"In all, this is hardly a Hellish game. It throws in some really interesting mechanics (backed by opponents willing to make use of them at every opportunity) that makes Hellas interesting and that little more closer to the ideal strategy experience."
Life is full of pleasant surprises; from new friend requests on Facebook to your ex getting a divorce from her new husband. Sometimes these unexpected gifts turn up in the most random of places. Fate of Hellas is one of these sweet shockers. As a Real Time Strategy, it's balanced, surprisingly under publicised and gorgeous. As an experience, it's magnificently immersive.
Hellas’ gameplay concentrates far less on a variety of generic strategic options (economic turtle, opening rush). Rather, it focuses on creating scenarios where both players are forced into creating huge armies to tackle one another. Resource gathering times are slowed considerably compared to its peers in the genre, but this has obviously been implemented so the player really thinks about where they spend their hard-earned wood. This leads to a rather schizophrenic pacing; where action-packed battles are taking place on one side of the map, whilst back at base you’re left consuming every last ounce of resource on new units, forced to wait around for minutes at a time until the next chunk of gold is excavated. This often causes frustrating situations where neither player has an advantage over the other, as it takes hours to build up a decent-sized army. At least Hellas does not force you to upgrade every single gathering building separately, unlike its pedantic peers.
Armies themselves follow a pretty vanilla design: The average RTS units are here, with typical methods to match; Archers beat soldiers, soldiers beat pikemen, pikemen beat horses and horses and horses own archers. There's the occasional super unit, but the game restricts itself to the realms of realism (elephants are as good as it gets, fellas). Simplicity is a benefit, as veterans of the genre will feel right at home here.
That isn’t to say that Hellas doesn’t bring some new elements to the playing field. Some are purely aesthetical, such as the sails on ships being deployed when you travel with the wind. Others actually affect gameplay; the weather not only makes your navy looks prettier, but even affects how accurate your archers can be. Vibrant components not only add to immersion but allow interesting new ways to gain the edge over opponents; from knocking riders from their horses to being given the ability to customise what equipment your armies use. It’s a nice, novel touch but some features (like the aforementioned unit design) can contrast horribly with the anti-micro-managing theme that the game initially presents; I want to fight, but that shouldn’t mean spending five minutes beforehand fiddling around with weaponry.
Such subtle benefits are certainly required in-game; the easiest of AI settings present a refreshing challenge. Prepare to find your armies outflanked (and outmatched) frequently. This makes the offline skirmish mode far more replayable, as the difficulty encourages players to constantly improve their game; not unlike going against real humans. A good battle in this mode of offline play is vital; as the larger, main campaign is lacking and does not reprise such quality;. The story follows a dull and confusing narrative and offers little more than cut-and-paste missions and objectives, tied together with some atrocious over-acting. Hellas doesn't hesitate to throw you into the heat of things, with a hardly competent tutorial and not letting the player know what on Earth is going on leading the way. The average 300 watcher will definitely be perplexed by the lack of exposition. Why are you fighting these enemies? Why is the main character where he is? These are questions that the story should have explained in time, but fails to do so with any detail.
In all, this is hardly a Hellish game. It throws in some really interesting mechanics (backed by opponents willing to make use of them at every opportunity) that makes Hellas interesting and that little more closer to the ideal strategy experience. The single-player campaign does let the offline side down dramatically due to sporadic tempo and rushed design, but the vast amount of features the game offers up certainly compensates.
Freelance review by Freelance Writer (July 15, 2008)
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