Game Over Online ~ Empire of the Ants

GameOver Game Reviews - Empire of the Ants (c) Microids, Reviewed by - Trent Vaughn

Game & Publisher Empire of the Ants (c) Microids
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium II-233, 3D Accelerator Card, 32MB Ram, 150MB HDD, 8x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 55%
Date Published Monday, July 31st, 2000 at 10:37 PM

Divider Left By: Trent Vaughn Divider Right

Les fourmis, les fourmis! I know what you're thinking and let me stop you dead in your tracks. Microids' Empire of the Ants is NOT about a post-apocalyptic world where giant ants rule the Earth, while we humans are forced to become slaves to their each and every order. Hmm, excuse me for a moment while I visit the copyright office, would ya?

Ok, Empire of the Ants is simply a real-time strategy game set in the present, focusing on the colonization of ants. You play the role of the ant commander whose duty it is to oversee the expansion and advancement of the colony. Essentially, despite the relatively unique concept itself, Empire of the Ants is your typical strategy game, mixing resource management and exploration with warfare.

Empire of the Ants is comprised of eleven lenghty single player scenarios, each with varying goals. Although the scenarios progress to introduce new elements into the game, each level requires the same repetitive series of events to get started. Such actions include sending warrior ants out to explore the surrounding environment. You'll need to find sources of food and signal your worker ants to begin retrieving it for your colony. You'll also need to find building materials so your worker ants can build and maintain rooms within the anthill. Last, but not least, you'll have to make sure you've got an assortment of warrior ants guarding your anthill against unwanted insects and animals. One of the highlights of the entire resource management in Empire of the Ants is that you really don't have to worry much about micromanaging each and every ant (which is a relief considering how fast ants can reproduce). Using a priority menu, you can rank certain tasks above others. Your ants will automatically perform certain functions without the need to have you tell them over and over. If you desire to change the emphasis of a particular job, all you need to do is visit the priority menu and make the necessary adjustments.

Besides being eaten by predators, ants most commonly die if your food supply runs low. You can reproduce ants by ordering the ant queen to produce more eggs. The eggs will then hatch to reveal any one of a different type of ant. You have no control over which type of ant will hatch, so if you're in dire need of some worker ants, you'll just have to cross your fingers. Obviously since reproduction can only be achieved with an ant queen, it's imperative that you protect your queen. If your queen perishes and you don't have a princess ant to continue colonization, the scenario will come to a halt.

There are a number of predators in Empire of the Ants you'll need to worry about. They can include anything from a simple praying mantis to the powerful batracian, a lizard with a yearning for some ant pie. Besides wandering predators, you'll also have to worry about neighbouring colonies that would prefer you not take up residence on their turf. Red ants and termites are examples of such colonies and in some scenarios, the objectives will include destroying such existing colonies.

Empire of the Ants can be viewed from two perspectives. You can watch the action from an anthill perspective (below ground) where you can see your ants carrying around eggs, bringing in and eating the food supply, as well as building and maintaining the hill itself. You can also view the game from an above ground perspective, which, like any other strategy title, lifts you slightly above the area, allowing you to get a great bird's eye view of the surrounding environment. In this view, you won't be able to see the inner workings of your anthill, but you'll be able to see potential combat situations and predators wandering around. The interface in both instances is fairly simple to use and veteran strategy gamers will have no trouble learning how to manage the game.

The framework behind Empire of the Ants is relatively solid, but the game begins to lose its appeal after you complete a scenario or two. Besides the obvious shortage of a technology tree, the game introduces absolutely ridiculous ant types as it progresses. Ants that spit acid? While I suppose they might exist on some distant continent, I have a hard time believing they colonize with some of the other ant types in this game. Once you complete the first few scenarios, Empire of the Ants goes well over the top and begins to look more and more like a Command & Conquer game with ants supplanting the troops and vehicles. Once you get to this point, the appeal that existed at the start grows old quickly.

Empire of the Ants does feature the regular assortment of multiplayer support, but what it lacks is a matchmaking service that will allow you to find other gamers who own the title. Besides that, the shortcomings of the game itself in terms of technology and unit types, is magnified when you start playing against your buddies.

Empire of the Ants is compelling at first but quickly becomes a shallow gaming experience. The concept is relatively unique, albeit similar to Sim Ant, but loses its appeal after only a few scenarios. It might look good but it ends up getting lost in a sea of real-time strategy games that continue to use the formula of old.


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