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Armies of Exigo PC CD-ROM Official Website

Published by EA Games
Developed by Black Hole Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Ask a seasoned RTS gamer what RTS games he or she has been looking forward to in the latter part of this year and you'll get answers such as Rome Total War and The Battle for Middle-Earth. It's titles like these which make it difficult for gamers to see past the big name games and take a chance on a lesser known title. Armies of Exigo might not be a game that many have been looking forward to and with the game arriving amongst an absolute tidal wave of new, highly anticipated, game releases it's a fair bet that it will be ignored by most gamers who pop into their favourite game store looking for a quality game. If you're a RTS fan though ignoring Armies of Exigo would be a very big mistake. What's so special about Armies of Exigo then? Well it doesn't have any amazing new features. It doesn't really have a story that you could call memorable either. In fact what Armies of Exigo is, is a highly refined RTS experience that takes the best the genre has to offer and synthesizes it into one very playable game.

Armies of Exigo, like Starcraft, Warcraft and a fair few other RTS games out there, focuses on three very different races. There's the human Empire, the Beast (an assortment of Trolls, Lizardmen and Ogres amongst other things) and the Fallen (a group of mystical and magical Dark Elves). Each race has their own hero units and unique buildings. Units can gain experience and extra abilities in a similar way to other games out there. Resource management has been kept simple with only wood, gold and gems to obtain. The three races all seem to have been finely balanced which is the way it should be. The game offers you a campaign for each race along with a skirmish mode, LAN and online play. There is also a custom mode where you can play the levels you create with the scenario editor. Black Hole have even included a custom mission of their own, a chess game. Yes you can even play a game of chess using the units in the game which is excellent (if you're a fan of chess like me that is). Multiplayer modes are said to include capture the flag, melee, king of the hill but most of the maps tend to be for the melee mode. The game offers 3 difficulty modes but even on the easiest level it does seem more challenging than most RTS games that you see nowadays.

Earlier I said the game didn't have any amazing new features but this isn't strictly true. The game offers the chance to form Supergroups and also gives you dual-layered maps. Virtually every RTS under the sun allows you to form groups with your military units. Armies of Exigo allows you to take this concept one step further and form Supergroups. Essentially this allows you to combine your groups into Supergroups but they still retain their individual group identity. To form a group it's the usual procedure of holding down the Ctrl key and selecting a number. To form a Supergroup you press either F1, F2, F3 or F4 and assign the groups you want to that Supergroup. Pressing the appropriate F key will then control all the groups you've assigned to that key. It's a simply inclusion but one that really aids you in the heat of a battle. Armies of Exigo also features dual-layered maps which allow for some additional strategy options. You can use the 'underground' to pass obstacles that would otherwise be impassable as well as making a surprise attack on an enemy amongst other things. It's a nice touch and no doubt an addition other games will take and develop.

Armies of Exigo doesn't only have the polished game play of the Blizzard classic RTS games, it also has their graphical and presentational polish too. Recently we've looked at The Battle for Middle-Earth which looked good but Armies of Exigo looks far nicer. The game is in full 3D but like Warcraft III you can't rotate the map fully. Pressing the Page Up and Page Down keys rotates the map a little left or right but the camera snaps back after the button is released. At least this prevents the camera angles from ever becoming troublesome. The unit cap in the game is a modest 200 and this allows for some great battles. Another benefit of this size unit cap is that it keeps the game running smoothly on most PC's which is essential when you consider that every map has two levels to render. The game is full of great graphical touches that most will probably not notice but nevertheless they all add up to give the game a very polished feel.

Deaf gamers will also be pleased to learn that Armies of Exigo is deaf gamer friendly. The introductory movie clip isn't subtitled but everything else is. Cutscene dialogue is subtitled and shown in a Warcraft III style with a close up of the character's animated face placed next to the text. The tutorial, which runs through the basic game concepts, is fully subtitled too. If characters have a conversation during a mission this speech is shown too. This speech is placed in boxes that have a dark background which allows for greater clarity Objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time by opening the Quest menu. Clicking on a goal will give you additional text that will tell you what needs to be done.

We said at the start of the review that Armies of Exigo is in danger of disappearing under the huge mass of titles that arrive in the build up for Christmas. If you're a RTS fan though this is definitely one game you shouldn't just pass by. Graphically and technically it's a far more satisfying RTS than many you can buy and had we been unaware of who the developer was, I would have said that Blizzard had designed a game that combined Starcraft with Warcraft. Yes it offers only a little innovation and I suppose this will not impress everyone but as a RTS experience it feels very good and sometimes we just want a game that does most things right rather than a game that's full of innovations of which only a handful of them actually prove to be useful. If you're looking for a classic RTS experience this Christmas then avoid the big, franchised games and take a chance on Armies of Exigo. You won't be disappointed.

Overall Game Rating: 8.9/10
Armies of Exigo might not be highly original and might not have a big name attached to the game but it's a quality RTS that veterans of the genre should not ignore.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Mostly fine for deaf gamers.