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Armies of Exigo Review

GAME INFO
publisher: EA
developer: Black Hole Games
genre: Strategy

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
PIII 1200, 512MB RAM, 500MB HDD, GeForce 3/ATI Radeon 8500
ESRB rating: T
homepage:
www.eagames.com/official/armiesofexigo/armiesofexigo/us/

release date: Nov 30, 04
» All About Armies of Exigo on ActionTrip


December 17, 2004
Branka "Nikerym" Todorovic

That's it, I can't take it anymore. Something's been eating up my soul, feasting on it to be exact, and I feel I need to proclaim what's bothering me before it devours me.

I'd like to address this to the gaming industry: OK, so what's wrong with you people? First you decide upon making tons of WWII or Vietnam-based shooters until our heads start spinning from the Southeast Asian foliage, trenches and naval Pacific battles. Then you suddenly discover something we could label as "fantasy RTS", take a handful of orcs and elves, change their names (or not) and start making unbelievably unoriginal games as if your life depended on it. Then we come to a sad situation where highly talented people simply waste their talent on mediocre titles that do not borrow, but rather steal their subject. What the hell is wrong with you people??!!!

One such game is Armies of Exigo, which does not refrain from shamelessly stealing elements from several different RTS games, from Warcraft III to the Myth series. This game plunders the rich inheritance of the gaming industry and succeeds only in being mediocre. I am usually a nice, gentle and loving person full of understanding - hating people has nothing whatsoever to do with it - but I can describe this game with only one word, which I shall not utter here. Anything that was good about Armies of Exigo is irreparably ruined by the woefully clich' story, simplicity, repetitive mission objectives and often dimwitted AI. I would have forgiven it all that, if only it hadn't been so boring. Yes, in one moment I discovered I dozed off and nearly fell off my chair (Narcolepsy perhaps? - Ed.) You may be thinking that I'm doing this game injustice, in which case I advise you wholeheartedly to buy it, install it and give it a try. Well? Lovely, isn't it?

I'd really *love* to end my review here, but I'm feeling sort of masochistic today so I'll let you know a thing or two about the game instead. The story of Armies of Exigo involves the invasion of beast-men, which can be roughly translated as "Orcs". After a hot debate, the Humans decide it's high time they did something about it, so they rally the free peoples to fight the invasion. And yes, on their way to perdition they stumble upon some elves, who proclaim their allegiance to humans and form an alliance with them against the evil beast-men. In order to save the world (and your ass) from the growing threat of the evil creatures, you need to pass through a number of missions where you will be assigned different tasks, from building and/or defending your base to capturing an enemy city... and so on.

The mission objectives are quite typical for this sort of game, so I didn't expect any breakthroughs in this segment, but I expected it to be at least fun if not original. The thing is, it is virtually impossible to have fun while performing these tasks as it is hard to decide which one is more stupid - your own or the enemy units. You have to take care of practically every single unit in your army, and the fact that the system allows you to organize them into squads and companies isn't of much help. At least, it does not help you in battle, as your units often attack what they will, instead of doing what they're ordered. They tend to split pursuing their own interests during the battle. Even if you "scold" them, as soon as you turn your back, there they go again. It was really exasperating - I felt as if I've just cut two trees with a rusty axe, put them together in order to form gallows, only to have myself hanged.

It's really nice that you can command so many different units, but the problem is you can't make them listen to you. Although the ranged units such as archers (and they are elven, need I mention) should be positioned in the rear and the melee units in the front, they often seemed to be possessed by some strange madness, so the ranged units rushed forward and the strong heroes lingered behind. They also failed to notice an enemy even if it was attacking their fellow warriors or the base buildings only a few steps from them - the only possible explanation was that they were suffering from some strange blindness. Luckily, your enemies also suffer from bad eyesight and they are equally stupid, so the odds on you winning are split 50/50. By "stupid" I mean that they will often send several units to your base and let you kill them all, but they will not be discouraged by this - instead they will keep sending them in waves and you will keep killing them. When you build a decent army, you will typically rush their base and thus end the mission - the most basic RTS gameplay imaginable.

What else should you know? There are three races in the game, and the inclusion of the race of the Fallen seemed inappropriate as they are quite out of place. You have a relatively wide selection of buildings and units at your disposal. The building system, together with the mining for resources, is quite typical for this sort of game so I won't waste any more time on that. The only thing I haven't mentioned is the heroes' ability to cast different spells, or use some special abilities of their own, which is also quite expected in a fantasy-themed RTS nowadays.

One of the best parts of this game is definitely the graphics, with some nicely designed maps, colorful units and neat spell effects. Unfortunately, a game should be much more than quality graphics so this wasn't enough to make me look on this title more favorably. As for the sound, I guess I couldn't label it as "spectacular" - it is fairly good, with some decent ambient and battle sounds, but with horribly voiced characters.

What makes this game mediocre is not that it borrows so much from other more popular titles, but its inability to incorporate them in a satisfying manner, in which case this title wouldn't be so boring. There's also no mention of the tactical approach, which makes this game a test in strength, only several years late. I am aware that it is very hard to be original, but at least other developers succeed in producing fun unoriginal titles. Armies of Exigo has some potential but it's all been thrown down the drain, mostly because of its dull gameplay. For example, the inclusion of levels based underground incorporates this action-RPG-like dungeon crawl element that might've been its saving grace. While this makes the missions slightly more varied, it again fails to satisfy due to the heavy feeling of d'ją vu you get from playing Exigo.

Well shoot me if you will, but I have nothing more to say on the subject... perhaps that the game features a very run-of-the-mill multiplayer mode, which is made slightly tedious by the fact that you have to gather four different resources. 2Lions had this to add about the game, so let's hear his 'wise' words.

*2Lions looks pissed and refuses to talk, but is quickly persuaded by having a very sharp piece of a broken CD pressed to his throat.*

"Supposing you've never played Warcraft, Myth, or any other significant RTS game loosely based on Tolkien's fantasy universe and supposing you've never read one single page that JRR Tolkien wrote or seen a single trailer, let alone any of the movies from the LotR trilogy. Supposing that that is you, there is a slight, very slight chance you might find Armies of Exigo original. However, if you are like me and you've played all the games, read the book and watched the movies several times over, you'll find Armies of Exigo to be THE most blatant copy and probably the most plagiarized game you've ever played in your life. Armies of Exigo plays like Warcraft III, it's visually reminiscent of both Blizzard's and Bungie's early work (yes, Bungie made games before Halo, my dear teenage Xbox fans), and literally rips whole phrases from either Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings' or Warcraft III. Seriously, I'm not trying to make this game look bad. What I'm telling you is my honest impressions of Armies of Exigo. It is THAT unoriginal."

Case closed, kids. 2Lions has spoken.

PAGE 1

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5.9   Okay


HIGHS
The graphics look nice, some spectacular-looking large units, dungeon crawls add some variety;

LOWS
A very unoriginal project that borrows so many elements from other popular titles yet never manages to fuse them together into a fun and coherent gameplay experience, AI issues during combat, terrible voice acting.

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