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Armada 2526 (PC) artwork

Armada 2526 (PC) review

"Armada 2526 is a hard game. It doesn’t have a plot, but it does have a big, wide open galaxy to explore and twelve distinct races to base your own story on."

My early time with Armada 2526 was spent merrily playing through the tutorial mode. I started off with only Earth beneath my galactic grasp, and I was all the happier for it. My population was healthy, I made more money than I spent and I was able to build fabulous properties. I pimped my floating space station so I could build bigger and badder spacecraft, dropped some cash on space mines and bought cosmetic whirligigs to keep my populace happy. “Why don’t you colonise that new system over there?“ said the computer, tasked with helping me learn the ropes. Alright, I thought, I will.

The new system flourished once I established a colony. It had an asteroid belt I could mine, earning me more monies, and a hospitable enough climate for prospectors to want to cultivate. Transporters loaded to the gills left Earth full of people looking for an exciting new life. My bank balance thanked them.

“You’ve made first contact with a new alien race!” said the ever helpful computer, and so I had. The Qa Qa Assembly are an insect-like tribe, and they just wanted to be friends. “Why not open negotiations with them so as to exchange technology and ideas?” Why not indeed, my tutorial-driven computer friend. Thank you for pointing me in this direction. With a bit of friendly bartering, both of us gained new technologies and insights into each other’s cultures. Everyone was happy. Tra la la la.

“Hey look over there” said my trustworthy friend, the computer. “It seems to be another system, this one richer in potential than the previous one. Why not put a new colony there?” Nudged gently by what seemed like another good idea, I sent an ark towards the promoted location and looked forward to another profitable colony.

“Whoops”, said Mr. Computer. “You seem to have found a planet full of xenophobic space apes whose only goal in life is to eradicate any species that’s not them.” My ark ship was instantly destroyed by their small advanced fleet that had been waiting for me there. “Now they know you exist, they’ll no doubt be eager for a playful bout of genocide.”

Scything through the still-glowing remains of my ark, angry space apes flew towards my nearest colony, dripping hatred and firing plasma torpedoes.

“I’ve helped you as much as I could”, said the bastard turncoat computer, grabbing its coat and hurrying towards the nearest fire exit. “The rest of it is up to you!” It was never heard from again.

In a hurried effort to ward off my newly found foes, light torpedo bases were built planetside, eating into my net profits. The armed fleet I’d been amassing at Earth was dispatched to defend my outer colony, and was, thankfully, sufficient in force to do so. After a few turns of dealing with a populace that used to be a lot happier when they weren’t on the receiving end of rampaging simians, it was time to plan a counter strike. Efforts and funds previously concentrated on the stability of my people turned into an intergalactic war fund. This made a lot of people unhappy. To sweeten things up, I hiked up their taxes so as to afford more fighter planes and build research stations to discover better ways to blow monkeys up.

My small selection of tiny fighter crafts were upgraded into meatier, heavier fighters and my missile platforms slowly made obsolete by hulking orbital death rays. The angry space monkeys made the odd raid but, now I knew they were there, my defences were adequate to see them off without needing the play general in a real-time battle. They became one-sided enough to just let it play out automatically behind the scenes. Eventually, I was confident in my hastily assembled strike force and jetted off toward the enemy colony where I was rather effortlessly eradicated. Turns out while I was bolstering my defence, those bloody tyre-swing loving bastards had been doing the same.

Now that my army made of outdated craft had been turned into space junk, I had the chance to build something more advanced. Using technology I had negotiated from the Qa Qa, I was able to construct huge fleet carriers and ripper crafts capable of hurling chunks of meteor at planetary defences. I chortled -- CHORTLED -- at what I would rain down upon those bloody monkeys as I built a veritable swarm of cheap to make and maintain space squid to act as my main force while other crafts would stay at the back of the battle and blow shit up from afar.

It took a couple of turns, but I succeeded in taking the planet after a particularly fierce battle saw the vast majority of my beloved squid squad turned into space-bound calamari. Once I had quelled the surface resistance, I had the chance to capture the existing colony or crush it underfoot. It wasn’t a hard choice: the planet burnt under my glare.

From the ashes rose my new colony and guarding it meticulously was what remained of my fleet. But the angry space apes were strangely silent for an elongated period. Cautiously optimistic, I rebuilt some of my lost fleet, ensured that the new planet had stellar defences, then concentrated once again on expanding my empire and appeasing my population. They had become quite miffed at paying through the nose for technologies purchased from alien chums and footing the large budget construction of my beautiful machines of war.

New, shiny ark ships were built, ones capable of taming harsher planets and new colonies were built amongst once uninhabitable ice and rock. New methods of mining allowed me to tap into the very core of planets or start to harvest comet showers for little risk and huge profit. These helped lower the taxes of my besieged people, and money was put aside for mass entertainment centres, weather control plants and other ways to trick the little people into thinking I saw them as more than income. After a while, I began to feel safe. My expansions spiked out into unknown space, and I ensured that my outer rim of planets were well defended: if the monkey fleet couldn’t penetrate them, then the central planets in the middle only needed cosmetic defences. Even this seemed pointless; new scout ships allowed me to exactly map the edges of angry ape space and, seemingly, so long as I didn’t bother them, they were content to hate me from afar after their earlier arse whooping. Humanity entered a prosperous age full of giggling infants and skylarking.

Then a large black hole appeared in the middle of my cluster of planets. From it emerged swarms of vengeful space apes!

