The Lost Reviews – Etherium

15 06 2016

Etherium

When Cavedog Entertainment first released Total Annihilation in 1997, they couldn’t have imagined what kind of impact it was going to make. To this day Total Annihilation is still one of the most beloved and talked about PC games out there, and has since become the lead inspiration for several, ‘spiritual successors’; including games like Supreme Commander, Planetary Annihilation, Meridian: New World; and now…there is another one.

Planetary Annihilation

Etherium is a real-time strategy game heavily inspired by games like Total Annihilation, but also contains the D.N.A. and accessories of other well-known games including Halo Wars. In Etherium, you are one of 3 different factions, racing for control of a super powerful form of fuel known as Etherium. Your job is simple, you need to colonise planets to gain Etherium. There is a major problem however in the form of other empires plus several tribal like factions who want claim of Etherium and eventual control of the universe. To this end, you need to build and grow colonies, create military units to defend yourself with and purge all these power-hungry maniacs unlike you from anywhere where you stake claim to.

Etherium 3

For the most part; Etherium is a ground based real-time strategy game. When you start a match, you begin with one big base. If this one base is destroyed, your game ends and you lose. As the level gets going you will need to claim and defend territories as fast as you can so you can then gather as much Etherium as possible to build your forces and destroy your enemies. Etherium does things differently to a lot of similar RTS games in how you play it. Most games like these include several different forms of resources which need to be independently collected at the same time. In Etherium, there is only one main resource: Etherium. This makes the game rather easy to pick up and play for both experienced and inexperienced gamers of the genre. Another thing Etherium has is no need for Radar. The map is split up into territories; in each of these is something of a node: if you take it, you have full view and control of that territory. This removes the need for Radar which can be quite annoying when you are nearing the end of the level and are still looking for one random tank or builder. As for resource gathering, Etherium appears in only a few territories with in the map. If you have somewhere where you can collect it, it’s collected automatically as soon as a building is built on the resource location. You can increase the speed of collection and gathering by building extensions onto your colonies and any nodes you take over. These extra buildings do specific things once built ranging from Etherium refineries to spaceports. Each one does a different thing but greatly helps you in the need of battle.

Military construction is a lot different too as units are not really built but rather delivered. You basically choose from a side menu what unit you want (ranging from infantry, tanks, planes and titans) and then the unit is delivered to your base. You need to select where you want them delivered to and they can only be delivered to locations with a spaceport next to them. Sending them into battle can then be done the usual way of left clicking on a unit, then right clicking where you want that unit to go. Alternatively you can call in an air drop which will deliver the units directly to where you want them to go. But while your main goal is to rid yourself of the main villain on the map, you will also need to pay attention to one if not several local alien races. They are automatically hostile if you go anywhere near them. There is a way around this however, as you can make peace with them and then call them to your aide. If you don’t do this however, the enemy might and then you will have more than one alien race on your hands. One thing Etherium has though over other RTS games though is the option of a second way of achieving victory. The first way is the above stated way of destroying the enemies’ main base. No need to worry about all other units on the map, destroy that and you win. The other way though is an ingenious way of winning, even if on the ground you are losing. That is to build guns that attack the enemy fleets. These fire automatically once you have enough resources to build them and then it’s a simple matter of waiting until the enemy fleet is destroyed, in which case you win no matter how badly you are losing on the ground. In Etherium’s conquest mode you build fleets then send them to enemy planets, upgrade your forces and unlock new weapons to send into battle. There is no clogging down with huge amounts of story neither, there is some detailed background into the races which is revealed before conquest mode, but as soon as you complete the tutorial, you are just left to your own devices.

Etherium 1

Etherium is a nicely put together game. It features methods of gameplay as yet inexistence in the RTS genre and its ways of controlling the battlefield and winning the map are nice additions too. The game is superbly animated and it’s a lot of fun just watching colonies get built and units delivered. The colonies themselves are nicely detailed too. However the game does have some rather large issues to contend with. While its colonies and structures plus units are nicely animated and built, its units are rather static. What I mean by this is that there is a lack of movement in the heat of battle, they just sort of take on a formation and stay in that formation quite well, but it just doesn’t feel alive or realistic. There is no evasion or moving around to get a much clearer shot. While there is some evidence and advantage of cover, it just seems like the hits from weapons land a bit randomly. While units are nicely thought about and cleverly include units which are better at some things than other units, the lack of life and movement in the heat of battle just doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing. The camera is a bit dodgy too as there just doesn’t appear to be any sort of Zoom functionality, which when everything else comes up 2D in the face means that doing stuff like dropping off units can be rather clumsy. The controls themselves are nicely tuned and the way of building colonies plus the need of building certain units are nice additional features but overall are let down by some of the game’s imperfections.

