Date of publish: 22/11/2020 19:24 CET
Heroes of Annihilated Empires is the first episode in a trilogy of chapters from developer GSC Game World and the books of the same name that will be released with each game by author Ilya Novak. As the game starts, you take the role of the cocky and unabashed Elven ranger Elhant as he learns that his land is being over run by the forces of evil. Elhant finds himself alone fighting the oncoming hordes of undead until he comes across others that are fleeing the same threat. Once you find allies to rally with you and to team up with, the chief Monfor requests your aid to help with the destruction of ghoulish creeps. Heroes of Annihilated Empires is an RTS game that brings a new twist to the genre. Most RTS games will have you controlling massive armies of certain types of units, leading them to destroy or defend from an oncoming force as well as needing to micro-manage your little world by constructing buildings, factories and larger units to make your forces all that much stronger.
HoAE is pretty much the same as any other RTS in that regard, except it brings a very noticeable change to the gameplay. As Elhant will be the main focus at the start and other heroes introduced as the game progresses, they are able to upgrade their levels, weapons, magic, gold and potions. This is where the RPG aspect of the game comes in. As you control your armies with the main hero at the helm, they can learn new powers, find phat loots and even have conversations with other NPC’s found throughout the game.
As you and your armies wage war against the undead, orcs, giant spiders, and many other nasties found through out the world, you will increase in levels, get stronger, get better attributes and come across better weapons. These can be equipped or sold at merchant shops that are strewn about the vast empire. As well as weapons like bows, swords and the like, you also have magic at your disposal. These magic cards that you can find, give you abilities such as summoning small armies to your aid, heals and devastating attacks. Spells can be bought in Artifact shops as well as found on the battle field from defeated enemies and run down buildings when you search them. HoAE really does feel like two different games mashed together but the gameplay works quite well for the most part. It can be a little frustrating when there is a huge army waiting around and won’t follow you until you complete an objective and you need to go solo through swarms of enemies. There will be many times that you will find yourself retreating to catch your breath or luring those same enemies to the apathetic soldiers standing around so that they will lend a hand when they are in danger.
The armies can be very enormous once you do finally get in control of them. It’s not unheard of to have an army under your command of several hundred, even thousands of soldiers, which is the reason that you can never really zoom in too close to the characters and will almost always need to play the game from a far distance. Even with the view zoomed out, with that many characters on the screen at one time, enemies included, (the game says that up 64,000 is possible) the frame rates slowed down from time to time considerably. Not all armies are just stumbled upon and handed over to you however. There will be times that you will need to play the micro-managing side of the game and create houses and buildings for soldiers to train to create an army on your own. You will need to use fairies to collect wood, iron, food and crystal resources and put them all to good use.
As the game progresses, you will be able to create more and more powerful allies and structures to protect yourself from the increasingly powerful enemies. This can be a frustrating part of the game since trying to create an army while getting attacked from all sides by incoming flocks of enemies takes a little bit more strategy than just sending in troops to attack. Walls can be built to slow oncoming forces down, as can watch towers and ships that launch volleys of cannon balls to the land.
When each mission starts, you really need to pay attention to what is being said during the scenes. After the first introduction which is a beautiful CGI sequence, the between mission cut scenes are, unfortunately, comic book style images that explain what is going on. Once the mission starts, for some odd reason, there is no way of seeing what objectives you have left to accomplish to complete the task. An objectives screen would have been an incredibly valuable tool since in more than one mission enormous amounts of time was spent on trying to figure out why nothing was progressing. This is one of those times that will have you scratching your head. Other times you will notice odd things about the land. One part there is a space ship or a jet of some sort crashed into a hillside and another time you run across what seem to be tank tracks. Things like this will have you wondering what is happening, but it’s good to have a little mystery as to just what is going on in this land.
Although you will more than likely spend the majority of your time playing the single player campaign or the single player skirmish, where you can choose your opponents and the settings of the battle, there is a full multiplayer side to the game for up to seven players either on the internet or LAN. There are only three battle grounds to choose from but the battles are epic and you can choose whether you wish to play RPG style, where your heroes is the main focus and will level up and such, or RTS style where the main focus is on your units and not the main heroes so much.
Heroes of Annihilated Empires is a full package that does have its short comings such as not being able to skip over some of the atrociously slow voice acting but over all is a pretty interesting mixture of the elements that make RPG and RTS games fun to play. With a story line that stretches across three chapters and the first easily topping 25+ hours to play through, the entire trilogy is looking to be one ambitious offering and the series is shaping up to be a nice addition to the collection of any RPG and RTS fan.
Written by Jeff McAllister
Original date of publish: 11.12.2006