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Posted on Jan 26, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Heroes of Annihilated Empires – Game Review (PC)

By Jamison Lanum

Passed Inspection: Visuals and sound bring setting to life. Role Playing elements are nicely mixed in.

Failed Basic: A second rate fantasy RTS experience. Forsakes concept that made the game appealing.

In 2005, Heroes of Annihilated Empires looked to be a promising title with the interesting concept of being able to see fantasy and modern time periods intersect. Unfortunately, it appears that a lot of the promising was for naught, as the title has the hallmarks of another run-of-the-mill RTS. The genre-hybrid hook seems to have been entirely forgotten, with few exceptions. Yes, there were random half-destroyed fighter jets and tanks occasionally found in a few missions. The final cut scene, which sets up the sequel, also contained elements with this slant but overall it felt gimmicky.

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As Elhant, the stories’ hero with a more confrontational than cooperative attitude, players partake in 16 missions during the campaign against the armies of the undead. Leading the Elves, players also align themselves with the Mechanicians and the Cyros. The overall gameplay and mission design doesn’t really stand out from its competition. Battles boil down to using the underpowered melee units as a wall while the overpowered archers pick them off and the Hero uses his attacks and special powers to clean up whatever is left.

Goals are often unclear and force the player to read between the lines, which at some times are just annoying. The story meets the fantasy standard criteria and the half-hashed intersecting time periods idea adds just enough intrigue to make the overall story so-so. A skirmish and multi-player mode is offered. Players can play as one of four races; however there are only three maps to choose from, which severely hamper its potential.

Building and collecting resources just doesn’t feel like it fits in the game, and it uses the "micro-manage through worker-inhabited buildings" method that could have been circumvented by having a pre-designated worker that stays with the building. Another problem is that the buildings just don’t stand out from each other, which forces the player to constantly click and read what building they’re dealing with. On top of it all, when clicking and dragging a box to select units, the workers are included, which is just another unnecessary annoyance while playing.

One thing that the developers got right was the added mix of the RPG genre. As Elhant fights and kills enemies, he gains experience and levels up. Leveling up constantly occurs, usually every 2-3 minutes, which takes any need for grinding out of the picture. When he levels up you can choose from a set of upgrades such as an attack bonus or an increase in mana. If you don’t like what you see you can choose to hold off upgrading until the next time, when you will have a more extensive list of options. Elhant can also use items from his inventory such as armor, potions, and weaponry which are either found or purchased at various shops throughout the campaign.

The fantasy setting is brought to life through the excellent environmental visuals and background music. An incredible amount of units are always on screen either doing battle or going about their daily lives, and each unit looks its part, even though they don’t stand out from other games. Surprise, surprise, Heroes of Annihilated Empires doesn’t have hit detection and this time all units strike rhythmically. Normally this would produce one color blob against another, but due to the level of detail in the units this doesn’t happen. Cut scenes are used to tie all the missions together and the CG scenes look great. Some even bring an epic feel to the story. Then suddenly you’ll come upon the comic strip cut scenes that look as if one of the developers let their young son or daughter do the artwork and the immersion is ruined.

The in-game dialogue system is broken. Comic book bubbles pop up when Elhant chants or converses with an NPC. You have the option to click through the bubbles, but the dialogue continues as normal forcing you to listen to the entire conversation in sequence. Most of the voice-over work was done nicely, but some lines are chanted so frequently you’ll be forced to turn it off.

Because there are no modern units, which could have made the game appealing, players are left with another standard fantasy RTS with the typical fantasy creatures and settings. The game’s entire "RTS" portion is poorly executed and is only slightly redeemed by its RPG elements. Overall this game is only worth playing to follow a so-so story in hopes that the sequel will use its hook and deliver on the modern meets fantasy storyline.

Armchair General Score: 65%

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