Heroes of Annihilated Empires Review

Heroes of Annihilated Empires seems a strange title for a game, as being called the hero of an annihilated empire seems akin to be being named offensive MVP for the 2006 Oakland Raiders. Unfortunately the game is hobbled by more than just an awkward title.

The game loses a few rating points right off the bat thanks to its use of the Starforce copy protection program. If you’re not familiar with Starforce, it installs drivers on your machine that will sit there running every time you use your computer, regardless of whether or not you run the game. It also has the nasty habit of forcing you to reboot the computer after installing the game and requiring you to be connected to the internet to validate your copy of the game. Starforce is just plain obtrusive and as soon as I was done playing the game for review it was purged from system along with the obnoxious Starforce.

The game casts you in the role of an elven hero named Elhant whose homeland is being ravaged by legions of undead soldiers. The game bills itself as an RPG/RTS hybrid because Elhant gains experience as he slays enemies and levels-up like in an RPG. However, that’s about the extent of the RPG element in the game and RTS games have been featuring hero units who level-up during play for quite some time now. Heroes is pretty much your standard RPG game in that way, but not in others – meaning some of the features that have become the de facto standard in RTS games are absent here.

The first of these missing standards is unit management. The game features enormous armies of units that can be commanded individually but there is no mechanism for controlling them en masse. You can select multiple units by dragging a selection box on the game map and then give the group orders as a whole, but there’s no way to set army groups and assign them to number keys. Even when selecting multiple units they don’t always all obey your orders – there are invariably a few that simply stand around ignoring your orders, forcing you to select the stragglers on their own to reissue the order to them.

The large (and largely uncontrollable) armies also manage to take most of the strategy out of this strategy game. When armies engage they literally become a blob of bodies, making it impossible to discern one unit from another. Early in the game you learn that targeting and killing enemy leaders can make their followers bolt the field of battle, but good luck finding the enemy leader in the battle blob so that you can target him. The battle blobs lead to a lot of time spent simply sitting and watching the game play itself. There’s not a lot you can do but let the blob sort itself out and see which army comes marching out intact. Even if you did have better control over things I’m not sure that it would matter. The enemy AI has a pretty much one track mind stuck on the full frontal attack tactic. It’s not like it’s wasting brainpower on base building either; the enemy units are cranked out from “monster generators” that simply spit out units until destroyed.

The lack of any real control over your armies and battles is not the only frustrating aspect of the game. There are no objective windows in the game so you’re often left wondering what exactly it is your supposed to be doing. Sometimes characters in the game give you a quest, but it’s not always clear what they are asking of you, whether the request is an optional side quest or critical to the story, and there’s no way to see a list of current or completed quests. Often you’ll just have to march your army down the road and into the fog of war in the hope that you’ll eventually trigger whatever event is required to complete your current quest or the mission.

All of these issues make for some tedious gameplay, but the game’s numerous interface issues will try your patience. Just to name a few things, there’s no way to track or select idle peasants, the audio from character conversations will continue to play to completion even if you close the characters’ dialog windows, and you have to click your way through six levels of menus simply to exit the game. After adding an anemic, three map scrimmage mode and broken internet play to the list, it becomes more and more apparent as to why this empire was annihilated.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 58%. Strategy gamers won’t feel the need to resurrect this annihilated empire.