallen forces have. The catch is that if the Soul Trap is destroyed, the Fallen lose their power.

While nothing truly notable, Armies of Exigo is still a great game that is likely to get lost in the Christmas rush. RTS fans looking for something more along the lines of StarCraft might want to check this one out.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium 4 1.5 GHz or better, 1.5 GB of HDD Space, 64 MB of VRAM, 384 MB of RAM, DirectX 9.0c
 

Test System:



Windows XP, Pentium 4 1.7 GHz, Radeon 9100 128 MB, 40 Gig HD, 640 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0c

Sony PlayStation 2 Lemony Snicketís A Series of Unfortunate Events Windows Homeworld: Game of the Year Edition

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated