- Page 1 Arena Wars
- Page 2 Arena Wars
As already mentioned, the way the unit hierarchy is designed forces an extended rock-paper-scissors arrangement. Spider units damage the Walker unit more than anything else, but are in turn damaged most by Berserker units. The Berserker however is most susceptible to Destroyer attacks, and so on. This can get frustrating when you have lots of one unit type and a nippy little Buggy zooms in, steals your flag, and takes a surprisingly small amount of damage for the effort. Covering all possibilities with one of each unit doesn’t leave you much to play with regarding reinforcements, and so having an effective army is partially guesswork. It does lead to some interesting conflicts however, and you quickly learn the value of thinking ahead.
One aspect I am pleased to report on is that Arena Wars doesn’t suffer in the customisation department. The developers have obviously sat through many meetings with one-another and worked out what exactly it is that RTS players need. The result: customisation options for almost everything. The ability to alter the entire keyboard control map is welcome, as is the large array of graphical options and toggles. Sound customisation is the usual, but with the surprise inclusion of not only a soundtrack browser in the style of Command & Conquer, but a custom MP3 player to add your own music.
For the creator in you there is a fully-fledged map editor, which provides the most enjoyable and simple editing experience since the C&C: Red Alert editor. Hills, valleys, objects, objectives and texturing are literally adjustable at the click of a few buttons. A hearty thanks to exDream for this feature.
Graphically, Arena Wars is not ground-breaking. It doesn’t possess any special visuals and reminds me of Warcraft 3 in terms of viewpoint, texturing and objects. Don’t get me wrong, Arena Wars by itself is a very attractive looking game, but taking into account the progress of visual technology, it’s quite mundane. Colour seems to be the word of the day, and there’s lots of it. With the graphical options up to maximum, the units themselves are reminiscent of the polygonal units in Total Annihilation, and are equally indistinguishable. Often in a large fight I found myself zooming in slightly to pinpoint a specific unit to control, which shouldn’t be necessary.
Control groups are supported of course, but you don’t really have time to sort these out if map control is on a knife edge. The interface in-game is nice and simple, and due to the low unit count, each unit is displayed along the top of the screen for at-a-glance evaluation.
The final feature that is worthy of note is the replay menu. Here you can play back previously recorded games with the challenging A.I. or with friends across the Internet or LAN. It certainly helps to see where you went wrong, and watching a replay of top-rated players can almost be as much fun as playing the game yourself.
So what are the major faults with this game? Well there’s really only one: it simply doesn’t stand out from the crowd. If you were to consider the entire strategy genre when comparing this game, it would be little more than ‘yet another RTS’ sitting in the background. Sure, it has many features that you wouldn’t find in other modern RTS games such as voice and web-cam support, or broadband-friendly UPnP NAT support, but fundamentally it doesn’t give that extra feeling of enjoyment that comes from a truly ground breaking title. I can’t help but think that the game play modes borrowed from the FPS genre are covering up what would otherwise be quite a dull experience. Furthermore, the familiar game style and the similarity to too many games before it means Arena Wars will not appeal to many RTS players on the look out for something different.
If you want another one month wonder to fill your shelf space, opt for Arena Wars, it certainly has enough to occupy you for that long, and the low price point makes it paletable as a fill-in game. But if you’re looking for something more than “just another RTS”, sadly Arena Wars is not it.