At first this game seems to have a pretty brutal difficulty level, If you keep playing long enough to overcome this then you start having a really good time, but then towards the end of the game glitches and just downright broken crap haunts the game and brings all the fun to a screeching halt.
Now there are difficulty levels but you have to go through the mission select screen. I dont think it helps much to turn it down lol? I think maybe it changed the types of units the enemy was sending in each wave but it didnt change how many or their health or anything. Atleast on the one mission i tried it on(and died lol). So I just stuck with normal difficulty.
The story is kinda cool but told in a disjointed manner and not very thoroughly. Basically the different characters on either side of the war talk to each other at the start and/or end of each battle. They did a pretty poor job with this part. When one character says something after another they seem to cut each off. It makes it hard to follow sometimes.
The graphics are pretty killer and and the units look really awesome and since the action is all up close it makes it fun to just watch stuff fight.
Gameplay... well its pretty fun and the reason I liked playing the game but it has its issues. But lets go over the basics first. You and sometimes 1-2 other special characters get to use these cool mech suits and are known as commanders. As you go through the game you will have access to a bunch of different units from different kinds of soldiers to vehicles or big creatures. You will actually be switching sides back and forth throughout the game. Each unit has one or more special abilities/attacks you can perform in battle. This brings up one of the first pretty nasty glitches though. Attack Animations rarely work.
This makes you unable to see if units are actually performing their special attacks. Sometimes you have to be at the right range before you activating them adding to the frustration because you dont know if they attacking or not and if they are not is it because your out of range or what?? Also there can be delays to when they special attacks activate like your guys Flamethrower special that takes forever to work.
Most of the abilities work fine though especially the defensive ones. Healing, shields, "setting up", all work great. Setting Up skills are kind of tricky because if your to close to other units or not on level ground some or all of your units may not deploy. For example a group of artillery tanks, 1-2 may deploy while the third just sits there. Or a group of defenders, part of the group may not deploy heavy machine guns. But they are easy enough to fix just not in the head of battle lol. Just tell them to cancel and then move them to a new spot and set up again.
Now the main part of the game and what makes it like an RTS is taking over these NODES. A node is this structure built over this energy source. Once you capture one by being in its proximity for a few seconds you can upgrade it with turrets, shields, and refineries. Different nodes allow different levels of each. You want to get a lv1 shield/turret up asap to be able to fend it off from enemies while upgrading it further. But the most important thing a node does it adds to your money. They generate $/second. Upgrading the refineries is very important for your war effort. Nodes are scattered all over the maps and are what you will be fighting for. Certain Nodes that have warp gates can build units also.
You can quei(sp?) up as many as you want but there are 2 types of caps. A total force cap and also some units have unit type caps. Like you can only pump out and use 12 defender units(two groups) at a time. While normal soldiers you can just pump out as many as you want until you max out your total force cap.
Different units cost different amounts and if they are going to be used for attacking they probably wont last long hence the need for lots of money.
Endless and I do mean endless swarms of enemy units will continue to advance on your most forward nodes in an effort to retake them. So while your upgrading them you also want to be setting up good defensive units. Now Encephalon forces have defenders, normal troops, snipers, and artillery that make killer defensive units, Sai forces are way more limited and you are pretty much limited to artillery and scout vehicles.
Commander units have a ton of health and dish out tons of damage and the best part is they can regenerate health. If they die though you lose the fight. Use them to attack at your own risk but they make AWESOME defensive units. Plop them down in front of your nodes so enemy waves target your Commander first and enemy swarms will get cut down easily and not cause any damage. You can't see node health and I assume they regenerate but they can lose upgrades and be blown up if they take enough damage. If the enemy doesnt take out a shield level then the shield will absorb just as much damage on the next attack as it did the first. All other defensive units should be place to the side of behind the nodes.
After you got a nice defense set up its time to go on the offense. This is when you start pumping out your assault force. The most important thing to learn about units is that you can group them together. Just tap the LB. They auto group based on unit type first and foremost but will also attach to whatever is nearby. You dont really wannt mix units into a single group.
Attacking with large numbers will probably be a huge pain in the butt. Even if you group stuff up there will be tons of groups and you will have to issue them orders all individually. You can do this by whip selecting which gets very difficult with a ton of group icons on the screen or by looking at each unit physically and clicking X on their icon and then telling them where to go while you stay in control of one unit(hopefully one that is behind all the others or up in the air). This is when you will be wanting to use units special abilities to attack nodes and when you wont be able to tell if they work or not.
You will most likely have to plow through on-coming enemy waves in order to get at the next node so you should try to time your assault with a lull in enemy swarms. The only other option is to advance to just outside the enemy node's turret range and hold the line while you move up defensive units. This will set up a forward launch position for your next wave. Your defensive units will take out any enemy waves and then your assault force can rush a little distance to the node.
What I love about this game the most is the balance. In command and conquer when you finally get around to going on the offense you amass your army and then just bulldoze over everything. In this game you amass an army but they will probably all die just trying to take the next node. It makes the battles nice and long and grueling. You have to advance node by node.
Towards the end of the game is where all the flaws and glitches really catch up to it though. Starting at around mission 11+ you will either be unable to capture nodes or they will auto-degrade and blow up. I dont know what causes them because its not really from enemy fire or atleast not any that I could see. Nodes also have this invisable grid that you can see if you open the map. I think your nodes have to be connected along that grid. If you skip a node and take control of one further ahead then I think it will auto-degrade/not allow you to take control. Thats why the game is broke.
Honestly I had to return the game and I was frustrated so I dont know if I could have gotten past mission 12. That stage had heavily glitched nodes. Its hard enough fighting off the swarms of enemy troops and stuff without having to deal with crap that doesnt work right. And if it is suppose to happen nobody ever explains why or how to stop it.
Skirmish mode is pretty cool. You play on the same maps but the computer pretty much has access to all the different types of units and just has much stronger enemy waves lol. I only played one stage but it was hella fun.
The game is hard, the game is glitchy and broken but its also freaking fun. I had a blast when I actually won a stage. Theres no way in hell you should buy this game unless it was for 10$ or less but it might definately be worth a rental. You have to be willing to try different things in order to beat stages though. You can't just bash every stage over the head and move on
If they worked out all the nasty issues the game has it would easily be my favorite RTS type game.