Battle Engine Aquila Preview
This action-packed shooter is nearing completion, and we've got a nearly complete version of it in our hands.
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We recently had a chance to spend some time with a previewable build of Infogrames' upcoming action game, Battle Engine Aquila for the Xbox. The game is being developed by Lost Toys, a UK-based studio made up of former Bullfrog employees, and it revolves around the battle between two superpowers: the Forseti and the Muspell. In the wake of a massive flood brought about by the melting of the polar ice caps, Battle Engine's setting has become a partially submerged wasteland, and the two forces clash in order to gain possession of the remaining patches of dry land. You take the role of a maintenance loader named Hawk, whose proficiency with machines gets him recruited to pilot a prototype Forseti craft, the battle engine that serves as the game's namesake and one that may be able to turn the tide of the conflict.
The game's story will unfold through a somewhat linear progression that will take you through 24 levels in all. However, rather than keep the action rigidly linear, Lost Toys has included a hefty number of branching paths that you'll be able to access if you can earn an "S" ranking at the end of a level. The levels will present you with a number of objectives, although you'll need to complete only the main one to move on to the next level. You'll be graded on your performance at the end of each level. The optional objectives come into play when you're aiming for the S ranking, which requires a lofty point count.
The levels themselves offer quite a bit of variety in terms of what to do. The main objectives are a standard assortment of tasks for an action game. You'll be required to destroy set targets, escort craft to specific destinations, assault installations, and engage in melee combat, to name a few of the tasks you'll be expected to perform. The bonus objectives are on hand to test your skills by offering greater challenges, such as destroying secondary targets, that require a bit more work. A nice element of the levels we played is the number of options available to you in terms of how to complete the main objective. If you're aware of your surroundings and the capabilities of the battle engine, you'll find there's usually more than one way to complete a level. The freedom that results from such variety keeps the game from getting stale, which is key when you replay previously cleared levels in the hopes of attaining an S ranking and accessing other levels.
Controlling the battle engine shouldn't pose too much of a problem. You'll use the analog sticks to move and aim Aquila's weapons. The triggers will cycle through your available weapon complement, and the armament you'll have access to during a level will vary as you progress through the game. A slick feature of the battle engine is its ability to transform from the spiderlike ground unit you initially see in the game to a second configuration that will let you fly for limited periods of time. However, at the moment, our favorite feature of the Aquila is its self-preservation feature. When the ship's energy has been pummeled to dangerously low levels, it will signal your weapon system to do a powered-up attack that usually wipes out nearby enemies and buys you some breathing room.
Graphically the game is looking pretty sharp, with huge, highly detailed environments that feature an impressively far draw distance. Though you don't see it too often, due to the game's first-person perspective, the Aquila, like the enemy craft in the game, sports a high amount of detail and good animation. The sense of scale is well done and definitely adds to the atmosphere of the battles you'll find yourself in. The cutscenes that are used to move the story along are well done too.
The game's audio is shaping up nicely as well, with a wealth of chatter coming through the Aquila's radio to fill you in on objectives. The rest of sound in the game is pretty good too. You'll hear a ton of explosions and alerts during battles as well as the Aquila's own unique noises.
From what we've played so far, Battle Engine Aquila is looking pretty slick. The game's numerous levels to clear, impressive graphics, and cool ship have definitely piqued our interest. Fans of piloting giant robots should keep an eye out for it. Look for more on the game in the coming months. Battle Engine Aquila is set to ship early next year.