With the flood of successful RTS games released last year, you have to wonder if there's anything left to accomplish in this genre. Although games like Warcraft III added a few unique gameplay options, you were still forced to collect resources, construct buildings, research, build units, and attack an enemy. This basic formula is repeated for every new game and becomes tedious quickly. Recognizing this problem, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to generate a unique experience with the release of Impossible Creatures and create distance from standard RTS games.
Impossible Creatures' main difference from other RTS games is focused around the unit creation. With approximately 50 animals to use and 6 aspects of each animal to combine, the total number of units possible is astounding. Different aspects from each animal can also have different attributes so the combination of the creature isn't done without purpose. For instance, when a cheetah is combined with an elephant, if the hind quarters of the cheetah are used the creature will be significantly faster then if the elephant's are used. Frankly, this odd approach to unit creation works well and practically sells the game by itself, but there are a few problems focused mainly around the balance of the units. The first concerns the specific abilities that can be exploited like regeneration or camouflage as some, like camouflage, are practically useless. Another concern is the fact that some units like the lobster are always selected for combination with another animal, as their traits are more appealing then most. A number of the units also have nothing of value to offer and are consequently rarely used. Even with these issues however, there is enough variety to overcome them and not distract or overly simplify the game.
The rest of the game plays similar to other RTS games with minor twists to resource collecting, research, and building construction. There was an attempt to lessen the more tedious aspects of this type of genre, but these areas of the game are still managed in classic RTS style. For instance, the resource collecting has been limited to electricity and coal with only the coal requiring constant gathering as the electricity is automatically generated from different structures. You still have to continually collect coal but at least you're not managing the collection of multiple resources.
As for the graphics and audio, both give solid performances. The graphics in particular look great and achieve realism critical to the success of this game. The audio however isn't as exciting with the main complaint focusing around the same phrases being repeated over and over while playing.
Impossible Creatures manages to take the worn out RTS genre and breath slightly more life into it. Although still requiring resource collection among other things, the concept of combining animals together to create units is innovative enough to overcome other stagnant RTS aspects.