The Lost Reviews – Etherium

15 06 2016


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… 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



Top 5 Supreme Commander Experimental Units

23 09 2015

Supreme Commander (Gas Powered Games - 2007)

Supreme Commander is one of my favourite games. I first played it back in 2007 (I think) and it very quickly became my favourite game. Designed by Chris Taylor and developed by Gas Powered games for the PC (originally), Supreme Commander is a Real Time Strategy game and is seen as the spiritual successor to Chris Taylor’s Total Annihilation released in the mid 90’s. In Supreme Commander; player’s build an army for one of 3 factions (United Earth Federation, Cybran Nation and Aeon Illuminate) in the hope of defeating one or many other armies in the local vicinity. It’s an absolute powerhouse of a game with loads of units and buildings to be built. One of the game’s most significant unit collections is its range of Experimental Units. These are big weapons that can give the user a strategic advantage over everyone else, provided that the enemy doesn’t have any also. While not completely invincible, most units and buildings don’t really stand much of a chance against them. For me the Experimental Units are the things I look forward to building most, as each one is unlike any other unit in the game. While more are introduced in the expansion and sequel, in this list I will only be mentioning the Experimental Units in the first game; so here are my Top 5 Supreme Commander Experimental Units.


5. Czar: Imagine a giant flying saucer; not as big as those ones from Independence Day, but still a really big one. Then imagine that it’s coming towards you, and then it starts to fire a giant laser on top of you that can destroy a house in one go. That’s what the Czar is: A giant flying saucer with a big downward vertical powerful laser. It’s almost like a giant flying donut, but because they are quick to build yet still pretty powerful I like to build them. Czar’s also have the advantage that due to their size, when they are hit so much they are destroyed, they fall out the sky, potentially destroying anything it falls on. The Czar also comes with the ability to house several aircraft, meaning that you can transport a fleet of planes to support it in combat, as well as to refuel any aircraft that need it (so sort of like the big ships in Independence Day).


4. Fatboy: Fatboy’s are large land based vehicles, like Giant tanks that serve two purposes. Firstly, they are like Giant Tanks. They can move underwater and on land thanks to 4 giant sets of tracks. They come armed with an armament of 4 pairs of three large cannons each; one on each corner. It’s like strapping three UEF battleships together and giving them tracks; it’s that big and powerful. It comes with a shield to protect it as it is vulnerable to air attacks and places on the top for two aircraft. The Fatboy’s other purpose though is that it is a mobile land factory. So you can land the thing near the enemy, then build an army with it for a full-fledged invasion. Most of the time though I just use it for the purpose of being a giant multi-gunned tank.


3. Monkeylord: Possibly the weirdest sounding vehicle in the entire game, particularly as it looks more like a giant 6-legged spider with a big gun, but do not underestimate it for one second. The Monkeylord is an incredibly powerful machine. It has weapons that can be used on land, in water and defend itself against air attacks. It’s one of, if not the fastest experimental unit in the game. And above all else has access to a multi directional laser beam weapon that can cause lots of damage, very quickly and even (as I discovered a couple of weeks ago) can destroy something as big as a Fatboy, even when taking a pounding and eventually getting destroyed the second it finishes it’s attack. It is a really cool experimental unit that should not be ignored. While it may appear weaker compared to other experimental units, it’s just as deadly as they are.


2. Atlantis: The Atlantis is rather easy to explain. It is a submersible aircraft carrier. Whilst both Cybran and Aeon have aircraft Carriers, the UEF’s version is so different; it’s classed as an experimental unit. On the surface it can collect and hold up to several vehicles, but then for extra protection can dive underwater with its cargo safely inside. Of course it will need to surface again to launch them. I myself have not used them for much in the way of combat, but the AI has attacked me with them before, and they can be quite a serious threat, even when not underwater. I myself though use them as aircraft carriers and places to store and refuel aircraft when I need to. But the potential for their use is almost unlimited as they can be used as storage space, plus also help launch air support for an invasion, or even help launch a strike team when attacking an enemy base.

Galactic Colossus

1. Galactic Colossus: Out of all the Experimental units out there, there is one that stands mightier than all the rest. It’s a unit that can walk through any defensive line, trampling small units and buildings beneath its feet. It can survive near direct hits from nuclear weapons and the detonation of Commander’s. It can suck up and crush units with its hands…..or just destroy them all thanks to its great laser weapon. The Galactic Colossus can do all of these things. I am surprised at how much of a beating they can take, even surviving hits from nuclear missiles. When attacking you, it’s your greatest threat, but when you are in control of one; your enemy panics. They are incredibly dangerous and can bring about a quick end to nearly any fight, well…..when it gets there, it is rather slow. But, speed isn’t everything. Along with all that, it also looks like a big mechanical skeleton. It is a cool yet dangerous and destructive machine, and easily my favourite Experimental Weapon.


I Am Not Cut Out For Space Exploration

1 04 2015

Space Planet

Recently I have been playing FTL: Faster Than Light on Steam. It is a rather fun game. It’s sort of a cross between a puzzle game and an RTS (Real Time Strategy) intermixed with the subject of space exploration. I quite like it and continue to play it, but it has taught me one important thing; and that is that I am not cut out for space exploration (even though the likelihood of me receiving the opportunity of going up into space in the first place is very unlikely).


Now basing such a statement on a video game could be seen as something of a rash statement, but here is why I think that. When I got it; it made me think of games like Evil Genius in terms of its internal look, as in the ships in FTL looks like the lair design in Evil Genius. I liked the idea of doing something similar to Star Trek or possibly Firefly (Even though I have not seen Firefly and do not consider myself a Star Trek Fan, even though I have watched the occasional episode of Next Generation and occasionally Voyager). Just the idea of going through space, exploring it and controlling the aspects of my ship while engaged in specific situations.

Space Shuttle

The thing is, for many years I have calculated that I would more than likely go insane if I went into space. Just the idea of being somewhere that I would not exactly consider safe, but also being left to drift in space, even if I was in a ship or station. But it’s from playing FTL that I came to the conclusion of the earlier statement. While I have begun to improve through understandings of previous missions that have all gone belly up, even so much to the point of me having yet to clear the first stage of galaxies (I have unlocked the second ship; The Torus, even though it is a pretty pointless ship) my planning and reactions in the heat of the situation usually lead me to defeat. Some of these though can come down to me causing the issues from bad planning and excessively opening the doors. When an intruder is on board, or in more common occurrences, a fire breaks out, my first plan is to cordon off the areas where my ship’s crew are, and then open the doors into space to suck out the oxygen. It works mostly, but eventually people break through the doors. When an intruder is on board though, I usually stick as much of my crew as I can, in the medical bay so that when the intruders get there, my crew get healed quickly. These ideas though don’t work all the time and sometimes my crew will die trying to put the fire out as the doors are broken and me having to regularly send them to the medical bay before they die. Unless of course the medical bay is damaged and needs fixing, or the oxygen is cut off.


Other cases though include my willingness to fight ships to gain resources off them and denying them surrender in the hope of getting more resources off them. Eventually this has led to complete destruction, uncontrollable fires, intruders on board and oxygen leaks. The number of dead Kestrel spaceships that must be floating through space thanks to me must be astronomical. While my learning of these situations has led me to the point that I need to upgrade what systems I can to expect these situations, I need to show restraint when given the opportunity to fight, as well as let them surrender every now and then.

Kestrel In Space

I don’t know if FTL is how space exploration works or not, but given that I am playing it on easy mode and I have met failure on several occasions, I can quite confidently say; that I am not cut out for Space Exploration.

Space Planets


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