Savage
Developer: S2 Games
Publisher: Digital Jesters
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 2-64
Words By:

"You lot!", screamed the General's voice through the infantry's radio sets. "Move over to position 7G and kill that soldier. There's only one, so it should be nice and easy for you... General out". "LOCK AND LOAD" screams one of the infantry as they all pick up their weapons and start charging towards the lone soldier. "ARRGH!" they all scream as somehow they contrive to get hosed down by the single enemy. The General slumps back in his seat, quits out of Command and Conquer, and uninstalls the game from his PC. "Rubbish AI" he mutters…

I think that accurately describes the adventures of many people's adventures in strategy games. Of course, if the infantry had actually been real people rather than AI, things would be different. Well, at least that's what you'd think.

Savage attempts to bridge the gap between real time strategy and a first/third person shooter - the game is played out entirely online, where two teams compete against each other in a time-limited game, where the object is to destroy the other team's stronghold/lair. Most of the players play as soldiers, out on the battlefield, although one player sees the game from above the battlefield ala your average strategy game. The commander makes the strategic decisions of what to build, and can order his troops to attack/defend other units/structures. Of course, it's up to the troops to decide whether to follow their commander's orders, or make their own plan. It's a symbiotic relationship, as the commander cannot directly do any harm to the enemy, they can only build structures that will let their troops spawn as more deadly units, or with more deadly weapons. Similarly, the troops are shafted if they don't pay attention to their commander - they have the best handle on what's going on in the battle, and helping your commander out will mean that the weapons your team needs get built faster.

   

Each team is one of two races - humans, or beasts, with each side having their own set of weapons and other items, although these equate to each other somewhat. The biggest difference between the sides is that although the humans have moderately better ranged weapons, beasts are a little stronger when it comes to getting up close and personal.

Of course, an RTS would be nothing without resource management - and there is some of that in Savage. Players can help in the construction of buildings, and the mining of resources, but most of the time, AI workers can be left to do these jobs. Amusingly, to help out, players just run up to the building/mine, and hit it with their melee weapon continuously, and the animation is the same whether killing, repairing, mining or cooking. It's maybe a little simple, although it becomes quite lovable after a while (although there isn't actually any cooking, I lied about that). The graphics and sound are all quite average to be honest - there are some nice touches, but nothing ever stuns you.

   

To get back to the real gameplay issues though, there are a few gripes I have with Savage. As much as it would be nice to stand off and pick off the enemy with ranged weapons, melee is a big part of Savage, which is both a good thing, and a bad thing. In melee mode, you switch to the third person view, and hack away to your heart's content - you need to do it quite a lot, because ammo for ranged weaponry can be quite limited, and melee does vastly more damage than ranged fighting. It's good, because it sets Savage apart from just being a first person shooter with strategy tacked on, but it's not the most clinical of things to actually fight with - you run around each other, wildly slashing away, until one person dies. Humans can block, and beasts can make sudden lunges forward, but all too often, melee fighting just becomes a scrum. What this does achieve though, is that this is a big leveller in things - the most l33t player cannot influence a team's performance that much - the best organised team will usually win. And that's Savage's greatest asset, and its biggest flaw. The first/third person element isn't great - it's pretty poor, and it's hard to get past that when the game looks and acts very much like a team based FPS most of the time. Having said all of that, it hasn't stopped me from getting drawn into the game for hours at a time - the action element may not be great, but the team element is outstanding. At its best, Savage is possibly the best team-based game I have ever played - I have been part of some epic battles, with a constantly shifting battlefield.

   

However, I have also been part of some truly rubbish battles. The quality of the game is very much dependent on the commanders. The commanding isn't very deep or complex - it's quite simple really, but there's no way to learn how to play as a commander - no tutorial and no offline mode, which is a bit of a bummer when you have 30 troops awaiting your order, and you're playing against someone who knows what they're doing. I would suggest that any budding commanders join a clan and play with an organised group for a while as a soldier - it's the quickest way to get a handle on the various strategies available for each map.

Joining a clan will get you the most out of this game, but even if you don't fancy that, Savage is a wonderful game to hop into for an hour at a time. The fact that after you buy the game (for around £20 from some online retailers) you do not have to pay any subscription fees only sweetens the deal. Bargain.


Good Points

- Brilliant team game.
- Unbelievably addictive.
- Excellent value.


Bad Points

- Poor graphics by recent standards.
- Shooting/fighting elements aren't great.
- No way to learn how to command other than the hard way.


by: Peter Potatohead