Review By: Josh Miller-Watt
|# Of Players:||1-2|
|Accessories:||Xbox Live (online play)|
A strategy game is a funny thing. In on sense, it’s the oldest, purest example of a game - like Chess, or Go. The remise of many strategy games throughout the ages has been this: “You and an enemy must battle, using these rules”. This never works to the detriment of strategy games, which is fortuitous for Military Madness, because there’s nary a storyline to be seen here. The one thing we DO require of strategy games is that they be engaging, strategic, and have good set of rule mechanics. Luckily, Military Madness meets these requirements, but doesn't break new ground either.
The so-called “Campaign” goes thusly: Earth is running out of space, so we start shipping criminals to the moon, where they will be forced to mine Uranium-235. Unfortunately, the number of prisoners so exceeded the amount of guards that the prisoners broke free and started a rebellion, claiming the moon as their new home. Earth is now forced to launch an assault on the moon to reclaim the Uranium-235 deposits and quell the rebellion. This of course, causes... MILITARY MADNESS.
The premise is lamentable, indeed. They needn’t have bothered. Luckily, it’s told through a few backdrops and text boxes, so you can skip right past it an get to the meat of the game - the actual gameplay.
The setup is like a strategy board game. The board consists of a series of hexagons, each having a specific terrain type, which confers benefits to defense and penalties to movement, accordingly. You begin each battle with a set of troops - from foot soldiers, to tanks, to various flying vehicles. Each unit has different attack and defense values, according to type. The goal is to wipe out the enemy forces, or seize their base with a unit of foot troops. As enemy forces have the same types of units you do - and thus the same base attack and defence - you have to rely on positioning of troops and terrain to give you the upper hand. For instance, if an opponent is flanked by another friendly unit when you attack it, you get a proportional bonus. If the enemy is surrounded, you get a huge boost to attack. And if you’re on very rough or mountainous ground, you get a substantial boost to armour - up to 40%. So the game becomes a series of positioning and flanking excercises. Don’t think that this means it’s easy. In fact, it’s very easy to make a tactical misstep, and when you do, the computer usually kills a couple of your units by way of negative reinforcement. The enemy AI is actually well coded, in that it’s unpredictable. If you try to bait it, sometimes it won’t go for your diversionary force and instead charge your still-massing main force, causing substantial casualties. This is just one example. Suffice it to say that to do well at this game, you’re going to have to carefully plan some of your moves. Online mode is the same with one exception: in online, you get a commander unit. This unit can be upgraded as you go on, making it more powerful, and giving it different abilities - from straight damage, to boosting allies in the area & depowering enemies.
The presentation is especially notable in the game. The menus look sharp, and feel very fluid and sci-fi in a not-over-the-top sort of way. The graphics are also good, especially for an XBLA title. Nicely rendered 3D battlefield and units make the game look pretty nifty. There is one important gripe, however: each of the units look VERY similar to other units of the same type. Most tanks look very similar to each other, and foot troops aren’t visually distinct, either. This seems to clutter the battlefield a bit and confuses the player. Also lacking is info on units mid-battle. Basically, you have to memorize the stats of every unit before you really start to play - especially when the game begins to throw its full repertoire of units around. While this memorization might not be too bad for seasoned strategy gamers, it can be pretty intimidating for people inexperienced in the genre.
The sound is pretty decent, overall. The sound effects are clean and simple, yet still satisfying. The music gives an adequate sci-fi feel, and sets a good contemplative tone, but it’s not otherwise memorable.
Overall, Military Madness: Nectaris is a decent game. If you’ve been looking for a solid strategy title on Xbox Live, you should definitely check this out. People looking for something truly remarkable need to keep looking, however - the best that can be said about this game is that it’s “pretty good.” But hey, you could certainly do worse.
Posted: 2011-01-30 13:10:03 PST