While I had put them to the back of my mind, they had been busy discovering a bevy of black holes and learning how to enter one and pop out another. They struck at the heart of my empire hard. The main fleet that headed towards Earth was seen off after heavy losses on each side, but lesser defended planets fell effortlessly under their onslaught. Populations were routed, invaded or outright slaughtered under evil monkey rule and picturesque colonies I had spent months developing were razed in seconds. It was, effectively, check mate.

I battled back valiantly for a spell, but I was eventually overwhelmed and Humanity was wiped from the face of the galaxy. The aliens who offered hugs and cookies while I was sitting on a technological goldmine were sympathetic to my plight, but did not want to get involved without heavy compensation that I could no longer afford. Honourable mention went again to my space squid fleet who drown out many monkey attacks by sheer number, but I no longer had the facilities to mass produce them. Eventually, my space faring fleets waned, my planetside defences crumbled and my home planet was snatched from under me. I had lost.

Two things to keep in mind here:

1/ I had only played the tutorial section of the game. The supposedly overly-easy bit designed to ease new players in.

2/ I had been tricked by the bloody tutorial’s “helpful hints” section into instigating a war I was nowhere near ready for!

Armada 2526 is a hard game. It doesn’t have a plot, but it does have a big, wide open galaxy to explore and twelve distinct races to base your own story on. Mine was initially a story of sorrow and destruction, a story of betrayal from the least likely source ever. The next attempt though, that was a story of stinging vengeance, fuelled by blood and ending in the soulless slaughter of any space-going folk who ever looked longingly at a banana. It was a bloodbath, sadistic and single-minded. And, even then, before victory was mine, I had to quell a rebellious assault from my own people.

Victory tastes all the sweeter once you’ve had to swallow all the bitterness that precedes it.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (July 11, 2010)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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zippdementia posted July 11, 2010:

This reviews drops my socks and grabs my throttle, EmP. Generally my review reading goes something like this*: I click on the review. If it's (a) short, I'll go ahead and read it. If it's (b) not short, I'll give it a glance for basic style and come back to it later. When I come back to it, if the introduction grabs me, I'll read that and then maybe the last paragraph and then come back to fill in the middle later. Later, when I come back to read the middle, I may give up altogether and end up becoming distracted by any number of things not related to reading reviews.

However, every once in a while, a review is so well written that this streamlined system is blown out of the water. This review had it all... space monkeys, a tale of betrayal and woe, snappy writing, a fair warning to potential players... I love this review.

* if it's not my turn at ROTW
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EmP posted July 11, 2010:

Thanks for that, Zipp. I put a lot of work into this one. I even proofed it.

Go on: find something to complain about, WQ! You can't!

I even bullied Will into getting a copy so I can ranclick him to death. That time is coming.
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wolfqueen001 posted July 11, 2010:

Wanna bet? I'll get to this later and show you. =D
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EmP posted July 11, 2010:

You. Will. FAIL!
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Suskie posted July 11, 2010:

Excellent review, EmP. I'm kind of glad you're not participating in TT now :)
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wolfqueen001 posted July 12, 2010:

...I still wish he was.

Anyway, fail indeed! Don't focus entirely on all of these like you usually do and totally forget the positive. =P This really was a great review, and I like how it gradually built up as you narrate your tale. Honestly, you always seem to amaze me with how, almost without exception, you manage to write interesting reviews for hard-to-write-about genres.

That being said, I do have a few questions. Is this a real time strategy thing like Age of Empires (it sounds like it has elements of that game), or is it a mix of genres like Pacific Storm? It also sounded like it was TBS, too, so I dunno what to think of it.

Also, how long have you been playing this? Did you ever get beyond the tutorial? Haha.
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EmP posted July 12, 2010:

Bah -- you win this round!

Q: Is this a real time strategy thing like Age of Empires (it sounds like it has elements of that game), or is it a mix of genres like Pacific Storm? It also sounded like it was TBS, too, so I dunno what to think of it.

A: It's mostly TBS but when you engage in a battle, you can play it out in real time. Pacific Storm is a reasonable comparison.

Q: Also, how long have you been playing this? Did you ever get beyond the tutorial? Haha.

A: Been playing it a lot for the last few weeks. I'm well past the tutorial, but that made the biggest impression on me, so that's what I decided to write about.

That said, if anyone is looking to pick this up, let me know. It's a game I can see myself hitting up multiplayer maps on if the interest is there.

Thanks to WQ and Suskie for the kind words. Look at it this way; should I join the TT next year, I'll have all this ammo saved up to play with.
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Masters posted July 12, 2010:

It also sounded like it was TBS, too, so I dunno what to think of it.

"dunno" should be "don't know"

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EmP posted July 12, 2010:

See -- Marc always has my back.
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Leroux posted July 12, 2010:

Aw, who cares. This review rocked.
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EmP posted July 13, 2010:

Thanks, Leroux.

I did not expect this review to go over as well as it has!
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wolfqueen001 posted July 13, 2010:

See -- Marc always has my back

Haha. Since when? I thought he stopped reading your reviews ever since you wrote that Happy Lovey Pony Princess game. That is, unless you poked and prodded and whined for him to do so. =P

As for the "I dunno" thing. It's slang and I will use it in casual conversation as I please. I don't nitpick casual conversations, after all. (Though in EmP's case, I certainlycould, hahaha). =P
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Masters posted July 13, 2010:

Though in EmP's case, I certainlycould...

You need a space in there. =D

Muahaha. Okay, that's my last bit of interference in the Emp-WQ love-hate thing... at least in this particular topic.
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WilltheGreat posted July 13, 2010:

EmP, stop making typos that are actual words! They're much harder to spot!

WQ: Irradiated also refers to radiation. Like nukes from orbit, which was how I interpreted that bit.

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