Date of publish: 18/11/2020 16:27 CET
Boomtown’s clean up crew stand on high alert at the risk of the latest movie to game transition. Fingers crossed.
Alexander, Colin Farrell. He’s on the front case of the game box, the manual and his image even appears on the CDs. It doesn’t take a genius to understand the implications of having our pal Colin’s voice remarkably distant from the character of Alexander portrayed in the game.
Unfortunately, yes, we have here a classic movie tie-in game, with about as much to do with the production of the film as John McCririck (thankfully), following the plot as closely as a real time strategy can do. That said, just because a movie tie in doesn’t strictly abide by the exact movie plot doesn’t mean it can’t be a success, after all, if the game is good, shouldn’t that be enough?
Following the same guise as countless games since probably the most widespread real time strategy, Command and Conquer, Alexander sees you controlling Alexander’s army (and later on in separate campaigns the armies of Persia, Egypt and India) in an attempt to wipe out the enemy. This involves selecting the units you want to use and choosing where to walk and who to attack, which will be standard to most strategy gamers. Individual units have their own attack power, defence, health and general statistics to help the game decide how much damage they cause against enemies, and to some extent that’s all there is to the game.
Buildings and peasants
The basis of the game does revolve around your forces assaulting the opposing sides, but there is also an element of building structures to allow you to increase your forces and fulfil various other mission tasks.
Asking your peasants to build a town centre allows the construction of other buildings, as well as the recruitment of more peasants. Which lead on to more impressive (and somewhat more useful) structures until you are able to ‘recruit’ various types of soldier, build ships and increase the wealth and fruitfulness of your civilisation.
And there you have it. That pretty much sums up the gameplay, as simple as it may sound; it remains for the most part enjoyable, partly because of the vast amount of troops that can be a part of a battle. The game engine, using a combination of 3D effects for the terrain, and some well created 2D for characters and buildings can render literally thousands of characters on screen at once (though trying to control them at once would be more challenging than finding a good movie based on a video game). Unfortunately, controlling your troops is one area that does have a few problems.
We crave good AI?
AI suggests that a virtual character has a mind of its own, which certainly seems to be the case with some parts of Alexander. Leading his troops into battle, apparently the title character was a fierce and talented warrior. Surely a talented warrior, when told to retreat back to his troops shouldn’t ride headlong into two squads of pike wielding, head spearing, death bringing enemy troops.
Alas, having Alexander set to the wrong alert level can cause that very event; to such an extent that occasionally you wonder whether or not you have any control at all. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue if the odd soldier decided he could take out 50 enemies surrounding him without breaking a sweat. But since your mission is failed if Alexander dies and when outnumbered this can happen with no time for even nearby friendlies to come to his rescue it becomes a little disheartening.
After getting the hang of making sure Alexander doesn’t get into any trouble, I realised that my (overly successful) tactics for winning certain missions were completely against what our title character was meant to be famous for, which consisted of sending out my infantry to kill oncoming squads, leaving my cavalry for the appearance of any unexpected foes (since they were much faster moving) and leaving medics amongst both groups to heal them as and when they were injured. Once the immediate conflict was over, it remained a mere case of waiting until the medics had completely healed my band of merry men before moving further into the unknown to repeat the process.
Plot, what plot?
The film tie in is luckily more than just a coincidence that a film was being made at the same time as a game about the same topic. Video introductions to campaigns, and occasional rewards are given throughout with footage from the film, as well as 10 minutes of video that you won’t have even seen at the cinema.
This is a welcome addition, and gives a nice incentive to see what’s coming next as generally they are edited well. There is however a truly terrible collection of voices used in the production of the game. From the narrator voice over to the horrendous acting given to Alexander’s words within the (loosely termed) plot sections of the game, for the most part the acting is worse than a CrimeWatch reconstruction.
While these voices are almost all cringe-worthy, the saving grace of the game is the sheer scale of it. There is a solid multiplayer mode which although feeling like a race to amass the biggest army is still plenty of fun to play with your friends and four single player campaigns is a lot to play through, especially with the time it takes to trundle across a map. Various path-finding issues mean that sometimes having to wait minutes (with no options to speed up time anywhere in sight) for an essential squad to find the wrong way around an obstacle. This is nothing short of frustrating when you know that you have just given your enemy extra time to fatten up their forces.
‘Conquer films and you might not be able to conquer games’
Alexander sure has a lot to learn about fine tuning a game, because all in all there is potential for something great here, and I did enjoy playing through. As games developers will be happy to explain, the final tweaking portion of development is the most important stage in order to take a fair game and make it great. Most likely having to scrimp on the final stages to coincide with the film’s release has damaged this game just enough to knock a few points off its score.
A few bugs here and there as well as some obvious yet simple features that seem to be missing add frustration to playing the game, and while fans and non fans of the movie alike, will certainly gain something from Alexander, it certainly is not the greatest Real Time Strategy available.
Written by James “eVOLVE” Hamer-Morton
Original date of publish: 19.01.2005