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Game Over Online ~ Warhammer 40,000: Rites of War

GameOver Game Reviews - Warhammer 40,000: Rites of War (c) Mindscape, Reviewed by - Jove

Game & Publisher Warhammer 40,000: Rites of War (c) Mindscape
System Requirements Pentium 200, 64MB Ram, 200 Mb HDD
Overall Rating 69%
Date Published Sunday, July 25th, 1999 at 11:54 AM


Divider Left By: Jove Divider Right

Warhammer originally was, and still is, a tabletop game that is based on the acquiring of small metal figures at inflated prices, painting them and then fighting battles with them. If you are at all serious about it, you have to dedicate more hours than the average person has to, in order to create a nice army, and thus most people shy away from the game despite the fact that it can be quite fun. Enter the computer and it's magnificent ways; SSI has taken the Warhammer 40k (a futuristic sci-fi version of warhammer) universe and plopped it onto a cd for your time saving desires and consumer dollars. Of course, the translation from tabletop to computer also included the required voice acting, automated enemy with bad AI, and some music and pretty graphics (or so the theory goes). While this translation wasn't terrible in Rites of War, it also lacks the flare that the computer is able to provide. The choice of using turn based, while appropriate, was not the best decision as is evident when looking at the current best Warhammer translation to computer: Dark Omen. Dark Omen uses real time strategy to create something sufficiently different, and yet as complex as the tabletop game, while Rites of War merely replicates the turn-based nature of the original game.

Rites of War uses the Panzer General 2 engine, which to say the least is somewhat outdated these days and so, while not quite as bad as PG2, (which was good in it's day I admit) it has that washed out look which was far more effective in a World War 2 setting than in this colourful sci-fi world. Units are pretty nice to look at but they are also bland and could be a hell of a lot better, without a serious performance hit, since there is not much animation and never more than 30 units on the screen at the same time. Additionally, I found the units to be rather large. When my unit's helmet is the size of the forest that he just entered for protection, something unexplainable, but definite, is lost in the process. Weapon effects are animated and again aren't bad, but they aren't great since without 3d acceleration you just can't create weapon effects that are convincing or exciting. Maps are pre-drawn and lack any sort of animation or interactivity in the graphics department. Pre-drawn maps can be excellent as shown by Baldur's Gate, but only when properly implemented with the game, which Rites of War fails to do. Mediocre graphics don't entice gamers to pick up a title, and in the case of Rites of War, are the first glimpse into what turns out to be a very mediocre game.

Forced. That's the word I choose to use when discussing the voice acting of Rites of War. Did they hold this guy in the Tower of London under threat of the rack? Because that's sure as hell what it sounds like when the Eldar leader gives you your orders in the most phony "cool sounding" voice I have ever heard. When thoughts of "the antithesis of cool" start popping into my head, you know something is seriously wrong. Fortunately, you are only subjected to this pitiable attempt once per mission and usually for only about a minute at a time. The remainder of the sound effort is much improved from this sorry attempt and it effectively provides an auditory environment that you would expect of this sci-fi world, but not much more. Orchestral scores accompany the marching and weapon firing sounds known so well to the armchair general but unit speech is suspiciously absent as is the all-important ambient sound element. Fighting for worlds that have no life, or at least no vocal chords on them, does not inspire valor or genius but rather indifference. A good game should provide an enveloping soundscape that envelops the player; Rites of War simply cannot accomplish this.

The shell of a game is all fine and dandy but what about the heart, the essence, the gameplay. Strategy this is, complex it is not. Rites of War offers the same gameplay as Panzer General 2 with futuristic units, only one race to control (even though there are 3 in the game), no supply lines, smaller maps, and less variety. There are of course elements that are not common between the two, but as the engine is the same the gameplay is, remarkably so, quite similar. Fortunately for SSI, since Panzer General 2 was so good, this game is saved from the pits of the bargain bin. But years later the flaws have become far more obvious and far more detrimental. Strategy does exist and you can't be successful by just randomly attacking units, but rather Rites of War requires careful planning in the creation of your army for each battle as well as a proper generalship of this army. Combined arms are necessary for victory, however are not very complex and are easily mastered in 3 missions. I found that after the third mission, I was losing very few units while taking out an army of superior size.

There is one glaringly positive aspect of Rites of War which is the inclusion of psyker powers, special weapons/items, special "strategies", and unique unit abilities. Psyker powers are possessed by the more powerful units and are akin to magic in that they are cast on either friend or foe to create either a positive or negative effect. The powers are fun to use and can make a difference in the outcome of a battle. Weapons and items are implemented on the idea that any unit may carry only one, but this will give them special powers in a certain area. As with the Psyker powers, the weapons can make a big difference in the outcome of the battle, and are also helpful in creating units that you care about and don't want to lose. The "strategies" are special powers that you can purchase between campaigns using the glory points that you won during the previous campaign (more on these points later). These strategies can be used only once but are often very useful in accomplishing a specific task. Often the "strategies" are geared towards the outright destruction of a particular type of unit, and as such can be excellent to eliminate a powerful artillery unit (or something similar) that is causing havoc to your army. The special abilities are related to the type of unit you are using and often help that unit perform it's specified task. An easy example is the invisibility ability that the scout has, which of course is very helpful in allowing him to scout out the map while avoiding detection. The reason why these special bonuses work so well is because they are directly ported from the Warhammer tabletop game, which was very intricately designed and balanced so as to create a fair and addictive game. These graces are not enough to save the gameplay, however, and are pretty much a ray of light in an otherwise dull game.

A brief description of the glory point system is in order at this point, but I won't be too lengthy. Glory point are used to purchase everything in the game from new units to "strategies". You gain glory points by capturing enemy held towns and fortifications as well as by completing your mission's primary goal. Once the current mission ends you are brought to another mission briefing (with our friend from the tower of London) and then you are allowed to reinforce your army and purchase "strategies" for the next scenario. Be careful about losing too many units however as you will run out of glory points with which to buy new ones and thus you may lose the next battle. Not to mention losing units will also lose their experience and any special weapons or items they had acquired previously. Green units are very weak but as they gain experience they gain power and thus keeping units alive is an important objective (although not a necessary one). The system is fairly effective but I found myself with a large excess of points due to the AI problems: it sucks at grand strategy.

I found the story behind Rites of War to be extremely detailed and well thought out, but I was totally clueless as to what the hell it all meant and why I was doing what I was doing. I'm sure there is some more detailed history, which would be understood by warhammer junkies, but I have no clue what my eldar leader is talking about and he speaks with allusions to things I have never heard of (namely because they never actually happened). Some more background and coherency would have been much appreciated to make what I was doing have a purpose rather than me just kicking everyone's ass.

Adequate is not a positive word in gaming anymore and Rites of War adheres to it far too well to be a noteworthy gaming experience. While it doesn't "suck" it certainly pales in creating anything of special merit. I doubt I'll play this game after I'm finished this review and I know I won't regret escaping the clutches of the "tower of London" guy's voice. Essentially, the only reason to play this game would be because of it's summer release and there being so few other games available. However, if you have a hankerin' for some turn based strategy spankerin' then I suggest you check out Jagged Alliance 2 as it promises to be far more entertaining, (well I hope so) not to mention it has WAY cooler voice acting.

 

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Rating
69%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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