8-Bit Armies – PC Review – by Adarkchylde

Genre: RTS Real Time Strategy
Developer: Petroglyph
Publisher: Petroglyph
Release date: Apr 22, 2016

Petroglyph Games, a company founded by former employees of Westwood Pacific – who left when the Borg, I mean Electronic Arts, assimilated said company, developed the game – and they have delivered pretty solid strategy titles, most famous perhaps Command & Conquer, Grey Goo and Star Wars: Empire at War but the old Sega title Universe at War: Earth Assault was also awesome. To say that you feel the kinship to the old Command & Conquer is perhaps even an understatement. It is very much like a lovable simplistic Command & Conquer and they even brought in the original composer Frank Klepacki.So is this the “new Grey Goo”? Or even C&C? most definitely not – this is an homage to the old school pioneers in the RTS genre – and if you’re looking for a game to play slightly more casually, or you’re a novice to the genre, this is your game for sure. If you are a die-hard fan of the good old Command & Conquer games (pre-EA) then you will likely enjoy this just as much.

It is far from a perfect modern RTS and the AI is neither complex nor is it terribly unpredictable – although Petroglyph has been improving on both AI behavior as well as unit balancing. It’s also not a very serious game, there´s a ton of humor in it (wait until you see how you can save units from nuclear assault – or at least save some). The game also has its unsung heroes – I’ll get back to those a bit later but suffice it to say, “I want a t-shirt with one of those guys on it Petroglyph”!Petroglyph has also stripped down multitasking so you get to wait for one structure to finish before starting another – meanwhile you can concentrate on troop movements etc. The maps are also somewhat simplified, but they will work well in multiplayer games even if they lack complexity.

The simplistic voxel graphics (Minecraft-esque look) and sharp color schemes may not be a favorite amongst those enjoying StarCraft 2 etc. but it will appeal to those looking for a game that’s easy to manage and it also actually helps in multiplayer – making it easier to survey your units and command them.

The game starts you out with very few unit types and buildings, and as you complete scenarios, you unlock new structures and units. Each mission also has bonus goals that add permanent bonuses to your faction – so you can replay the missions on a higher difficulty to get these – adding both replay-ability and more motivation to try harder settings – in effect awarding the player for playing on harder settings.It all feels very much like the old no nonsense RTS games of yesteryear (Dune 2 for instance) – you have your harvesters (oil trucks) that gather resources and deliver them to your refinery. This provides money to build other structures and more units. As you progress through the game, you add new tech and eventually get the use of Nukes. 8-bit Armies does everything a bit tongue-in-cheek and you can lessen the Nukes effect by moving your units just out of blast radius. The tanker trucks must be driven by guys with Duke Nukem style Balls of Steel (i.e. Fearless); because these guys (my aforementioned heroes) will run over enemies and/or ram tanks in order to deliver their goods to your refinery. This humorous approach might well annoy a hardcore strategy player though and if so, it will take away from the game- if however, like me, you can find this amusing in a casual style RTS it becomes part of the games undeniable charm.So would I buy it if I were looking for a hardcore RTS? No probably not, If I was looking for a deep immersive experience definitely not – but then this was never the intention behind the game. Would I buy it for more relaxed, shorter and/or casual game-session – you’d better believe I would.

 Here there are few complexities/variations , be that story wise or in gameplay – but that is also what makes the game such a great little gem in a time where most game-entries in the genre compete to be as complex and multifaceted as possible – Petroglyph has taken us back to a happier, more accessible time – and I love it. Perfect nope, but fun, relaxing and amusing.And I would happily, even strongly  recommend this to any gamer just starting out with RTS games as well (or those looking for a less demanding game), but watch out for the AI’s route mapping – it will sometimes take very bad routes and your troops won’t save themselves that’s your job Commander.

Early reviews lamented the fact that there were only one playable faction, sketchy multiplayer etc. etc. Petroglyph has done a great deal to fix this and many other bugs – and I am sure they will continue improve on the game as they make more in the series as they’ve already updated the game 29 times since its release and nothing points to them stopping so far.  They’ve also added unit voice packs, mod support, free multiplayer Guardian faction and a playable Guardian Faction campaign – the only DLCs that aren’t free is the game soundtrack and the new Guardian campaign with a price tag of 3.99$ each – they are in my opinion very fairly priced.If the Guardians DLC is successful Petroglyph will add more factions – each one an homage to a faction in a classic RTS game.

Is it suitable for binge playing in single-player mode (i.e. non-stop playing) – I doubt it – the very limitations that early in the campaign mode makes the games accessible, can also then become a little tiresome – but then you have a multitude of other options from  multiplayer (LAN, online and quick-match) to skirmish and a co-op campaign mode. In addition, buying the other games in the series will unlock more factions for you to play as – as there is multiplayer compatibility between the games. I has to be said – that I had issues finding a match in multiplayer – but I have since learned this restriction is due to something on my end not the game itself.So even though the game is simplistic in style and doesn’t take itself too seriously, it definitely takes your (the players) ability to enjoy the game quite seriously – in other words, it is NOT lacking in these areas – by any standard.

The same approach was taken concerning the game’s user interface – it has been made incredibly accessible and simple to learn – while still allowing for a decent amount of variety and game customization.Everything from decent audio/video custom setup, over a truckload of key bindings (I suggest printing them out) to small stuff such as disabling the profanity filter in order to enjoy those skirmishes with your favorite frenemies just that little bit more.

The newly added battlecam – which takes you in to watch the battle at ground level is also a fun touch – although I don’t see the priority, but it’s a bit of fun and that’s exactly what 8-Bit Armies is all about.

Pros:

  • Accessible – easy to learn
  • The simple voxel graphics and simplistic controls makes it ideal for casuals and beginners
  • Fun and light-hearted
  • Nice well produced sound effects
  • Great soundtrack by fan favorite Frank Klepacki
  • Responsive developers who are intent on improving the game and listen to the community and who works fast.

Cons:

  • Multiplayer still somewhat lacking in matchmaking
  • Lack of an immersive story.
  • Lack of content – although this is improving a lot
  • AI route planning a bit problematic and the enemies can get a little predictable

 Adarkchylde gives 8-Bit Armies a solid 7.5 out of 10 (75).

Even with its faults in AI, thin story and lack of variety – I just can’t help like this cool little game, At $14.99 on Steam, I could see myself grabbing it – at sale it would be a no brainer. I would gladly recommend this to beginners and people looking for shorter more casual scenario setups. The game has the same charm the old no-nonsense RTS games used to have and as long as you don’t get hung up on the voxel look, simplistic setup and lack of that epic story – you’ll likely end up enjoying yourself a lot. And if Petroglyph can improve a little on the AI, and I have faith they will, then they have a cool little gem on their hands – if still a little flawed.

That being said it is NOT your 6 hour a day marathon game, in my opinion, keep the sessions shorten and you will get a lot of entertainment for you $14.99. Do not expect this to be successor to StarCraft 2 (that’s just crazy).