Download WarBreeds (Windows)

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Windows - 1998

Alt names WarBreeds: Una Nuova Brutale Civiltà Nata per la Guerra, WarBreeds: Levez votre armée de monstres mutants !, WarBreeds: Eine Zivilisation, erschaffen für den Krieg !, WarBreeds: A Brutal New Civilisation Breed for War
Year 1998
Platform Windows
Released in United States, Germany, France
Genre Strategy
Theme Real-Time, Sci-Fi / Futuristic
Publisher Red Orb Entertainment
Developer Red Orb Entertainment
Perspective Top-Down
5 / 5 - 1 vote

Description of WarBreeds

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A brutal new civilisation bred for war...

Just when everyone was dreading the release of another real-time strategy, Red Orb come along and release Warbreeds... Everyone groans "oh, God, not another real time strategy", and even the press release is apologetic ("we realise that the Real Time Strategy market is a very crowded and competitive one..."), but curiosity wins the day; everyone has a peek and says "hang on, this Warbreeds lark doesn't look half bad... controlling a clan of aliens whose DNA you can modify sounds like a novel take on the RTS genre..."

In a nutshell, that is what Warbreeds is: it's a real-time strategy, with all that entails (resource management, unit building, combat against AI or networked opponents), but with a few novel twists (you control a clan of alien creatures whose DNA you modify to create your different units). Those twists would indeed be novel enough for me to want to play the game over and over again, if some elements of the game weren't so annoying. But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself: let's introduce the game properly before we start on why it's caused me to bite through several Bic biros with frustration.

A brutal new civilisation bred for planting purple space pods...

On the planet Aoelia, the dominant intelligent species, the Yedda, evolved from a froglike ancestor into a highly technolgical society, with extensive knowledge of genetic engineering which pervaded all aspects of their lives. Genetically engineered toasters and sports equipment were all the rage. Of course, in true Jurassic Park style, the scientists were too busy seeing if they could that they didn't stop to ask if they should, and they were soon genetically engineering the lowlier forms of life on the planet to create slave races to do their dirty work.

Meanwhile, a group of Yedda religious fanatics were engineering a race of holy warriors, the Magha, in the way that fanatics do, and of course, it all went horribly wrong. The Magha ran riot over Aoelia, and most of the Yedda were wiped from the face of the planet, leaving all their vast technologies in the hands of their genetically altered life forms.

And so the day dawns on Warbreeds. There are four different Clans descended from the Yedda's fiddling, who engineer their own development using the technology that they inherited from their former masters. Unfortunately, they're all in a state of perpetual civil war, and it is into this war that you are thrown as head of your chosen Clan. The different Clans definitely look alien, all right, but bear some resemblance to terrestrial creatures: the Tanu are reptilian beasts; the Sen-Soth are like giant arthropods; the Kelika look like blue hippos, and the Magha are the most primate-looking.

Like most RTS games, you have to harvest resources that allow you to construct various buildings that will then build new units. The novel twist is that your buildings are all organic structures that depend on bio-energy supplied from plant-like biomechanical energy pods. Pods can be planted in specific areas of the map, where they will grow and begin to produce power, which you can then harvest by building a Refinery. Plant enough Pods, and you'll have power to run a Gene Lab, which is where your creatures are built.

Once you've produced the creatures, you'll need some way of controlling them, so you need to build Psi Towers which allow you to telepathically order them about. Well, not really, of course; you use the mouse, but in gamespeak it's all done through a 'collective consciousness'. And that's about it for the basics of producing creatures. There are a few other structures that you can build, such as Relay Towers that extend the range of a Refinery, but you have to be careful not to build too many additional buildings because they all use power; the more power you have spare, the faster the gene labs will produce your creatures.

Perhaps the most important of the other structures that you can create is the Gene Collector. This allows your Shamen to analyse the corpses of your enemies and collect their DNA for analysis. Collect enough DNA from another Clan, and you'll be able to use some of their biotechnology; either having additional weapons for attachment to your creatures, or being able to produce different types of buildings. For example, the Kelika can produce the Listener, which eliminates the 'fog of war' in the area around your base, whilst the Sen-Soth can produce the defensive Electric Tower.

Each Clan has several different castes of creature, and chief among them are the Shamen. These are the brains behind the operation, and the guys that actually plant power pods and construct the buildings, so it's vital that you keep at least one of them in good health if you want to expand your sphere of influence. In most games you start off with at least one Shaman and a group of other creatures to defend them, and you have to establish a base before going off to finish off the bad guys. Once you have your Refinery, Psi Towers and Gene Lab, you can instruct the Gene Lab to start producing other creatures. At the beginning of the game, you only have a certain amount of genetic knowledge (measured in terms of Clan Genetic Knowledge, CGK), so you can only produce certain creatures and arm them with certain weapons. For example, if you have Tanu CGK 1, you can produce Scout units, and arm them with Hammer melee weapons. Achieve level 2, and you can produce Raptor units as well as Scouts, and choose to arm either type of creature with Hammers or Blades. Raptors are bigger and stronger than Scouts, but are slower moving, and take longer for the Gene Lab to build. Blades do more damage than Hammers, but again take longer to build. It's quite obvious, then, that your choice of creature and armament is crucial to your Clan's success, and we've only discussed achieving one CGK point for one Clan. Gather enough Sen-Soth genes for Sen-Soth CGK level 1, and you'll be able to equip your Scouts and Raptors with the medium-ranged, medium-powered Heat Gun as well. Investigate the bodies of dead Kelika, and you'll be able to build the low damage but fast firing Javelin. And, of course, creatures have multiple attachment points; you can equip your Raptor with a Heat Gun for ranged attack, and a Blade for close combat.

