Armies of Exigo Review
Despite its goregous graphics, this real-time strategy game seemingly ignores all the advances that the genre has experienced over the past several years.
- Beautiful graphics
- Lengthy campaign packs lots of content.
- Long, repetitive gameplay
- Frustrating unit controls and behavior
- Dual-layer maps add micromanagement
- Good luck finding an opponent online.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Armies of Exigo is a real-time strategy game that should have Blizzard blushing. This debut offering from developer Black Hole Games borrows quite a bit from Blizzard's classic real-time strategy releases. In making its Blizzard clone, the developer has emulated everything from the 3D look of the units and buildings of Warcraft III to the three-pronged storyline of Starcraft and the Hollywood-quality cutscene movies that Blizzard is known for. The only problem is that while Black Hole has all the ingredients of a great real-time strategy game, the formula in Armies of Exigo comes off as, well, far too formulaic. Armies of Exigo is in many ways a 1999-era real-time strategy game with 2004 production values. It's a beautiful strategy offering that's technically on par with the best games on the market, and you can appreciate the graphical detail on display as armies clash, magical effects rain down, and units are hurled into the air by mighty blows. However, it's disappointing that the gameplay is very much like that of the earliest real-time strategy games. This is a traditional RTS that seemingly ignores all the advances that the genre has experienced over the past several years.
The story is set in the fantastical world of Noran, which is plunged into a catastrophic war after the beast hordes launch a sudden attack on the human and elven empire. As the two races battle it out, a third race, the fallen, plots to conquer the world so it can unleash a 500-year-old prophecy. The story, which is told over 36 missions that are split evenly among the three races, is a familiar tale of fantasy warfare that's been presented before in other strategy games, with all the predictable plot developments that we've come to expect. And in many ways, this also describes the overall Armies of Exigo experience, because it feels like we've played the game a dozen times before.
Understandably, all games borrow and build upon concepts from earlier ones; this is how the evolutionary process works. However, Armies of Exigo almost shamelessly copies features and ideas from other games...wholesale. The most glaring example is the fallen, the alien race that employs insect units that look and sound a bit like Starcraft's zerg. As if that weren't enough, the fallen can only build structures on purplish goo that must be laid down beforehand, exactly like the zerg. At this point, the resemblance is beyond uncanny. The other two races aren't clones of existing races in other games, but they remain familiar nonetheless. The empire consists of all the staple fantasy races, including, aside from humans, elves, gnomes, and dryads. Meanwhile, the beasts feature demons, goblins, ogres, harpies, and more. Each race features different units and tech trees, but ultimately, they're all similar in a lot of ways to balance play. The empire features a nice equilibrium between conventional and magical forces; the fallen can build rapidly and unleash hordes of insectoid units; and the beasts have some of the fiercest units available.
Armies of Exigo employs a three-resource economic system that's universal across all three races, so you'll dispatch dozens of worker units to constantly harvest gold, gems, and wood to build the myriad different buildings and unit types, as well as research all the technologies on the tech tree. This build-up phase can take quite a while, so there's not much sense in sending out small groups of lightly armed and lightly armored units much of the time, because they'll usually get chewed up easily. Battles in Armies of Exigo take a long time because they usually come down to a lengthy grind as you wear the other side down through sheer attrition. The problem is that the game lets defenders build formidable defenses, such as life-sapping totem towers that drain hit points from attacking units. Meanwhile, the unit limit usually restricts the attacker to roughly the same number of units as the defender, which means that the attacker is at a disadvantage already. Consequently, most offensives require you to build up consecutive waves of units to slowly wear down the enemy defenses and defenders, and this takes a fair amount of time. You can easily spend a couple of hours on most of the game's missions.