Since the dawn of computers (well … 1995) worms have been popping up on each and every platform known to mankind, locked in an endless war. However it’s been many years since they popped their squidgy but helmeted heads onto the PC and now, obviously under the advice of Sarah Palin, they’ve not retreated but reloaded set to wage their spineless battles again on the desktop computer. The last Worms PC game was released in a pre-Steam world and the gaming scene has changed so much, so will they emerge victoriously? Read on to find out…
Armada 2526 is a turn based strategy game and upon first view this appears to be ‘Civilization IV in space’. The premise being to colonize different planets whilst managing research and diplomacy before engaging in warfare against other races.
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There are seventeen different races that can be played each with their own slight differences giving different strengths and weaknesses which gives it an ongoing playability factor with each game having a slightly different feel. However unlike Civilization the number of scenarios that you can play in is quite limited, there are only 4 one of which is the tutorial, which reduces the scope for different tactics to be employed which damages the re playability of the game.
As with Civilization the game starts with a bit of a gold rush where players attempt to grab as many of the free star systems as possible to give them better opportunity for resource. Unlike Civilization the resources available at each system are limited in their scope which reduces the tactical element of which systems to go for first. Some are more hostile than others making things more expensive and some have asteroid belts that can be mined but there is none of the complexity that Civilization delivers. For example which resources you have managed to obtain as no effect on the tech tree and what units you can use or technologies you can research.
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In the same way as in Civilization there is a trade off between routes through the game depending on choice of buildings and research options. For example you could place emphasis on mining to generate cash or technology that speed up growth, or you could research weapons and build ships with a view to warfare against your neighbors. This choice matters and has a marked effect on the game as concentrating on one area to the exclusion of the others will come back and bite you as you start to run of cash of planetary populations start rioting.
The game is quite absorbing whilst not being up to the standard of Civilization however there are a number of things that less this game down of which the primary one is the interface. The various pop up screens that are activated by selecting radial buttons for research and construction are not movable on the screen and only one can be opened at a time. Which means there is a lot of opening and closing as you move backward and forward from the research screen to the map screen and back and similarly with the system view where buildings and ships can be created. These screens are all interlinked and the game can get quite complex in the same way that Civilization can and not being able to compare the contents of these screens at the same time means that you’re constantly having to try and remember the content of one screen whilst flicking to the next. There were also some graphical glitches on some of the buttons when you hovered them which made the game feel a little unpolished. the other issue with the interface is that whilst it is functional it is not particularly pretty and fails to make you want to play the game. Due to the nature of the game you spend a lot of time staring at this interface and it could do with being cleaner and better designed.
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Another issue is the tutorial, this is quite a difficult game to just pick up and play out of the box and as a result needs a good tutorial to lead you into it. Whilst the tutorial does cover all the major areas of the game mechanics it doesn’t allow you to do things as you read often a tutorial box pops up which can be several pages which gives you a lot of information. You have to remember quite a lot of content before you can get back to the game-play and try out what you have just read which means that you are constantly have to refer back to the in-game advice as you have forgotten something in the three pages of tutorial blurb you have to just had to try and remember.
Lastly the warfare mechanism is a bit pointless. The game loads a separate battle arena around a planet in the same way that the total war series does but unfortunately the comparison ends there. This could have been used to give the game a different dimension to make it something special. Unfortunately the tactics are limited to what formations you have you ships in (a choice of 3) and how you group your ships, other than that it is purely a matter of which types of units you bring to the party and how many. There is little opportunity for clever play resulting in you beating a more numerous opponent. It would have been nice if the system you were fighting in had some sort of effect on the battle itself, possibly the planets magnetic field effecting different ships in different ways. This area of the game seems pointless and I quickly resorted to just auto completing the battles I fought as to do otherwise just results in additional load times as the battel arena is switched to. The other thing which lets this area down is it is quite poor graphically, again if this was better then you may enter the battle scenes purely for the spectacle but this is just another factor contributing to the pointlessness of this area of the game.
