With so many sequels and rehashes flooding the game market, it's a real pleasure to play a unique game. That is precisely what Arena Wars is. Arena Wars is a fast paced real time strategy with a blend of action elements. Think Command and Conquer meets Unreal Tournament. It takes all the hassle of creating buildings, and researching abilities out and replaces it with fast paced action and power ups. The game, unfortunately, does have its flaws that keep it just shy of an amazing game.
The lack of story or background, while a little disappointing, isn't sorely missed and tends to fit the "right to the game" approach Arena Wars takes. The game has several different game modes; most of which you'll recognize immediately, including capture the flag, bombing run,and double domination. They all have the same objectives as games like Unreal Tournament. The gameplay itself is fairly straightforward, and after a brief but thorough tutorial you'll be set to play.
Each player starts with an indestructible base that will create your units. Creating them is very simple and fairly innovative. Players begin with $1000 and each of the 6 different units varies in price and abilities. Simply select the select the unit from the always present side bar to start the unit construction. After the unit is completed, it proceeds to a rally point and is ready for use. After the unit is destroyed, the cost of the unit is refunded to your account for creating additional units. This is a nice, simple, and innovative approach to keeping both sides fairly equal, and the army size reasonable. While moving your units to complete your objectives, you'll run into various item spawn points. These items can be vital to your success, perhaps too much so. There are a quite a large variety of items, everything from heath regenerators to items that will slow time for the enemy. Having the right items can often determine the outcome of the skirmishes. This emphasis on items seems a little overdone, unless of course you always seem to come out with the best items.
The single player version of the game is a great place to learn the map layouts and hone your skills before proceeding to what seems more of a multiplayer oriented game. Arena Wars will have you select one the several different gameplay modes and then pits you against the computer in various scenarios that will increase in difficulty. While these scenarios can be great for learning some effective unit techniques, they definitely won't prepare you for the rather challenging multiplayer community. This is, in large part, due to some poor AI. You will learn very early on that many times the enemy units will get stuck or take a route to attack that doesn't seem to make
much sense. This is unfortunate but doesn't take too much away from the fun.
The multiplayer, however, takes that poor AI out the equation. This is where the game really shines, especially when playing with friends on a LAN. If you're going to play on the net, however, you must perform a few chores first. To prevent piracy, you must enter your email and then enter the activation code that they send you, followed by your serial number that is immediately registered. While this does take a minute or two, it is relatively painless and I had no problems whatsoever. This will only occur once as well, so you won't need repeat the procedure every time you wish to play, and LAN games take the entire procedure out completely. As far as options go, you will be able to change anything you'd like before starting your match in a nice and easy to use interface.
The music in Arena Wars is a mostly fast paced techno beat. While not really a fan of techno myself, the music in Arena Wars seemed to fit the game quite well and really increased the feel of a fast paced action game. The sound effects, however, are nothing special. While all the various actions have their own unique laser or explosive sound nothing really stands out as "Wow that sounded awesome". The same goes for the announcer. Like many first person shooters, it really doesn't contribute to anything other than to let you know that the enemy has your flag.The soundtrack itself does seem fitting to the game but most everything else would simply fall under mediocre.
The graphics of Arena Wars are, at least, on par with most of today's games. At the very least, Arena Wars does an excellent job of creating a very colorful world. Virtually everything except the trees has some sort of ambient glow to it, and it works very well. The units themselves are fairly detailed, but nothing really stands out as amazing, and that can be said for most of the rest of the environment as well. Of course, the graphics seem so much nicer when playing, as everything is constantly moving rather quickly. On pause, however, you may notice a few things could have used a little more detail or some smoothing. Arena Wars is definitely not an ugly game, and any flaws it may have definitely don't distract from the gameplay.
It really is a joy to play a game that hasn't been done what can seem like hundreds of times. Not without flaws, Arena Wars definitely still stands on its own and can be a whole lot of fun to play. Despite some bad AI, the single player is still enjoyable and makes for great training, before jumping into the very challenging multiplayer community. The techno soundtrack adds to the fast paced feel of the game and the graphics and color, while nothing special, give the game a nice look to it. Everything considered, Arena Wars is a real joy to play if you're looking for a unique fast paced game with some strategy elements.