Game Review - by James Allen
As we move through the age of faster computers, it seems that the gaming realm has embraced three dimensions with open arms. The subset of real time strategy has made the transition into a dynamic 3D world, rather than a flat, two-dimensional map. Steel Soldiers renders the future of combat using full use of all three axes. Will the continuing transition lead to great gaming events, or are all the pretty pictures just for show?
I believe we have seen this before. Single player, skirmish, and multiplayer modes? Where have I seen that before? Oh yeah, almost every other real time strategy game! I wish someone would come up with another game mode in the real time strategy et, just to mix up the action. It seems that all too many games follow the lead of Command and Conquer, and just change the graphics around or add 3D. Steel Soldiers has added some new skirmish options, such as the ability to end the game when the command center or all the opposing units have been destroyed. Still, another average, run-of-the-mill affair.
It's hard to write a section on the sound quality of a game when you don't remember a single thing about it. The sound in Steel Soldiers is that forgettable, and while you're playing the game, it's roughly absent. There are some seals and acknowledgment of commands, but that's about it. I though war was too noisy, but maybe in the future the noise regulations have spanned into the military dominion. That's the only explanation I can come up with for the absence of any unforgettable ambiance or tunes.
Steel Soldiers takes the classic RTS gameplay format, and adds a pretty cool new aspect. Taking the place of resource gathering is a money system based on the amount of land that you control. I think this is by far the most innovative feature of the game, and leads to some interesting squabbles over certain areas of land. I think it works well for this fast paced game, and it's almost worth checking out the game to observe the dynamics that result from this inventive element. Other than that, we get the C&C rehash. You have a robot building that produces robots, and buildings that construct land, sea, and air units. There are a few defensive units, like turrets and AAA guns. The list of units is very short and all the same for each side, which is totally against what we've been used to as of late. At least we won't have to worry about unbalanced sides!
The interface, stemming from the dedication to 3D, is pretty clunky and hard to maneuver around. In order to build units or structures, you must right click on the appropriate building or a construction robot. There is no convenient tab system for accessing these when you are in the heat of battle halfway across the world like in many RTS games. You can stack orders, but this is a small consolation, and it doesn't make up for the annoyingly inefficient interface.
The graphics are something of a mixed bag. When you play the game, it is apparent that the designers tried to make a convincing 3D world, and I can assure you that it is rendered in 3D. It's just that nothing is too spectacular in the world of Steel Soldiers. Maybe we've been spoiled, expecting an ever-increasing graphics . Unfortunately, I think that the 3D world in Steel Soldiers works against the game. It's hard enough to play a real time strategy game in 2D (or an isometric perspective), let alone with poor 3D graphics. Everything is rendered in blocky splendor, and I think if sprites were used instead of budget models, Steel Soldiers would look a whole lot better, and play much easier. Since you need to play the game from a far view (in order to see the entire battlefield), all of the units and assorted buildings dissolve into points of color anyway. When you are close up, however (and especially in the menus), you can notice that corners were definitely cut. And, what's even more depressing is that the frame rates are pretty bad; I've played much better looking games at smoother rates than those found in Steel Soldiers. I will say that the explosions are cool, but the rough nature of the unit and structure models brings Steel Soldiers down hard.
Steel Soldiers fits very comfortably in the also-rans of real time strategy. The gameplay is pretty standard (except for the Risk-like wrinkle), and the graphics and sound are sub-par. If you're a big fan of RTS games, then Steel Soldiers will occupy your time for a period or two, and then reside for the duration at the Veterans of Popular Wars building.