Armies of Exigo

6_1There’s nothing terribly wrong with Armies of Exigo. It looks good, has decent multiplayer, and nice gameplay. You build peasants, who in turn collect resources. This income is then used to build military units or structures. You also spend resources on unit upgrades. There’s also mages and witches tossed in for good measure, which adds the always-needed magical effects. Units also earn experience when they kill enemy units, granting them another point in their attack or defensive value. You also build farms, and you need a lot of them in order to build a lot of units.

If all of this sounds staggeringly familiar, it should, as Armies of Exigo follows the template of dozens upon dozens of real-time strategy games that have preceded it. While it does sport some gorgeous graphics and some pretty cool physics that allows bodies to bounce off the ground when splattered by a troll, for the most part this is the fantasy real-time strategy game you’ve played a hundred times over.

The one hook is the ability to fight above and below ground, in tunnels and dungeons, as in Heroes of Might and Magic III. The tunnels can be an effective way to outflank an unsuspecting opponent, and underground levels are important in multiplayer. It’s simple to switch back and forth between the two levels, and you are given two mini-maps in order to track what’s going on above and below ground. It’s a nifty addition implemented very well.

12_1There are three races in the game, the Empire (Humans and Elves), the Beast (Trolls, Goblins, Beastmen), and The Fallen (alien hive mind things), and each has a sizable army. The Empire fields 15 different units, from basic grunt infantry to slick looking Valkyrie and Steambirds. While each race is different in terms of unit make-up, each gathers resources the exact same way. To see the alien Harvester unit—which looks like a giant crawfish—mine gems and gold and chop wood just like a peasant makes no sense whatsoever.

In addition to the been-there, done-that flavor, controlling a large army is extremely difficult. Units absolutely refuse to hold ground when you order them to, and have a tendency to simply wander off from time to time for no apparent reason. The campaign is very long, over 30 missions in all, but the missions are heavily scripted. The design pretty much leaves one way to win each scenario because the AI has its plan and will stick to it regardless of what you do. It’s all trigger-based; once you move to a certain area, another wave of bad guys appear.

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Beyond the usual trimmings you get a skirmish mode, replay function and map editor – all of them welcomed bonuses. Armies of Exigo is old-school real-time strategy wrapped up in nice, sharp graphics and lovely artwork. It doesn’t do much you haven’t already seen before, but if you don’t mind going through the same training-mining-building grind for the ten thousandth time, then hey, have fun. At least it’s bundled in a nice, high production package this time.

System Requirements: Pentium IV 1.5 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 1 GB HDD, WinXP

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