Armada (Dreamcast) review
"Metro3D had a great idea. They took the gameplay conventions of a popular game like Diablo and changed the setting from a fantasy world to outer space. This sounds exciting. Who wouldn't want to play Diablo in space? Armada was born from such an idea, but it very much lacks the customization and heart that made Diablo such a hit. The game falls victim to extreme repetition without much to break the tedium of constant killing for cash. It lacks any sort of variance or plot development. Basically..."
Metro3D had a great idea. They took the gameplay conventions of a popular game like Diablo and changed the setting from a fantasy world to outer space. This sounds exciting. Who wouldn't want to play Diablo in space? Armada was born from such an idea, but it very much lacks the customization and heart that made Diablo such a hit. The game falls victim to extreme repetition without much to break the tedium of constant killing for cash. It lacks any sort of variance or plot development. Basically, it feels like a budget title complete without any developer obligation to take it to the next level.
Armada depicts a battle among the stars as many sentient races ban together for a common cause. All the humans on Earth had to relocate due to an asteroid that was about to collide with the planet. Through tears and sadness, the Earthlings broke apart and made their homes on the many planets in the far reaches of space. Sometime after this, a deadly force known only as the Armada appeared. These cunning creatures took over whole worlds and destroyed all those who opposed them. All trembled in their wake except what remained of the human race. After years of evolution, humans became six different species. These armies then came together to stop the Armada.
It sounds like a Roger Corman flick, and aptly so. It's very basic, but average, and it would have made a great space opera complete with interspecies struggles and subtle hints towards racism. Sadly, the game doesn't expand the storyline beyond this. There are no turns or corners or even any finality to the story. You just keep playing and nothing new develops.
You play one of the six species, whichever one you pick. You start out on a planet with many others aiding you in a battle against Armada forces. Your first mission is simple: kill anything around you that isn't an ally. This planet is actually your home base, where you will return every time you run out of lives or reload your game. Take in the beautiful graphics you see here while you can. You won't see any such array of gorgeous coloring and detail anywhere else. You can speak with the inhabitants of the planet to get more insight on what is going on. There is a little depth here, actually. In a sense, it's representative on the usual political views that seem to circulate any time there is a war. Some of the characters question as to whether or not our killing off the Armada is really justified, as we are taking another life. Others say that the only good Armada being is a dead one.
The mechanics to the game can feel awkward, but don't take long to get used to. You get an overhead view and you can use the controls to maneuver your ship on a 2D plane. Hitting the R or L triggers allows you to speed up. This drains your energy, which can be refilled as you rest. You also have your array of weaponry for offense and defense: A regular blaster, some neutron bombs, and some shields to keep damage low and restore your energy. You are not confined to the planet. You actually have to leave it to do other missions. You will notice one thing about this game. What it lacks in color, it makes up for in animation. The framerates are very smooth until you engage a huge group of enemies, then you get quite a bit of slowdown. To add a little extra detail and atmosphere, you get some space fog.
While flying around outside of the planet, you will be engaged by many Armada ships. The further you get away from your planet, the stronger they are and the more experience they're worth. This means quicker death and quicker levels. After gaining a few levels, your ship gets an upgrade, which makes it much stronger and tougher.
The game is mission-based. Unfortunately, you aren't given a whole lot in terms of missions. Those that you will see pop up the most are destroy [insert creature here], invade [insert planet here], and deliver supplies to [insert base name here]. You'd think that the creature and invasion missions would be the best. When attacking a creature, you'd expect to see something really mean looking and original. Rather, you are treated to a larger version of one of the regular Armada creatures that you see floating around space. Big whoop. The least that Metro3D could have done in developing this game is create some original bosses. Instead, we are given inflated rehash. This is not to say that the enemy designs look incredibly horrible, but they are a far cry from marvelous. As far as invading planets goes, those happen to be the hardest missions. Not only did the developers really stiff us on the boss designs, but they also did so on the unbalanced difficulty. In one mission, you could totally whoop the stuffing out of a boss, then you get a mission to go to a planet and get the stuffing whooped out of you by a boss (and its bodyguards) that is way more powerful than the last.
What's worse is there is no actual end to the game. You do a certain number of missions, then fight a really big boss and head back to base only to find that there are no new missions. Turns out that was the last mission, and you aren't even treated to the benefit of end credits. Instead, you're asked to promptly leave the base and just keeping killing Armada scum for eternity.
You are probably thinking, ''No problem! I'll just level up and get new equipment like any other RPG!'' If only it were that easy... Building levels takes a long, long time of repetitive killing. Sure, most every RPG has ''repetitive killing.'' This game, however, takes that to the next level. There will be times where you will have to kill enemies for what seemed like hours before you gain a level. As it turns out, that one level didn't do much. You have to gain many levels, which takes even more time to do. It's be shocking not to have someone lose interest in the time it takes them to gain enough levels to advance past some of the harder missions.
As far as new equipment goes, most if it is not that helpful. You can only equip a few items. What advantages they do give you do not amount to enough to fight off the Armada. In order to get the really good stuff, you have to build up to a high enough level. Then, the bases will have those special pieces of equipment in stock at the great, low price of your first born child. So, there's more repetitive killing you have to do just to get your mitts on enough cash to hold in your grasp an item that can (hopefully) finish off the Armada.
But this game is really not a complete wash. Just a bit illogical.
The gameplay actually is not all that bad. The mechanics work well and the game is actually fun and addictive for the first hour or so. If you really want to enjoy this game, it's probably best you not devote hopeless hours to it. Either that or find a character you can download onto your VMU that can waste the Armada at the drop of a dime.
Does this game give you any side missions? Well, yes it does, actually... Sort of. Every now and then you will get a transmission for help. This will be a ship that needs you to help guide it to the coordinates it is headed for. Should you help out and destroy all Armada ships along the way, you will be rewarded with some bonus money. It may not be much depending on where in the galaxy you are, but it is a bit that you can use.
Thankfully, you can keep your character when you're done with the game. It can constantly be exported and imported into new games. You can gain quite a bit of experiences this way. It is actually recommended that one way to break the tedium of the game is to export and import the character. Metro3D also decided to have a feature to let three other friends in on the battle, giving you up to four players. It is a bit more fun to have other people roaming around with you. This adds just a smidgeon of depth that keeps the game away from a worse grade.
Graphics add a sparse amount to the atmosphere, but not nearly as much as the sound. We aren't given much in terms of music, unfortunately. It seems almost essential for shooters to have some great, exciting music to pump you up in the heat of battle. Armada does fall short there. However, the sound effects add a gracious amount to the atmosphere. It actually gives one the feeling of watching a sci-fi space battle film. The blasters and explosions just have that campy, yet authentic sound that harken back Roger Corman, Ishiro Honda, and Jun Fukuda. This is especially replicated when in a major battle with a menagerie of ships around.
Armada is sadly a fun game wrapped in repetitive missions and without any special details. Such repetition has unfortunately marred the game to the point that it becomes uninteresting fast. Sure, there is a breath-taking shock from the whole idea of this being a space shooter and an RPG rolled into one game, but that wears off once many of the missions are done.
I had stated in an original version of this review that Armada 2 was on the way out, and sadly it's gone to the unreleased game graveyard. The sequel looked like it was going to be epic, complete with 3D graphics and promised to be deeper. Hats off, Metro3D. I would have loved to play Armada 2. It would have replaced this tragic prequel.
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (November 06, 2010)
Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.
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