Directing the creatures around is as easy as clicking your mouse, and off they go. Point the cursor at an enemy creature or building, and your selected unit goes off to attack it. Holding down Shift on the keyboard, allows you to select multiple creatures to assign to a squad, which you can then form up before sending off to battle. If you wish to assign specific waypoints, for example to make a creature or squad patrol a specific area, you can do that by holding down Tab whilst clicking on the waypoints that need to be followed.

Combat occurs when you command a creature to attack a target, or when the creature detects a target for itself. The attacker gets within range of its target (creatures default to staying the maximum possible distance from their target), and... starts attacking it. Each creature and building has a number of Hit Points, and when those Hit Points are gone, the creature dies, or the building is destroyed. Your Shaman can repair damage done to a building, but damage to creatures can't be repaired unless you achieve Sen-Soth CGK level 3, when you can build a Healer building.

A brutal new civilisation bred for aimlessly wandering around...

OK, that's basically the gist of the whole game. I think it's pretty clear that we're dealing with a kind of 'traditional' RTS with a few novel ideas. And, at a RRP of under twenty quid, you might think that it's a bargain. But I have enough gripes and moans about the game to hopefully persuade you to think twice. They're mostly to do with the AI of your creatures.

First up, let me moan about their dodgy movements (and I'm not complaining about them taking time out of the battle to poo). When you select a creature and direct it to an area, naturally enough, it tries to get there in the shortest route possible; a straight line. But the creature will always move in a straight line to the target, regardless of the obstacles that are in its way, even if it can see those obstacles through the 'fog of war'. It'll quite happily blunder straight through the enemy base, or wander off into an insurpassable mountain range even if it is in sight of a more intelligent route. Possibly the most frustrating thing that can happen is that you direct a creature to a location, move off to check out the action on another part of the map, then wonder why your beastie never made it to the destination... a quick look at the map reveals that, in making its b-line approach, your creature has blundered into a cluster of rocks and is just aimlessly wandering about, bumping into them one after the other... I just can't see why this should happen. Admittedly you can set waypoints to send the creature off on a specific path, but that isn't the end of it. You can instruct creatures to stay in formation when they move, but they are sloppy and tend to deviate from the route, only to stop themselves, check, turn about, and wander back into formation. This is totally unacceptable if you are sneaking a reconnaisance team through enemy territory, trying to avoid contact with vastly superior forces. All too often, one of your squad wanders off aimlessly, only to be seen by an enemy creature, thus guaranteeing the demise of the whole squad as hoardes of bad guys come after you.

You know I mentioned waypoints? Well, you can instruct a creature or a squad to patrol an area by placing the last waypoint in the patrol sequence over the first, creating a looped path for the creatures to patrol. According to the manual, they should do this unless they encounter an enemy, upon which they should fight the enemy, then resume their patrol. But they don't. They fight the enemy, then just stop and mill about a bit in that general area. They only resume the patrol if you go back and re-set all their waypoints. This is really irritating, because it means that you can't just leave a patrol to get on with things; you need to keep checking up on them to make sure they're not taking a sneaky rest and leaving a strategic entrance to your base unguarded.

I had problems with the aggressiveness or otherwise of the creatures, too. In 'normal' mode of aggressiveness, which is the default for all creatures other than Shamen, the creature will close in on a target that it can see, and attack it. This isn't normally a problem, but the intelligence behind the creature's target choice is just so dodgy. Sneak a saboteur into the enemy base, and, rather than staying out of sight destroying important buildings, your creature will spot an enemy, give up on hacking the Gene Lab into pieces, and go off to attack the opposing creature... Meanwhile, the Gene Lab continues to chuck out more resistance to you, pretty much guaranteeing that the saboteur will end up being attacked by two or more creatures, when it needn't have been attacked at all. By far the most stupid thing I saw in the game was a squad of Magha Shadow creatures, who have the wonderful ability of remaining invisible to their opposition unless involved in direct combat, giving up their covert dismantling of the main Sen-Soth Refinery to attack a Shaman, thus alerting the entire Sen-Soth empire that they were under attack, and sealing the fate of my foolish Shadows who quite frankly deserved to die. Change the aggressiveness, and they'll either run away in random directions, or run around screaming 'I'll take you all on' before being killed by the massive enemy opposition who do just that.

