Cryptic Comet’s Armageddon Empires(AE) is a turn based strategy game set in a post apocalyptic Earth torn asunder by the war making of two different alien races. After the conflict leaves our planet, the human survivors and some abandoned alien troops are left to fight it out for global domination.
Gameplay: Cryptic Comet chose to use a ‘collectible card game’ (CCG) system of building a ‘deck’ of units and other special tiles to use in AE. Once a deck is built, it can be used by the specified side as long as the game map allows a deck of that many units and tile cards. This ensures fairness in that each side is limited to the max number of each type cards.
Upon entering a game, you set out any tile cards you have in your deck onto the hexagonal game board, followed by your initial side’s base/stronghold card. From there, the game moves into the actual movement/action phase. The order of which side acts first, second, and so on is determined by a ‘roll’ of virtual dice to determine ‘initiative’. Rolling for initiative is used heavily throughout the game to not only decide which side acts first in the action phase, but also when two armies meet in combat.
When in the movement/action phase of the game, you have a tilebar that can hold 8 cards from your deck at any given time. You may only deploy unit cards that are in those eight slots. Once a card is deployed you may request an addition one be dealt from your deck to take its place. The player has a set number of action points(AP) depending on the order of which your side acts. These APs are your currency for acting, whether it be asking for an additional card from your deck, moving or deploying a unit, etc. In AE, players will have to take into account the other four resources in the game as well, all of which can be increased by capturing tiles on the board that generate them as many actions require certain amounts of these resources in addition to APs to work.
In the early part of a game, your time is spent performing recon missions to uncover hidden caches and bases to take over as well as growing your industrial base back home. Cryptic Comet spent alot of time making the game feel as ‘desperate’ as possible. Resources never seem to come fast enough and you always seem to be scratching and clawing for every inch of territory. This is captured brilliantly and is totally inline with AE’s post apocalyptic story.
Once your empire has grown a bit and the real fighting begins, combat is broken down into initiative rolls followed by combat actions followed by more rolls to determine if the attack was successful or not. Like I said, there is a lot of ‘rolling’ dice in this game, but that goes back to the game’s tabletop roots.
The biggest problem in Armageddon Empires is its user interface. Unfortunately, due to restrictions with Macromedia Director in which the game was made, the player is forced to click several buttons all in different locations to get past all of the initiative rolling. Ideally, a single button could be clicked which would cause all of the rolling to occur in from of the player’s eyes and then immediately jump him or her back into the game.
Graphics: AE does not feature ‘spectacular’ 3d graphics or HDR lighting or anything like that. AE features drawings. Thats right, 2d artwork, the kind your daddy had on his IBM-compatible computer games growing up. They are crisp, detailed, and very well rendered.
Score: AE’s score is well done and definitely adds to the game’s feeling of despair.
Sound: Sound effects in AE are minimalistic but functional.
Conclusion: Cryptic Comet brilliantly captures the table top war game in Armageddon Empires. Aside from a sometimes frustrating user interface, the game will provide hours upon hours of play. In a world of multi-million dollar video game productions to take advantage of the latest graphics engines, it is wonderful to see that good gameplay wins out over flash any day of the week.