The nature of Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising
is not immediately apparent. What starts out as a simple real-time strategy game evolves into something somewhere between tactical action and an RTS. You've got the resource-gathering and unit production of the RTSes, but the ability to control each unit on your own [which is sometimes necessary] and the solo unit AI makes for a decidedly unique experience. While the computer AI has some really, really stupid problems, and you'll find yourself frustrated with both it and the interface more often than I'd like, in the end Hostile Waters
is one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had on a computer in a while.
The plot of the game is intruiging. It's 2032, and war no longer exists. Nanotechnology is used to create food, clothes, and goods for everyone, elminating the need for money. People live in harmony, breathing clean air and getting along peacefully in a large world government. Unfortunately, many of the power moguls who controlled the War in 2012 have been holed up somewhere, and they've decided to start striking back, launching missiles at various strategic targets around the world in an attempt to take the peaceful planet over.
The Antaeus was the prototype of a series of massive sea vessels, capable of producing weapons of war using nanotechnology. Another, more secret part of the Antaeus experiment was the use of Soulcatcher technology. Whenever a crewman died in service on the Antaeus, their memories and abilities were captured inside a chip. The reborn Antaeus uses these chips as pilots: basically, immortal heroes.
Each of the characters in the game has their strengths and weaknesses. Put Ransom, the crazy pilot, into a tank and he'll bitch and moan; throw him in a heli and he's ready to rock. They also act differently. Ransom has a very bad habit of charging out in the middle of a firefight and getting blown to smithereens; other characters play it more cautiously. All the time, they banter back and forth, giving status reports and complimenting each other.
You start off with a barely-working cruiser. As the game progresses, you gain more vehicles, more Soulcatcher chips [and therefore pilots], more add-ons to put in the vehicles, and so on. The add-ons are a very neat touch: you can adjust both the weapon loadout and the special abilities of any vehicle, customizing it for the task at hand. Everything costs energy, measured in eJ; a unit called the Scarab can be equipped with a reclaiming device that converts any and all scrap metal on the battlefield into energy for use by the cruiser. It reminded me a little of Sacrifice and its souls: each add-on costs a certain amount of energy, as does each vehicle.
The game itself can be controlled from either the Warroom or the main screen. The Warroom is a 3D grid map of the entire area. You can order the units around, group them, and so on in this view. The game starts to play in real time when you jump to the main screen, and you can watch the action from any of your unit's vantage points. If you think they're not doing a good job, you can even take control of their vehicle and try it yourself. Some of the tasks, like sniping, require this sort of control.
Hostile Waters plays itself out across a number of islands, and as it goes a rather intriguing storyline comes to bear. I won't ruin it for you, but suffice it to say that everything is not as it seems. The sense of progression in the game is truly impressive; you'll want to get to the next mission to see what sorts of neat new units you gain and to watch the plot progress.
The game sports no multiplayer functionality, which may irritate some people, but there's enough here to last you a long time in single-player.