Sunday, April 14, 2013

Unholy War (PS1)

Reviewed on PS1, available on PS1

I came across this classic in my youth, and had no idea what I was getting in to. Unholy War is a turn-based strategy/action game, developed by Crystal Dynamics (at the time, quite the heavy hitter in the game industry). This game took me by surprise, with high quality 3D graphics, highly refined characters, multiple game modes, and smooth game play. Unfortunately, the game was released before 4-player was standard for PS1, and thus was strictly duel-style showdowns.

The primary mode for this game was strategy mode. Players would pick their team: either the beast and tribal Arcane, or the technological invaders Tekno. Both sides composed of 7 characters each (total 14) of which were totally unique and did not have reflections of themselves on the opposing team. Even to this day, its practically unheard of to have a strategy game where the teams aren't copy-and-paste of each other, save for a few minor changes.

Strategic mode allowed resource collection and unit training

The maps were typically symmetrical grids, with each side having its own base. Resources could be gathered from particular nodes, and characters would be created and moved along the grid to engage each other. The position of two characters who were fighting one another would define what setting they would battle in once the fight began.

Stages were varied and unique from each other

When two characters engaged each other, the game switches from an over-the-top strategy into a 3-dimensional, fast-paced action game. The player(s) are given direct control over their character, and must use their characters abilities and the terrain to kill their opponent. Strengths and weaknesses really come into play here, and the winner of the fight remains on the board (damage intact) whilst the loser is destroyed.

Showdown between invading machine and native beast

Gameplay - 10/10

To this day, strategy games fail to pull me in like Unholy War did, missing the depth and connection to each and every unit you have on the battlefield. The A.I. was neither too easy nor too hard, and played in a competitive manner. For player vs. player, it was exciting, competitive, and involving. This is all the more impressive, considering it is a console game (considered to be poor for strategy games). For a gameplay score, Unholy War receives a perfect score.

Design - 8/10

Visually, the game's characters was remarkable. Each had tons of personality poured into its being, giving you a full sense of what or who you are supposed to be playing as. The 3D battle environments were also very well detailed, from rocks, trees, and streams in a field, to conveyor belts and neon green lights of the techno factories. Sound effects were also strong and fitting in all cases. The only thing stopping a perfect score here was the slightly dull layout of the strategy maps, and the often dull music. Also, the story's entire plot was "fight fight fight" with no real progression or purpose. These flaws are easily overlooked considering the rest of this impressive game.

Replay - 7/10

The entire campaign is fun in doses, and both sides are entirely worth playing. Unfortunately, there are only so many ways you can play each map, and thus strategy mode quickly loses its edge when playing against the computer. When against another player, or when playing in Arcade mode (consisting entirely of just 3D battles) the replay value significantly increases. The only real problem that arises here is discouragement when one player clearly has a skill advantage over another.

Final - 25/30 Outstanding Game
It is unfortunate that Unholy War did not receive the notice it deserved, perhaps due to being ahead of its time. The game is a classic that I had the fortune of coming across, and still play to this day. I have yet to see another game attempt to become the spiritual successor of Unholy War, most likely due to the twin gameplay aspects being threatening to the console gaming demographic. If you have the extra 20-30$ to spare, buy this game off of eBay or Amazon, invite a friend over, and pop this bad boy into your PS3.

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