: Savage: The Battle for Newerth
: PC CD ROM, Online Download
: S2 Games
: iGames Publishing
: 40 USD
Date of Release
: September 9, 2003 US and everywhere online
I envision that in the near future, there will be no "games" made; just worlds created, and stories told. Within these scenarios, a player will be able to take on any role they want to help or hinder the story's progress in any way imaginable - games will even have mechanisms for dealing with a story's near-demise. One game that's a start of this trend is Grand Theft Auto III
- you can race, you can save people, you can play taxi cab driver, vigilante, murderer or gangster - heck, you could even have a story told to you while you play. Another game is Savage: The Battle for Newerth, in which Real-Time Strategy
and First-Person Shooter
meet and have a little party. Humans legions vs. Beast Horde, in full 3D.
That's right. The usual trappings of real time strategy
) like limited resources
and research trees
are present here. You receive a small amount of gold
(the two resources in the game - the stone is technically red stone
for no apparent reason) to start with, and go on from there. You can create the usual peons
to mine and build, build the usual assortment of buildings (barracks
) and then you go out to destroy your enemy, who is doing the same thing. The view is very Warcraft III
, full 3D overhead, zoom
able to ground-level. Finally, the controls are similar as well, with the usual lasso
to select units and right-click
to give contextual
orders (move, attack, defend, build, repair). In other words, full RTS regalia with not much innovation.
But here's the twist. The warriors
that you would usually spawn
from the ubiquitous barracks are actually other human players. Not only that, but they're playing the game from a first person perspective, able to run around, shoot, swing, snipe or help build, mine and repair all from ground level. When you give out commands from above, they see glowing waypoints
on their screens, and a booming automated voice giving them directions - a clear and effective way of achieving one-to-many
communication. When you place the buildings, they see them as shadowy outlines until they're actually built (accomplished over time - goes faster if everyone helps). When you research new technologies, they are able to outfit themselves with new weaponry and items. And in return, whenever they score a kill or damage an enemy structure, a portion of their profits go to your till.
The best part about this is the transparent teamwork
that goes on. If you don't help the team, your commander
(the guy giving orders from above - one per team, whoever gets in the seat first gets it, but can be impeach
ed by a majority vote) doesn't get the supplies he needs, and thus can't develop the weapons/items/units you want. Likewise, if the commander doesn't do what the troops request, they won't follow his orders and may even impeach him.
I mentioned the RTS part is rather light - so is the FPS portion
. The weapons consist of the usual assortment of shotgun
, machine gun
, instakill sniper rifle
and rocket launcher
, masquerading as fantasy equivalents - each can be upgraded twice to its maximum potential. This is augmented by items such as mines, detonation packs, sensors and invisibility cloaks. While the beast weaponry is slightly more interesting with a bigger focus on melee
weapons, they're still fairly similar - this helps the balance issue that invariably faces developers trying to design opposing sides. The worst part is perhaps hit detection
which is iffy at best, and pure guesswork at worst; melee also offends, as the bunny hopping and circle strafing making close range combat a frantic, senseless clickfest.
Finally, the RPG portion
- again in its light version. As you fight enemies, build or destroy buildings and mine gold, you receive persistent experience
(persistent meaning it stays with you even if you fall in battle). Experience allows you to gain level
s, which in turn increases your efficiency. Each level bestows a perk
, better hand weapon, armor
, and more) the instant you achieve it, and slightly increases your unit size - so it's easy to assess opponents simply based on that visual cue
. You can also change classes
to a limited extent as your team researches them; you also need to have cash (as mentioned, you receive this from mining or combat) to obtain these high-end units. There are three progressively tougher combat units, and two siege weapons for each race.
Savage is pretty. Rolling hills, well animated units for both races, wavy grass, a day and pseudo night cycle, foggy swamps, projectile trails and explosions are all done well. You won't see much complex geometry here, and all maps are outdoors (with a few simple structures built for variety, like sniper towers, ledges or bunkers), but the destructable base buildings, sometimes huge units (the beast's offensive siege unit is a huge troll
, bigger than most buildings) and considerable sight distance
, combined with smooth framerate
s even on low-medium range machines means quite a lot (apparently this was fixed only recently, as earlier reviews note jerkiness - the built-in autopatching utility is yet another bonus). Audio consists of average thwacks, zaps, thuds, grunts and booms, although the vocal audio cues are superb in their simplicity.
Savage lets you command, fight, build, defend or even mine if pacifically inclined. S2 did some clever things that imply they actually played their game a good deal, and thought about common problems in games which attempt to create and enforce teamplay. By creating suggested constraints on the players and easy, intuitive ways for the commander and his troops to communicate, S2 has created the perfect setup for fans of casual team-based games. So far, the games I've played have been amazingly l337
-free and quite well organized - this is more than I can say for just about anything else, where "every man for himself" is the rule. If you don't mind that the RTS and FPS facets are very light
, and the RPG aspect is laughable, then for an hour of on-the-spot team gaming, Savage is a very good bet.
S2 has also improved customer convenience by offering the full game download right from their website. You can download either the install files, or the ISO
, and you receive the installation key in an email. No more wondering if it's in stock, or paying inflated prices - at the time of purchase, all brick stores were claiming a $50 price tag. Finally, there is the clans.s2games.com
site, where you can start your own official clan
as easily as filling out a brief application form. Your new clan designation and icon will now show up in-game. It's amazing that a relative newcomer (oh yes, the entire S2 team is composed of eight people. Eight
) does so many things right when recurring tournament-based games
fail to do so. Well done, S2.
One note: the gameplay
dependent on the commander - it seems that while the troops mostly cooperate with requests, sometimes commanders may be slow, inexperienced or simply obtuse. In those cases, when your side is losing due to a complete lack of expansion
, the game gets extremely frustrating. Simply disconnect and go elsewhere - there hasn't been a shortage of available server
s yet, and the frustration is not worth staying for.