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Heroes of Annihilated Empires Review

The undead have risen and are once again trying to take over the world.They have destroyed to City of Dawn, the city of the elves, and… waitdoes this sound familiar to anyone? Heroes is the first part of a trilogy.

The basic story is tried and true and reminds me of all the fantasygames and books I’ve read. There’s a war between light and dark and apowerful mage who held the balance between good and evil, as he was theguardian of the “World Crown.” Well, this guy, Octon, realizes thatsince he’s going to die pretty soon, the crown in the wrong hands couldlead to devastation. So he hides it and promptly disappears. With hisdisappearance, the different legions try to vie for power. The undead,in a different approach, search for the crown. They are mindlesskilling machines and will stop at nothing to find the crown. You startthe game in the middle of the Elven city being destroyed. And there’sthe story. You have to save the world from the Undead and eventuallytrack down this crown. One crown to rule them all…

Game play
The developers market the game as being RTS or RPG. In thebeginning you can choose which mode you want to go into: skirmish orcampaign. The campaign mode runs more along the lines of Diablo or Neverwinter Nightsand is allegedly a blend of RTS and RPG. You start as Elhant, a ratherrude and obnoxious main character. He never listens to orders andattempts to show that he is in fact the strongest fighter in all theland by trying to defeat the undead army single handedly. His characteris a nice change of pace from the usual RPG heroes who are a bit tooobedient. The other NPCs are quite boring and stereotypical, but theconversations with Elhant make them more dynamic. In the campaign mode,there are 16 different missions that take you to underground caverns,woodlands, forests -- basically any common fantasy location, Heroesincorporates into the storyline. There are pretty standard battleswhere you fight back the armies of the undead with the army you findscattered throughout the area (pretty convenient). These missions arefairly long and involved, but the point of the mission is lost amidstthe immediate goal. You will generally get a couple lines of dialoguetelling you what you need to do, but why you need to complete thesemissions and the reasoning behind them is lost on me. The game could bea bit more specific.

There are some RTS elements within the campaign mode as well thatadd a nice twist to the gaming experience. In one section, you employfairies to build houses, mines, and training houses, etc. to defendyour territory from the undead and goblins. As your army grows innumber, the number of undead attacking your base increases as well, soit may not always be advantageous to create a massive army to go afterthe undead. You can even beat a large army with a small number of men.All you need to do is flee from them. Eventually they will stopfollowing you and return to their post. As they are returning you canattack them; they won’t come after you until they have reached theirprior position. Another nice thing is that some of the enemies won’tattack you unless you attack them. So you can bypass a lot of enemiesand you save yourself some men and health as well.

Duringthe campaign mode, there are several monster generators that you shoulddestroy immediately. As the computer does not need to collect resourcesto generate the undead, they can create endless waves of the undeadthat will eventually break through your forces. There’s no realstrategy since you are not facing against other bases. It would havebeen a nice addition to the RTS part of the game to actually have somefull-scale wars going on rather than just attacking specific points.

So what is the RPG element of the game? Well there’s the storyline.Okay, okay, that was just a joke. Like most RPGs, when you kill enemiesyou gain experience points. With these experience points you are giventwo options of what to upgrade. It can either be health, attack range,attack power, health regeneration, mana, or mana regeneration. If youdon’t know what mana is, that’s magic power, kids. There are more, butthey are pretty numerous. These of course allow you to become moreresistant to attacks, increase health, and so forth. Besides this, theitems you equip also affect your stats. There are benefits anddrawbacks to each piece of equipment. For example, it may increase yourhealth, but will decrease your speed. You will spend a lot of timetinkering with your armor to get just the right balance. Finally, youcan refine your skills even more by finding or buying some spell cards.There are over 50 total spells, so there’s quite a lot of variety tochoose from. As you level up, the spells become stronger and may evengain some additional features. With each spell, there is a differentduration between spell uses. Some will take longer than others untilyou can use them again. Each spell also lasts for different durationsof time. But as you level up they will last longer.

The skirmish mode is where you get to choose whether to play withjust the Hero unit or sacrifice the hero to develop workers. Inessence, this is where you get to choose to play as an RPG or as anRTS. You can choose from four different classes: Undead, Mechanicians,Cyros, and Elves. For the RTS element, it follows the same conventionsas any RTS. You need to gather resources, increase military, buildhouses, and so forth. The RPG section is which plays similar to thecampaign mode. You go and attack enemies and recruit allies to fightagainst the rest of the map. The problem with this section is the lackof maps. There are only three maps to choose from. This may be okay forthe single player, but when you connect with the multi-player, the lackof choices is even more obvious.

Asfar as replay is concerned, there is the skirmish mode, but it’s justnot really interesting enough to play over and over again. There needsto more selection and be more open-ended. As it is, the game is reallylinear, albeit difficult to understand the point of the missions. All Iknow is that I need to kill those undead armies before they kill me.Hopefully the sequel will get rid of some of these complaints.

Audio
In regards to the voice acting, some of it is okay and some of itis pretty horrible. Everyone in the game also seems to have a strangeaccent; it seems almost as though they might be Irish, but that’s justme. What really bothered me was the fact that the conversations kept ongoing even when I closed the dialogue box. It would have been nice toeither mute the dialogue or have them stop talking when the box wasclosed. As it is, the voices keep on going far after you have alreadyread what they have said. And in the cases when you have conversationswith the Treants, who talk very slowly, the conversation continues farpast what I feel is acceptable. The background music is decent,although it reminds me of music from the Lord of the Rings. You know, that part when all the Elves are leaving Rivendell? Well, it sounds exactly like that.

Graphics
The scenery is actually quite beautiful. There is a lot of detailin the environment, and the character movement and facial expressionsare natural and expressive. The CG sections of the story are well doneand help to tie in the story and mission, making the story a bit morecohesive. During battle though, when you have a lot of units on thescreen, there is a bit of slow down. When you zoom in as well thearmies are not as detailed as they could be. The character designs areforgettable and typical fantasy creatures that don’t stand out fromother video games. Maybe if they actually created different types ofcreatures rather than just having the hackneyed elves and goblins thenthe game may be a bit more interesting. Again, it seems that the game wants to be another Lord of the Rings.I mean come on, one crown that grants power, orcs and treants, elvesversus the undead. There’s even a tower in the skirmish mode, if youplay as undead, that looks exactly like Sauron’s tower; yes, even withthe eye on top. Perhaps the worst, and strangest, parts of the graphicsare the comic panels. It almost seems that the developers got lazy orran out of money and used their storyboard rather than animating thecomic scenes. Had they actually decided to animate the scenes, itprobably would have made the game that much better.

Overall
It’s not a horrible game, but it’s not a great game either. Like so much of the game, graphics, and story, Heroesis a mediocre experience. There is no innovation in terms of characterdesign or storyline, but it can be fun as you go about and destroyhordes of the Undead. My advice, if you really want a good RTS, get Starcraft or World of Warcraft.Maybe the sequel will be better, but unless they make some drasticchanges, I won’t be waiting for the other two installments to come out.

"Heroes of Annihilated Empires" is on sale November 15, 2006 and is rated . .

Dec
06
2006

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