Only two weeks ago, James from isotope244 presented his latest creation to the world. Yesterday, the final version of Machines at War was released. Reason enough for me to take a closer look at what promises to be the hottest real time strategy (RTS) game of the summer:
The Art of War
If you ever played Atomic Cannon (Pocket), you already know that isotope244 prides themselves with the creation of amazing graphics. James and his crew are using the Atom Engine once again and even though this is the same technology that powered games as long as three years ago, the graphics still look better than with most other current Pocket PC games.
The loading screens of the game are probably the first artwork you will pay attention to: depicting aggressive, yet strangely beautiful scenes of battle, they make the (mostly short) loading times bearable.
Next, you’ll be presented with a spartan interface: a sidebar to the right with access to the game menu, the help function, with a useful tutorial and buttons for four of your attack teams and a shortcut to get back to your base.
The lower third of the screen is used by, what I like to call, the command and control bar: It provides the player with all the information that is needed.
To the left are the meters for credits, power and the primary form of income of this game: Ore. Right next to it is the most important part of the control interface: your build tools. What I liked most about the building process is that you can queue up as many units as you want (well, can afford anyway) and also get to see a little timer that tells you when to expect your reinforcements.
Epic Movie: no, epic battles: yes!
Battles these days aren’t fun anymore, you see a group of soldiers fighting a few stray rebels in some desert country and maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a tank every now and then and if you’re really lucky, you’ll see some explosions.
Machines of War is different, here the old principle of overwhelming force still applies to and boy, what a feast this is. You may be playing this on a Pocket PC or Smartphone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy battles that take up multiple screens. Yes, you could build small strike teams and take out the enemy one-by-one, but believe me, its a lot more fun to just crush the enemy with your whole platoon and then take one final look at the destruction you caused.
To keep your ears happy too, isotope244 created a whole array of sounds. Combined with a fitting score that adds to the flair of the game but doesn’t disrupt your focus, you can enjoy the various explosions and weapon sounds and you might even hear the occasional radio chatter.
The Borg will adapt and so will Machines of War
RTS games can be very difficult, after all, keeping up with the needs of a huge army isn’t exactly a piece of cake. Luckily, isotope244 included a variety of different mutators you can adjust to make the game as hard (or easy) as you want to. Most of these mutators are pretty standard, like the amount of money and resources or the speed of the game but there are two that are quite uncommon:
Machines of War provides you with the possibility to play the game with adaptive difficulty. What that means is that, the better you are, the harder the CPU player(s) will retaliate. This is a great way to play the game without having to fear that your enemy will be too easy to defeat.
The other feature is the so-called AutoPlay option of the game helps you with building your base. You can just sit back and let the CPU build your defenses for you, but you can also intervene when you deem it necessary.
You’re in the army now, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to study. Well, not you, Commander, but your underlings do, and they are very good at it. Machines of War has one of these rare R&D features that allows you to improve your units as you play the game.
Granted, you could beat the game without ever upgrading any unit at all, but its a lot easier to have those eggheads research some new toys and then put them to good, military, use. The best part of this is probably that, besides a set amount of time, you don’t have to spend anything on these upgrades.
Long story short
All in all, Machines of War is a great game. It’s fun to play, easy to understand and has enough options to keep you coming back for more for a long time. I expect this game to be just as popular with mobile Commanders around the world as Atomic Cannon was so get your copy now, because, as far as Pocket PC games go, you can’t spend $20 better right now and who knows, you might even find the easter egg that’s included.
The only thing that I am missing in this game is some form of multiplayer support but who knows, a feature like that might be available in a future version…
Update - July 21st, 2007
I just uploaded a couple of screenshots that show the destruction of terrain over time. Please be aware that these images are 1600 x 1600 pixels and come in at 1.2 mb each, but they are definitely the download.
isotope244, for those of you who have been in the scene long enough, is the developer of the brilliant Atomic Cannon (Pocket), a game that features two (or more) tanks with advanced weaponry, superb music, courtesy of subatomicglue and great gameplay.
I’ve only been playing Machines at War for an hour now, but I think that this will be another bestseller. The game has awesome graphics, even on Pocket PCs without a dedicated graphics chip, a nice score (not as good as the one from Atomic Cannon though) and even includes nice, military’ish radio effects.
Machines at War promises large battles, with a myriad of tools, such as Osprey VTOL planes, Artillery (with icons that look very familiar) and destructible terrain, something that many PC games don’t even have:
Grab the 1-hour-beta now, while you still can. This is definately a game you’ll want to play!