Savage: the Battle for Newerth Review (PC)
Let me open by saying right off the bat that I have never been a really good team player. I am usually more comfortable being in charge or simply on my own. Of course I joined the military..go figure, and to the credit of the institution, I have developed this aspect of my personality as far as my profession goes.
Unfortunately I can say that as far as gaming or sports go, I still am a bit of a loner. In fact I was one of the “old school” grouches who held off getting Internet access because “I was raised on stand-alones dag-nammit!!”.
Later, when my ego recovered, I got into PBEMs and TCP games for wargames and there things got a little better. I can say that perhaps multi-play and I have come to a common agreement and will be able to live in harmony based on these experiences. But I still don’t entirely trust the damn things.
When Savage: The Battle for Newerth arrived in the mail, I really wasn’t too optimistic to be honest. To my mind we finally had a game which could get a lot of jerks together and show just how poorly they take direction. I had seen a lot of this on Counter-Strike servers so I went in rather jaded.
Savage thankfully really opened my eyes and in that extended blink I got a very good look at the future.
Savage is described as a “Real Time Strategy Shooter” (RTSS), mark an ‘ol gamers word and remember that name well because we will see it again. Essentially for most players Savage is a coop post-apocalyptic run and gun. But even at this level you are going to see some very new things. You will be directed to help build fortifications, collect resources and of course fight.
For the two Commanders, the game looks like it was peeled straight from any modern RTS. The big difference here is you are managing people (the FPS crowd) and they don’t play like the red-shirted numpties you have come to love & hate. They have minds, wants and needs and most of all may just not do what you say.
Savage is set in the usual; post-nuclear-war-world-re-born-with-beasties-and-people (in an American Indian motif)-going-at-it-for-domination-of-the-world (well really 14 different maps). To be honest the story line isn’t really important and the only reason to have beasties and people is to provide a reason for different in game units.
From the FPS perspective you will see a lot of the usual features, melee weapons with wicked punch, ranged weapons (single shot, rapid shot, FTs and the ubiquitous sniper “bow”) and siege weapons. Items are also available for purchase (you get gold from dead enemies and for rewarded efforts) from med packs to sensors. Players spawn from Garrisons which are basically constructed spawn points and go forth and do battle. Here the game turns into what you would expect in any FPS. Weapons do different levels of damage and you will soon find some fit your play style while others only get you killed.
Sometimes I found that the cooperative play was rather shallow as things move so fast that you really don’t get a sense of teamwork. Here is where the Commander fits in as an important part of the picture and will in effect make or break the game.
The Commander is one busy fella, he/she has to manage the players, workers, reward/punish and keep an eye on the tactical situation all at the same time. If you think things are rushed at the player level Commanders hop around like a burning frog trying to keep it all “in-picture”, then if you screw up expect a serious verbal thrashing from your “loyal troops”.
One critical thing missing is voice support, Players can get away with “follow me” and “go left”. However, in order for a Commander to be able to interject his Intent and overall plan and keep everyone in the picture..typing simply is not where it is at. This can lead to frustration as you try and get things on track. Voice support (for the Commanders at least) is sorely missed in this game, which is surprising as it has been used extensively in multi-FPS games for a few years now.
As an FPS or RTS the graphics of Savage is above average in my opinion. The screen did run jerky at times but no worse than I have seen in other multi-play venues. The maps are very colourful and vibrant. Weapons visual effects are a little under whelming but still sufficient.
Sound-wise the game is very nice. The tracks and sound effects I found to be quite engaging and help the experience. Although the weapons sounds could have been a bit meatier.
In conclusion, Savage does a lot right and is a very interesting experience adding another command layer to a genre well known for its chaos and somehow pulling it off. Again, mark my words and take a look at the Savage demo at least because this is a benchmark game which truly melds FPS and RTS in their truest senses together into a solid package. Be prepared for the future my friends for the future is now!