Across the void of….Hull, thence came critters from the stars.
Petroglyph dish up some RTS mayhem for our delights.
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Universe at War: Earth Assault
Not sure how the Universe being at war has much baring on the rest of the game, but semantics aside, this new RTS from Petroglyph tries to breathe new life into the tired genre by giving you not two, but three different races to play with while you struggle for dominance of old Terra.
With the multiple races on offer here, there’s enough variety in the game to keep anyone happy, with the massive differences in play styles it’s clear that some real effort has been made to try and move on from the classic C&C style of base building, with some superb tactical differences between the 3 races. The techno-manic Novus can wire up the map with an internet like web and spread their resources to tactically sound positions, phoning their troops down the lines to where they’re needed. The brutal Hierarchy, on the other hand, move their troops in vast walking fortresses, spewing out ugly multi-pedal hominids and War of the Worlds style tripods to purify the galaxy through holocaustic extermination. Then there’s the Aztec-like Masari, who turn up part-way through the game to provide the old staple of base-building that will seem all too familiar. Each faction manages to bring something to the game and in the case of the Novus and Hierarchy offer real new ways to challenge the player into learning to cope in emergencies.
Sadly the ingenuity is trampled down by the single player campaign, which drags the player through some weak missions one faction at a time in order to tell a dull narrative that adds nothing to the enjoyment, and actually becomes boring, as every time you feel you’re getting somewhere the game yanks the rug out from your feet and puts you in charge of a new race. Right at the bottom of the ladder. Adding to this the lack of proper tutorials in favour of a few unhelpful videos and an intro-sequence which looks so much better than the game itself that including it as a menu option feels like an insult.
It’s a pretty and decent enough scrap in multiplayer, but once you’ve ploughed through the ham-fisted story mode you might be too put off to bother which is a crying shame, as the thought that’s gone into this game is more than you get in most other releases. The multiplayer and skirmish options mean that there is a far better chance to enjoy the new tactics and weapons, but the real gravy comes from the world dominating campaign options where you can run a continued battle with on-line or computer-controlled foes in a long battle to win all of the segments of the globe. Had the game been built primarily around this and the weak story-mode forgotten it might have been more, but as it stands it falls short of being one of the great gems of Real Time Strategy genre.