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Run 'Em Up The Path, Kick 'Em Up The arse, throw bleach in their eyes... all in a lurid science-fiction stylee. It's war, but not as we know it. Eschewing the blood-splattered trenches of conventional warfare in favour of more clinical alien affray, WarBreeds is a chilling warning of the dangers of genetic engineering in a world gone mad. Well no, of course it isn't; it's another real-time strategy game. And it goes a little bit like this...
Players command one of four different alien clans vying for supremacy on an alien planet. For those with time on their hands, the manual contains an elaborate story that explains how these clans came about, and it makes for a thoroughly boring read, not to mention being largely unintelligible and wholly unnecessary. Whoever wrote it clearly fancies himself as a budding sci-fi writer, wittering on about Imperial Orders, Ancient Prophecies and Magha Dhuerenya (wasn't he a Hungarian 1500m runner?). Whatever, it doesn't matter. All that matters here is looking after number one. No tangible reason is given for the conflict, it simply boils down to a sinister subtext of racial hatred and an innate desire to be cock of the roost. The various clans could choose to live in harmony, but obviously a peace 'em up wouldn't make for particularly enthralling gameplay. Incidentally, the action is set on the planet Aeolia, which is surely far too similar to Areola to be accidental.
Having assumed the colours of a particular clan, before you can get started, special plant-like pods have to be harvested. These pods collect solar energy which is then used to power refineries, which in turn power magic machines that create various bio-mechanical devices and creatures who are good at fighting. Essentially then, it's the same old balance between resource management and bloody conflict, albeit with a unique Darwinian twist in that the player can customise the creatures in his army through genetic research. When enemy creatures are defeated, genetic material can be scraped from their fetid remains before they decompose and used to magic up some more weaponry. In total, 32,000 slightly different creatures can be created. Which is a lot.
The various weapons are useful in different situations: for instance, a heat gun can take out air targets, while a quill gun is effective for destroying enemy pods. In the heat of battle though, assigning specific tasks can be a little tricky and it's usually a case of getting tooled up with whatever is available and steaming in en masse, along with the usual shouting.
The selfish gene
Although it's hard to feel any empathy for genetically manufactured units that resemble something from a Roger Dean nightmare, one side effect is that there are few qualms in using them as cannon fodder. Whereas in more orthodox war scenarios you might feel a slight flinch of humanity in sending a lone soldier to meet an inevitable early death, sending some ridiculous bio-mechanical oddity on a perilous solo scouting mission doesn't seem quite so harsh. Having said that, those with a firmer grip on reality will be aware that they are nothing more than coloured pixels on a monitor, whereas those able to suspend their disbelief and enter into a fully immersive environment have clearly heard too much marketing jargon. Besides, the units are fairly expendable, as due to power limitations only a certain number can be created at once. This eventually forces the player to come out and attack, rather than sit back and stockpile units indefinitely.
In common with much of the genre, in terms of route-finding at least, the artificial intelligence occasionally borders on the moronic, and squads often have to be led by the claw if they're to reach their intended destination. They're actually | fairly sharp when it comes to scuffling though and can generally handle themselves pretty well when it comes to a fight, although each unit can be programmed with specific modes of aggression or tact.
Sound and vision
The graphics in WarBreedsare solid if unspectacular, and the various clans are clearly colour-coded. The sound effects are of a futuristic bent and one of the weapons emits a 'doo-doo' disco noise that's eerily reminiscent of Celtic songstress Kelly Marie's '80s chart hit It Feels Like I'm In Love ("My head is in a spin/My feet don't touch the ground: doo-doo"). Add to this a detached robotic female voice and some unpleasant squelching, and it's more than a little annoying to anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot.
Ultimately, aficionados of the genre will doubtless have seen it all before: same meat, different gravy, if you will. But this doesn't by any means make WarBreedsa bad game, as considered on its own merits, it's an extremely absorbing affair. Just because it's derivative doesn't necessarily mean it should be ignored - indeed, were that the case, Oasis would still be allegedly robbing car stereos. Unbelievers who may have been puzzled by all the fuss over real-time I strategy games will soon realise the appeal when they find themselves still sitting there, unblinking, in front of their monitor four hours later, rebuffing all attempts at conversation, offers of soft drugs, and invitations to the pub. Don't scoff - it could easily happen to you.
There are four clans in WarBrecds tl you should acquaint yourself with...
Generally reptilian in form, they are intelligent, aggressive, expansionist and fierce. They are excellent scouts and consider exploration to be essential, their swiftness allowing them to begin and end battles without fear of pursuit.
Regarded as both bizarre and unintelligible by the other races (a bit like the Welsh). Although small and physically weak, the Sen-Soth mature quickly, and the sensory organs developed over millennia of subterranean life endow them with excellent perception.
Although the Magha appear physically lean and weak, it's deceptive because they are among the cleverest and most deadly of foes. Masters of spying, stealth, sabotage and terrorism, several of their combat creatures are naturally invisible. They seldom fight directly, preferring deadly suicide attacks instead.
Slow and cumbersome beasts, when their anger is aroused, their sheer size and strength makes them one of the most fearsome of enemies. They can absorb massive amounts of damage before they fall, and generally assume a siege mentality.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP