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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