- Relive classic retro RTS
- So many units to build!
- Randomly generated maps
- Graphically terrible even for retro standards
- Priced too steeply
- Difficulty in controlling your microscopic units
Good grief this takes me back. This takes me so far back that I can remember being an embryo in my mother’s womb. Machines at War 3 reminds me of the moment I stepped into my local HMV during college lunch break to buy Red Alert. The first ever Red Alert that is. Games like these shaped my childhood to turn me into the supreme tactical commander I am today. Decent base building RTS games are few and far between, StarCraft aside there’s not alot else. The Machines at War franchise looks to these golden oldies and attempts to re-create a classic of its own.
As much as I love the aforementioned games of a gone by era, Machines At War 3 could do with a bit of an uplift. Quite a big one. Sure, we used to love those games but do we really have to see graphics as bad as this in 2013? There are several ways to create that retro look but still use modern technology to bring it forward a few decades. I hate to say this, but the original Red Alert game back in 1998 looks better than this and that’s saying something. If you don’t want to use high-res textures, then perhaps a little anti-aliasing… pretty please? A game is made up of more than pretty graphics this is true, but there is no disputing that how a game looks is all part of the experience, or else we would still be playing text based games where we press N to go north and entering dungeons we can’t see.
With so many units to research across multiple tiers, the tech tree provides over 130 units to obtain. With the aid of Samantha Vice, you look into why the secret squirrel research team called the Omicron Initiative has gone missing. They need rescuing apparently and it will take 21 missions to do it. Units are automatically grouped for your convenience which is actually quite handy for moving out your troops, because well, you can’t see the damn things very clearly. It all boils down to the graphics again, I don’t mind pixelation but when the units you are controlling are only several pixels wide and you have no ability to zoom in, it gets very tricky indeed. In fact, the only difference between a Challenger tank and a Humvee is that the Challenger is maybe two pixels wider than the Hummer. When you churn out so many units, distinguishing them all is a task in itself. You can select them from the groupings on the right hand side, but that requires you to take your eye off the battlefield on too many occasions. They should take a leaf out of Supreme Commander; you can get so close to the action that you can see your little dudes running around, or zoom out so far that you are practically orbital for tactical overviews. My guess is that this would require higher resolution textures, textures they don’t have.
Playing it however is not bad, and the the randomly generated maps mean that the experience is new each and every time. But a lot of the campaign maps look like a constant use of a cookie cutter. There are a lot of mixed feelings with this game, on the one hand it doesn’t play too badly, and has taken some pointers from Command and Conquer or Total Annihilation which is not a bad thing. But at the same time, it’s rather clunky and there’s always a feeling of being disjointed. Do I feel like I am the commander of a powerful force? Not really. If the narrative was improved slightly then perhaps the game would feel more engaging. There is the promise of engaging in battles with 5,000 units or more, which although has ring of epicness on a grand scale, it would be a complete nightmare for any commander to endure, unless he was also equipped with a magnifying glass.
The variation in units is a definite plus however, with land, sea and air units covered, and playing with friends in large scale battles can be a fun experience. But I doubt that Machines at War 3 could have the same longevity as the other aforementioned games in the same genre. It also needs to be priced a tad lower; at a retail price of $19.99 USD post beta, it is just too high for most for something you may not like. There’s so many RTS games out there, from past and present, that recommending this would be difficult. However, if you want a retro experience and relive those memories then this may be for you. Or pop onto GOG.com to pick up some of those classics for less.