Overall the game is quite absorbing and once you mastered the tutorial, started auto completing the battles, and have got to grips with the interface is enjoyable. However the down sides to this game hinder the enjoyment. Never the less if you enjoyed the Civilization series and are looking for something a little different then you will probably get some mileage out of this game. However if you are new to genre then I recommend waiting for Civilization V due out next month as it is likely to be a much better game given that Civ IV which is now quite an old game managed to better in may areas than Armada 2526.
Sudogamer scores it 6/10.
I was 10 when Alien Breed came out for the PC (2 years after the Amiga release), and I can just about remember playing it at a friends house. It was great. Hugely playable, ‘arcadey’ and satisfying. Alien Breed was release to critical acclaim, it was an important release. One can clearly see its influence in ID Software’s Doom (1994).
I believe a big problem with Team 17’s re-release; “Alien Breed: Impact” lies in our expectations. In the early nineties we didn’t care much for cohesive, compelling story-lines, ‘next-gen’ graphics etc, it was playable fun titles that utilised the meager horsepower of our PC’s (or Amigas) that drew crowds.
So to release a remake of a top-down mindless Aliens-themed shooter in 2010 and for it to be relevant and popular with today’s gamers is a difficult task, and for me it falls short.
Presentation-wise the Unreal 3 engine looks nice, really nice. The environments are appropriately strewn with space debris, and there’s are plenty of nice looking ‘triggered’ explosions and “cave-ins” occurring throughout.
The graphics aren’t a million miles from a top-down Doom 3. The light-mapping is great, when you shine your torch down a corridor or through a broken window its casts a great eerie shadow of the objects blocking the light. Its a nice touch that often overlooked in big-budget titles.
In fact a Doom 3 comparison is an apt place to talk about some of the short-comings of Alien Breed: Impact.
It feels like lots of work was put into a tidy looking game engine, the controls (and on the controls; bonus points for having the 360 controller work ‘out of the box’ including rumble), and the sound. Which all exceeded my expectations. But they forgot about the game.
The game play just wasn’t fun for me, or satisfying. The only intro to the game you get is a couple of (pretty poor) comic slides, then you’re straight into the action. And by ‘action’, I mean collecting diary logs (like Doom 3), and looking for key-cards. It isn’t edge-of-your-seat stuff. At least in Doom 3 (which was also key-card and diary collecting) it had the genuinely creepy / jumpy moments that kept your pressing on.
While writing this review, I actually got a couple of hours into the game and had to restart because I got stuck. How infuriating? I’d be happy to take the blame for simply being shit at the game, but I wasn’t stuck because of a tough boss or from running out of ammo. It was because I had missed a key-card, a faintly illuminated object on one of the samey rooms in level. The in-game map is no help at all; it implies some rooms are joined that aren’t joined and vice-versa.
You can search the various human corpses littered throughout the levels to collect money, and there’s also random ‘piles’ of cash dotted around too. Annoyingly you have to press and hold on each corpse / locker for a few seconds to ‘search’, which gets tiresome pretty quickly. Money allows you to buy upgrades and ammo for your weapons. This feels like a missed opportunity, because the upgrades just weren’t imaginative or significant enough to make you want to bother. I ended up just buying ammo and saving the game, which led to a small rejoice as a save-point was an excuse to quit out and take a break.
I didn’t get the opportunity to play any co-op during my time playing Alien Breed: Impact, but I guess the potential might be there with some more imaginative level designs and puzzle-based bosses.
This re-release of Alien Breed is episodic. I guess we should hope for better from the following iterations, or perhaps a re-think at the pricing, at £12.99 on steam its definitely one people will put off buying until a Steam Sale.
I first saw Alien Breed: Impact demoed at the Eurogamer roadshow in Leeds, a guy from Team 17 came along and showed some footage, and spoke of why the game was so important to them. I recall him saying some pilot ideas had been thrown around in the years leading up to this release but were disregarded for various reasons. I wish this had been worked on a little longer, as its repetition and unimaginative game-play forces me to mark it down somewhat.
Verdict: Polished use of the Unreal 3 engine, good presentation – poor game-play, and level design.
5 out of 10.