And as if that wasn't enough, the Shamen have their marvels, too. When they're constructing a new building, they wander round it, dipping their staff into the ground to make the building grow. On more than one occasion I have witnessed a Shaman squeeze past a tiny gap between the growing new building and an existing structure, only to find themselves trapped there once the new building has fully grown. That Shaman is effectively out of the game, which is really annoying because those units are utterly essential. Another big gripe is that when a Shaman is collecting genes, you can't control any other creatures; the 'gathering genes' dialogue box won't go away, and you can't select any other creature until you're told that the 'genetic material is collected'. Even then, the 'gathering genes' dialogue box remains on the screen, and has to be cancelled manually before control is returned to you. I can only envisage this as a bug in the program, because I can't see how that is meant to help the game along at all.

Any other gripes? Well, when the creatures are moving at top speed, it's sometimes difficult to get your mouse over them to select them to change their orders. But that's a relatively minor point. Oh, and sometimes they completely disobey your orders. I can't begin to count the number of times I have screamed 'Don't attack him, attack HIM!", only to be studiously ignored. It's just all very, very frustrating.

Something else I couldn't get my head round: as a single player, there are only two campaign modes that can be played: either as the Magha, or the Tanu. Don't ask me why there aren't any Kelika or Sen-Soth campaigns, because I don't know. But you can play them in a skirmish game, or multiplayer. It's not that much of a problem, though, because I found the campaign scenarios to be the teensiest bit dull. 'Seek and destroy the Kelika Gene Collector'; 'Eliminate the Sen-Soth in this region'; 'Attack the Pod fields over here'... It all became much of a muchness, and I found that the same strategy worked equally well in most games: get a base set up and produce lots of small, fast units as quickly as possible, and send them off to complete the mission objective. Perhaps, as you delve further into the campaigns, the best strategy to win will change, but I can't comment about that, because the game didn't inspire me enough to want to delve that far. Sorry.

I found skirmish games to be more fun than the campaign levels, to be honest. Basically, this is just a fight to the death between you and up to seven AI opponents. You get to choose which clan to play, and you can set the level of CGK that the different Clans begin with, both 'native' and 'foreign'. For example, you could play as the Kelika with native CGK level 4, but foreign CGK 2, so that you would have access to all the other Clans' level 2 biotechnology. Obviously, changing the CGK levels can change the purpose of the game; starting a game with CGK level 1 will favour a more strategic 'gene collecting' type of game, whilst starting a game with higher CGK levels will favour a more out and out hack and slash game.

A brutal new civilisation bred to play by themselves?

Having exhausted my patience playing single-player, I thought I'd check out the multiplayer game too, just to be fair. Well, was I in for a treat... Selecting the 'Play Warbreeds on MPlayer' icon from the Warbreeds program group did indeed connect me to the MPlayer web site, but unfortunately I ended up on the Warlords III page. I had a look around the MPlayer web site, but couldn't find Warbreeds mentioned either as a game that could currently be played, or one that was 'coming soon'. All quite odd, considering that the game manual has a whole two-page section devoted to explaining about MPlayer. Oh well.

Perhaps Red Orb's dedicated multiplayer site, the Red Orb Zone, would be the place to find some net opposition. I connected fine, but was quickly met with a message informing me that I needed to upgrade to the latest files. The latest files! The ones on the CD were out of date! Sheesh! But not too disheartened, I dutifully let the Zone update my files which didn't take too long. Connecting to the site was no problem at all after that, but unfortunately, when I got there, all the rooms were empty. I was on the Zone, on my own. I've looked back a couple of times since, but to no avail. Now, before I get flamed by loads of Red Orb Zone addicts, let me stress that I'm based in the UK, and so online at what most of the gaming community would consider 'weird hours'. Having said that, I've never had any problems finding people to play against for other games. But, the Zone might take off, and I wouldn't want to criticise it prematurely.

I tried playing head-to-head across a LAN connection. Ah, but of course Warbreeds refuses to run without the CD in the drive, so you need one copy of the game for every player -- which I have to say is a bit stinky in this day and age. Grinning at yet another obstacle thrown in my path, I have, for the time being, given up on multiplayer Warbreeds. Instead, all I can do is report the supposed differences between it and the single player games, and, if anyone has any suggestions where I can find some opposition, let me know and I'll quite happily add a couple of paragraphs to this review later on.

A multiplayer game looks basically exactly the same as a single player skirmish, but with the opposition controlled by people... Other than that, all that multiplayer adds is Co-op play. Players choose a team colour, and play for that colour no matter which Clan they belong to. If you could be bothered to arrange with some friends when and where to meet, I could see this type of game being an excellent way to play Warbreeds, but in general, I don't think I'd be lying if I said that you might have problems with multiplayer games. At least, you might if you're in the UK :)

A brutal new civilisation bred to ignore?

All in all, then, Warbreeds isn't great. There are a few interesting elements that make it stand out from the usual Clone and Conquer game which could have made it worthy of a recommendation if there hadn't been some let downs in the gameplay. Like I said above, chief amongst these was the creature AI, which, let's face it, is kind of important for a RTS game. The facilities for multiplayer support are out there, if you're looking (but you'll need as many copies of the game as players). A few patches, and some stirring on the Red Orb Zone or MPlayer, and Warbreeds might be worth investigating, but, as it stands, but it's not that good. Then again, for a title nudging the 'bargain bin' price bracket, it's not that bad, either.

Review By GamesDomain

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