Alien races have been bitterly fighting for supremacy of their universe. An Alliance has formed between the lowly Lokob, the physically imposing Rag'ha and the technologically advanced Y'dray, in an attempt to stem the onslaught of the menacing Unath. The Unath are said to have invaded this star system in a quest to maintain supplies of a chemical which is the basis for their technology and is found in the bodies of all of the Alliance races. Needless to say, you don't want to be taken prisoner! So the Lokob put up with their second-class citizenship because victory over the Unath only seems possible with the help of the Y-dray and their knowledge. The player is a Lokob officer who holds the exalted title of "Commander of Armies" and is in charge of his race's contingent.
I of the Enemy comes to us from Enemy Technology, an independent developer. The game is very simple to get accustomed to and focuses mainly on the strategy part of the RTS genre. Forget building power plants and houses, you only need to worry about 1 building. The game strips away all of the bloat from many RTS games and relies strictly on the player’s brain to use the right type of units and how to group them.
On the surface, the game looks like an old school RTS game. The graphics aren’t the best but for this genre it’s all about gameplay. The game plays in a classic isomorphic view that we’ve seen many times before. The units are your generic sprites, maps are somewhat the same, and the animations are decent at best.
The game’s strongest point is obviously not that of the graphics. The visual styles work fine for the game but they could be better. They're laced with that old school flavor and bring back a lot of memories from times past. I really like the graphics for what they portray and I feel a lot of gamers that played Dune 2 and other early 90’s titles will have a fond appreciation of the graphic engine.
The units themselves aren’t anything special to look at. Given the graphics engine, there isn’t a whole lot of detail to be seen, but the units move around and animate as one would expect. They look the part and there are a few different kinds. You have ground units as well as air units. The air units can fly around and uncover the Fog of War and help you complete the objective. The enemies look similar to your own units in most cases, but they also have some unique designs for themselves. Fortunately, It is easy to distinguish between friend and foe due to the coloring scheme on the units themselves.
The maps usually contain you and some enemies on 3 different planets. There are obstacles in the way that you must navigate in order to reach the enemy base or the various other targets, but the overall feeling of the maps is that they are bland at best. They generally consist of generic rock formations, and a few scattered trees, but little in between. We all loved Warcraft 1, but let's face it, that was 10 years ago.
Graphically the game is fine, and shouldn't be over-analyzed. It could be better but coming from an independent developer it is a step in the right direction. With a crew of only 2 programmers, they did a bang up job and really created a solid retro engine.
The audio in the game is a mixed bag. Being an independent developer, there isn't much room in the budget for high class voice talent. I’m not saying the voice acting is bad, it’s a lot better than many other games out there, but it leaves something to be desired.
Each mission you get a small briefing which helps push the story line along. You talk to various characters throughout the game and learn the politics of the different races. If you aren’t a dialog driven person, you can skip all of this by just clicking “Start Mission”.
When I first played the game I noticed the main character’s voice sounded familiar. Upon further investigation he is the same voice that had played the Baron of Harkonnen in Dune, my favorite game of all time. He hasn’t lost his touch and definitely adds some old school flavor to this game. His voice acting skills rise above any other talent used in the game, and adds a very welcome addition to the story.
In the missions and throughout the game there is a music track that plays in the background. The music is pretty good but very repetitive and with missions that could last up to an hour it can get old quickly. Thankfully, the gameplay is involved enough to allow your mind to ignore the music and sounds, and focus on the objective at hand.
The major downside to the overall audio is the voice acting in the actual missions. Your main character constantly says, “Yes sir”, “On my way sir” and the likes. This is extremely annoying and a lot of games have this little annoyance. It is possible to drown it out with gameplay but since you are always moving your units around you will always hear it. Other units really don’t say much at all, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It would have been nice to have the main character only speak at certain intervals or every 5th move; something other than every move would have been better.
The sound effects are there but can be bland at times. The weapons and explosion sounds are all good but sound a bit empty and have no real feeling to them. When in battle, the effects lack the feeling of being immersed into battle, but are always on cue.
What’s funny about the audio section in this game is it’s a lot better than other major titles. It’s sad that a new company with little to no money can create such great dialog and decent sound effects when major companies with millions upon millions behind them just don’t try.
This is what sets the game apart from the rest. As I said earlier it strips away most of the bloat that make up a lot of recent RTS games. Instead of giving the player the ability to build tons of structures and do tons of research the game only gives you one important structure, the Starport.
This is the structure that you request new units from. You don’t get an unlimited supply so strategy is a key ingredient in the game. Also the units take a little time to arrive and you can only order 6 or so at a given time. Utilizing this structure is a major factor in winning a game. Simply gathering units and doing a rush will get you no where. You need to know what works against what type of unit. Some ground units cannot shoot air units and will be completely useless if you try to do so. There are a lot of combinations at hand and it is up to you, the player, decide what needs to be done.
As aforementioned, each mission brings a dialog up that allows you to listen in on what is to come. It also moves the story along and brings in new people for you to meet and greet. The story is pretty good and the game does a great job in telling it. After each mission you sometimes see a cut scene that isn’t the greatest piece of artwork but definitely suits the game well. It would be odd to see a beautiful cutscene rendered with a bajillion polygons and then play a game and see what you really get. The cutscenes show you exactly what you see in the game, but in better detail. There are really only 3 major cut scenes and you should watch them all if you want to understand what’s going on.
The missions range from easy to difficult and do get harder as the game progresses. Some missions have timers and others don’t. It is important to pay attention to the mission briefing or else you will lose in a matter of minutes, especially on timed levels. I was amazed at the amount of diversity in the missions, and the strategy needed to accomplish what was needed to be done. It is obvious that the developers put a great deal of thought into the game, and have paid important attention to creating a visceral experience.
When you play the missions your units gain experience. They have 4 phases they go through: Green, Veteran, Crack, and Elite. When your units gain experience they gain morale, toughness, visibility, and can be brought back in future missions. After completing a mission and before you start your next, you have the option of bringing in some experienced units to help you. Keeping your better units alive throughout the game is key, and can help you out big time in the end of the game.
The objective in the game is to build up a small army of units and defeat the enemy, nothing new. How you do this is up to you and that is what makes this game great. There are no resources to gather and no real micromanagement aside from taking care of the units. Your units along with the enemy units get a small shield that helps them take a few hits before taking real damage. Some units damage the shield better than health and others barely do any damage at all.
As you get further into the game you get new units to use and they do come in handy as they can do more damage and possibly attack air units. As stated before these aren’t unlimited and once you run out that’s it. The game does demand a bit of thought and you cannot just build up an army of the biggest units and go wander off. There really isn’t any single unit that is better than the rest because they all do different things.
There is a multiplayer aspect to the game but there was no one online and I had no way of play testing this. According to the website you can create a game with up to 8 other players and battle it out. With the included map editor it could be a lot of fun to go online and challenge people on your own custom made maps.
Overall the game is fun and requires a bit of thought. In an age where RTS games have been dumbed down for the common user, it's good to see that people understand that real gamers love a challenge. It is challenging and fans of the genre will appreciate that. The story in the game is solid and it is a welcome change of pace from other RTS games requiring you to build and destroy, with nothing in between. I of the Enemy focuses on story, making this RTS play like an RPG.
For an independent game this is a definite winner. It could be better, but it offers an old familiarity with a new twist. Hopefully Enemy Technology will learn from their minor mistakes and will continue to create even better games in the future. It’s always nice to see what the independent gaming community is up to because they usually offer something fresh.