Galactic Colossus

There is another thing too which gripes me about this game which is a primary unit in games of this kind. That is in the use of large/giant units. In Etherium they are known as titans, extremely big units that could lay waste to the entire map providing no-one else has one. Units like this have been a main stay of the genre since the addition of the Krogoth in Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency and have appeared in other games like Supreme Commander in the form of ‘Experimental Units’. The problem I have with them in Etherium is the need of them. Battles can take long amounts of time depending on how well defended an opponent is. The bigger and stronger plus the advantage of a unit can turn the tide of the battle within a split second, so why should armies feel the need to build something like a Titan if smaller units in theory can do it just as well? Why should Titans even be in this game unless they serve a certain purpose? Why can’t it be that a game like Etherium with its idea of specialized units just be a game with them and only them? No need for a unit that can destroy everything, it’s more about learning the strengths and weaknesses of each unit and find a way to counteract them. Because really the only way to counteract a titan in Etherium…..is to build your own titan.

Etherium 2

Etherium on the whole is a nice little game, one that can easily consider itself equal alongside other ‘so-called’ spiritual successors to Total Annihilation. As for the game itself, it introduces new forms of gameplay as yet unseen, has some nicely crafted in game pieces, animates them really well and doesn’t bog down players in lengthy uninteresting story plots in its conquest mode. On the downside however its graphics and units feel lifeless and static and I think over-does it with the titan units just by including them. There is a lot to like about this game and it is reasonably enjoyable, it’s just held back by clumsy bits and bobs which don’t help it in any way shape or form.

Etherium 4

GENEPOOL

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Timeline Of An Empire

9 12 2015

Age of Empires 2

I recently picked up a copy of Age of Empires II HD on Steam. Upon hearing that many of you are probably thinking: “What, have you only just played it” or along those lines anyway (or possibly even; “What is Age of Empires II HD on Steam? Well, click the above links). No, it is not the first time I have played Age of Empires II. It must have been when it was first released that I played it for the first time. I remember when it first came through and on that evening playing the tutorial mode with my Dad, and my Dad noting the bad attempt of someone from America trying to do a Scottish accent. Anyway, I have played it before, but purchasing this copy on Steam marks the first time I have played this version of the game (which comes packed with previously unofficially unreleased extras), plus the first time in a long time I have played it. And it has been fun. I enjoy playing different skirmish games, attaining new trophies in Steam and just generally having fun playing this game again. I am not too fussed by playing the campaign mode, I played the Tutorial again a few weeks ago, and was so bored, but general Skirmish games I find rather fun. I also find it rather fun playing Empires that I did not necessarily use before like Byzantines and Franks as well as old favourites like the Japanese, Teutons and Koreans. My one hope at this time though is to hopefully have a multiplayer game of it at some point in the not too distant future.

AoE Score

Anyway, why am I talking about this game in the first place? Well, one thing I rather like about this game comes in the end of game stats, the ones that show you statistics of how the game went. Now I am not really all that fussed by Economy or Military stats, but what I am interested in is the Timeline functionality at the far right of the menu choices.

AoE Timeline 1

I like this feature because it features a very detailed colour coordinated graph showing how your empire in the game, and those of the other players fared, and these can be very detailed. Take the above picture for example. It shows the names of the players or AI, what army they were, when they advanced to certain stages, when there was a battle, when a Wonder was built and when a Wonder was destroyed. Doesn’t seem like all that much to gawp at I know, but looking at the way that colour can take over the chart is something in particular to behold.

AoE Timeline 2

When a certain colour/nation fills the chart more than any other, it shows who at that time the strongest empire was. These strengths of colour increase and decrease throughout all the way to the end of the game as it stands (so either as overall victory is achieved, or when someone decides to quit) come the end. Some of these colours of course begin to decrease down to a small-scale as the end draws near for that empire; however abdicating is simply not enough. I have found that even if a nation abdicates; i.e. Loses, the empire can still carry on, on the timeline even if it is just a small slither across the screen. This comes in the form of leaving their buildings and some villagers and ships alive and not destroy them when they give up. Thus to end an Empire outright, and take over the chart that little bit more, you will need to make sure there are no survivors, either people, ships, or buildings. This will cause that Empire to be wiped out and disappear altogether from that moment in time, similarly to real past ancient empires of this world.

AoE Economy

I know it’s something to do a weird post about, but it’s a nice little feature in the game that I wanted to point out and mention. You can be someone who ignores the impact of ancient empires, but something like this can show, at least in a fictional video game stance how powerful an empire can become, but similarly also how it can simply disappear and be forgotten, as other greater, mightier empires forge their own future, quashing competition in their stead.

Steam (Valve Corporation, 2003 - Present)

GENEPOOL








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