Welcome to RTS and it’s very slow evolution into history, yes you heard me right. It seems the best RTSs are ones that are 2D, and very simplistic. Age of Kings, WarCraft3, and StarCraft seem to have a death grip on their perspective genres of historical RTS, fantasy RTS, and Sci-fi RTSs. StarCraft being the leader of the pack, there won’t be a game to rival StarCraft until StarCraft2 hit the shelves (if it ever will), however here is a game that takes a little bit of Blizzards best ideas and molds them into a decent game, but there are a few factors that take some of the sparkle away from this gem.
DÃ©jÃ vu, oh my...
Welcome to Exigo a little place just in between StarCraft and WarCraft, inhabiting this lovely little world are three races, the Zerg err Fallen, the Empire, and the Beasts. The Fallen (which is my favorite Race) is kind of difficult to master, they play a lot like the Zerg from StarCraft but different in a way. They also play like the undead from WarCraft only they aren’t dead, to explain it easier they are like the “Bugs” straight out of Starship Troopers. They are by nature weak until upgrades are applied and then they are turned into very, very, adaptive killing machines... err bugs... err Fallen, yeah that’s it. Units from the Fallen can be upgraded to grow wings, infect troops allowing said troops to regenerate and spot hidden objects, or simply upgraded to be better at killing. To build Fallen Buildings you must first make the ground kind of deadish (like the undead in WarCraft) then you can build there. There is lots of “strategy” in playing the Fallen thus the reason why I like them so much, very cool over all.
The Beast have the strongest early units in the game, one beast warrior can kill about 3 Fallen early units. The Beast archer unit is a goblin that can be seated on the back of an Ox looking unit called a Boron, the Boron is also used to allow for more population room for the beasts but can also be used as a unit in battle. The later units of the Beasts are very powerful and can wreak havoc on the other races except for one inventive way of slowing the beasts down, you need to sacrifice a friendly unit to heal your units which is naturally very expensive. Beast units are a lot like the Orcs and Tauren from WarCraft but are played completely different.
You can’t have a game without humans of some form in it and Exigo has its fair share of Humans running around causing trouble. The Empire (just like every other game) are the middle of the road race. They aren’t too powerful, expensive or hard to play. They have a slower start than the Fallen but faster than the Beasts, they have a better late game than the Fallen but not the Beasts and their units are stronger than the Fallen but not the Beasts. What the Empire does have over the Beasts though is cheaper faster units with upgrades that make the Empire soldiers very strong and the most important part of the Empire is their ability to take their healing with them. The Empire have Priests that act as magical healers for the Empire and can be used during combat to give them the needed boost to take out the beasts but it also gives the Empire a terrible advantage over the Fallen in the late game.
That is where Armies of Exigo starts to lose its appeal. Just like every RTS it has balance problems but the balance problems in Armies of Exigo aren’t so easy to repair. If you tweak one race it throws off balance with another and so on until you take away the “differences” in the races that make each one play different and fun. Balance in Exigo is a hard shell to crack but could be done with the right team of balance testers and a good budget for patching.
Besides some inherent balance issues Armies of Exigo handles as well as any RTS on the market, better than some in many cases, which I will go into a little detail on. Armies of Exigo has maps with 2 levels, the top level allows for normal play but you can send units into tunnel entrances to go underneath the top map into a completely new map that is the same size as the top map. This is supposed to add an extra element to online play (which by the way Armies of Exigo is basically designed for) instead it is more of a waste of memory. I nor does anyone really make much use of underground unless you HAVE to. Some maps only allow travel from one side or the other underground so in that case building underground or even going underground is worth it in most other cases it’s not very safe to have two fronts to defend with a limited population. Again there is a lot of strategy involved in Armies of Exigo this is shown in all facets of the game. There is also a strong presents of tactical combat, like fans of StarCraft know micromanaging or dancing (dancing is rotating units in and out of combat to avoid loses in. WarCraft dancing is more important because your units will gain experience and be stronger, same goes for Armies of Exigo) will give you a huge advantage in battle. The better you can micromanage your armies the better you’ll do. If you expect to launch your army into someone with major micro skills and you have none expect to lose just about every single one of your troops to his 1 or 2.
Armies of Exigo is said by some to be unoriginal, in terms of looks they are right, in terms of races they are right as well. Where AoX shines isn’t on fancy new features or originality, it shines on being a better gameplay experience than many of the other games on the market. Warhammer: Dawn of War is a beautifully rich game but it simply doesn’t play better than AoX, Battle for Middle Earth is a stunning game as well with all kinds of cool “features” but it has little replay value and online is a joke. Features in games are good for the cover of the box but everyone seems to forget that the most played games on earth are older games that don’t have all the “cool new features” of newer titles. They are simply fun....
And the end came a crashin’ down on meh head.
Probably the biggest drawback to Armies of Exigo is it doesn’t use it’s own dedicated online service, instead it uses every RTSs nightmare... Gamespy. Gamespy is a great service for first person shooters and stuff but not RTSs. The main reason for Blizzard games’ survival all these years is the fact that Battle.net is the best online RTS gaming platform in the world. I hear talks from all ends of the RTS spectrum about how much better an RTS could have been if it was on Bnet, well I agree to a certain extent and I know if Armies of Exigo was a Blizzard game it would have hundreds of thousands of players playing online, the game has that much potential. I will say however that Armies of Exigo’s Gamespy lobby is perhaps the best RTS lobby I’ve ever seen on Gamespy. In my personal opinion no RTS should use Gamespy as a service, it’s almost a guaranteed way to kill an online RTS community. If anything will hinder AoX’s (Armies of Exigo) growth it’s the fact that Gamespy is the host.
Whoa it’s like totally a makeover!
The graphics engine is awesome in terms of RTSs, sure it’s not “Warhammer: Dawn of War” graphics but it is way up there. Picture WarCraft 4 and what it would look like and you’ll see a bright shining image of Armies of Exigo. Everything looks better than WarCraft 3, I mean everything. The units details are superb and in top form for the genre, effects blast and display in great detail. Overall Armies of Exigo looks like WarCraft 3 with a seriously major graphics overhaul. The interface is pretty standard in RTSs, big & bulky, easy for noobs to find things they need and icons for everything. For expert RTS players that’s a drawback but for casual players it is the best design for an interface that has ever been made.
The Sounds of WAR!
Every unit has it’s own sounds and because of the vast array of sounds and units you won’t be pulling out your hair because the same soldiers say the same damn line every time they open their mouth. AoX supplies loads of sounds for all of us to enjoy. There are booms, bangs, pows, smashes, clacks, clanks, creeks, kapows, rumble, and poofs. All the sounds you need to enjoy yourself are embedded in the core design of AoX. Along with the many voiceovers in the game the sounds are on par with the setting.
Armies of Exigo is in my opinion the spiritual successor to both StarCraft and WarCraft 3, until StarCaft2 comes out or WarCraft 4 I will be playing Armies of Exigo. It is simply one of the best handling RTS games that I’ve ever played, and I played just about all of them.
Excellent gameplay, two tier maps add a little to gameplay, great graphics, great sounds, easy to pick up and play, Races have their own unique style of play, awesome online play, just plain and simple fun
Multiplayer is hosted by GameSpy, balance issues, two tier maps need more reasons to actually use the second tier.
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