8-Bit Armies developed by Petroglyph and published by Soedesco is a fast paced real-time strategy game that has a strong similarity to the Command & Conquer franchise and is depicted in a voxel manner, i.e the graphics are made up of blocky pixels.
I have been yearning for a game to come along for console that is along the lines of Dune, C&C, StarCraft etc. Is 8-Bit Armies to be that salvation?
From the off you are greeted by a curiously similar voice from Commander & Conquer times “Welcome Back Commander”. Already I am getting excited in anticipation as to what will come next. The options you have are to start a campaign, skirmish or online multiplayer session. Campaign mode it is!
Selecting between the two available factions; Renegades and Guardians, you begin your epic story to basically eradicate the opposition. Other factions such as the Deathsworn, Lightbringers, Cranoids and the prestigious Marines are unlockable through achievements later on. Having been prompted to select between mission difficulty of beginner, normal and hard you are led gentely into the world of 8-Bit Armies via a few tutorial levels. In fairness, to anyone that has ever played a real-time strategy game, you will hit the ground more or less running however its cool that less experienced gamers can be comfortably introduced to the mayhem that will shortly follow.
Each of the 25 mission levels has 3 objectives that can be achieved namely bronze, silver and gold that help unlock building types, infantry and money depending on how well you do. Objectives range from completing a level within a certain time limit, destroying all of the opponents structures, etc.
Gameplay is as you imagine. You start with a main base of operations and build a refinery to harvest nearby resources which inturn become the currency that allows you to build new structures, infantry and vehicles. Each building that you construct unlocks the next item on the build tree allowing you to advance your base and build a more deadly bunch of gun toting warriors/vehicles or initiate upgrades.
The usual suspects are all there from gun turrets, barracks, motor pools (factories) to air defences such as rocket turrets, air control and radar. Your ultimate goal, if you have enough time on the mission, is to build your faction’s super weapon which in the case of the Renegade’s is the missile silo which leads to the good old fashioned game destroyer the Nuke. Other factions have super weapons such as the “Titan” for the Marines, “Destroyer” for the Cranoids (which looks like a mini Godzilla) and the interestingly titled “Holy Arrow” for the Light Bringers to name a few. If you do find yourself running out of currency you can sell structures, also useful if you’re under attack is that you can repair them at the click of a controller button.
Each unit has its own strengths and weaknesses such as their deliverance of light to explosive damage alongside their type of armour which you must understand as to not get obliterated in the opening few minutes, or worse, concentrate the entire game constructing to only get trashed within seconds during your charge into the enemy base. Some units can be “Crushable” and it’s pretty soul destroying to see that time and effort go to waste lets be honest!
When constructing soldiers and vehicles, you allocate them into one of 3 groups using (on the Playstation version) the square, triangle and circle buttons. You simply press these when on the field of combat to quickly control the whole group of that symbol and perform a command for them. It is possible to click on a single soldier/vehicle and move them however once you press the group button they are allocated to then they will all move as a squad once more. Although this can make it slightly less challenging as overall you are effectively only controlling 3 squads in the entire game, it makes it simpler in the long run, especially when playing on console. There is no window dragging which as we all know can go awry in the heat of battle.
Units can be commanded to move to a designated map point and take up position, revealing the surrounding area and helping you spot the enemy which move under the fog of war, causing many surprises if you’re not careful! Perks such as crates can be discovered that will reward you with additional units or currency but beware, some of them can be boobytraps, I’d advise taking a single soldier to investigate these to lessen the impact if it all goes Pete Tong. If you do take some damage either through malicious crates or the enemy then all is not lost, engineers can heal both infantry and vehicles! Remember that the elevation of your units aid to your advantages as you cannot be discovered by the enemy troops that pass below and you can open fire on them!
So the plan is simple. Build your base quickly and efficiently. Build your troops and vehicles. Advance tactically and take out the enemy. Win the mission level while trying to do it under the objective requirements.
As mentioned earlier there are some other modes you can try your hand at. Co-op mode allows you to play the campaign missions online with a friend as you both take on the cunning AI however for me it is all about the Skirmish! “Skirmish” which currently features 12 maps with cool names such as “Lava Land, Industry Zone and Arctic Assault” allows a varying amount of players to take part depending on the size of the map selected. Each game is customisable by choosing the number of human and AI players as well as selecting the game mode to play ranging from “standard” where you must destroy all structures, “annihilation” where you have to destroy every last unit and structure to win, “destroy hq” I’m really not explaining that one! and “assassinate” where you are tasked with taking out your opponents super unit..and not in a romantic way! As well as the game modes you can tweak settings such as the amount of crates that will be found on the map and also turn on and off the super weapons. A nice bit of variety all in all to setup the level how you want.
Online multiplayer is pretty much like Skirmish whereby you can choose to host or join a lobby of either randoms or your friends and crack on with trying to defeat the masses.
8-Bit Armies has its charm. Yes its another voxel style game which on a personal note I am a little bored of in general now having come from 8 bit graphics as a kid to go full circle but hey ho the world of gaming does not revolve purely around me and there is certainly a market for it as PetroGlyph are showing. 8-Bit Armies plays smoothly and without any complicated graphical details I am hardly surprised however it does look great on the screen oozing bright and colourful maps, bases, units and vehicles which will appeal to many gamers.
8-Bit Armies stays true with the games that have inspired it by having a soundtrack that if you shut your eyes would make you think you are playing a Command & Conquer type game. Want to know a secret? It has been composed by Frank Klepacki who worked on, you got it, the Westwood Studio RTS games! I love the music that accompanies the game! The sound effects that occur whenever you select a unit and give them a command are clear and give you a sense of authority other them. Fun for you, but annoying as hell for anyone who can overhear the repetitive remarks!
If you enjoy real time strategy games and love the Command & Conquer franchise in particular then 8-Bit Armies is definitely for you. Although there are a few things missing such as being able to select particular groups of units as events unfold, the simplified controls can be quickly gotten used to and still makes for a fun game.
Once you have completed the campaign you can play through using unlocked factions however for me it is the online skirmishes that I enjoy the most. Every player brings their own unique ways of laying out their defences and scheming their attacks, it really keeps you on your toes. I love how even the best thought out plan can be undone by another player who finds that Achilles’s heel in your play and uses it to demolish you.
Overall there is much time that can be spent jumping in and out of lobbies playing all manner of games modes against all types of foe. Although 8-Bit Armies is in reality a condensed 8 bit version of Command & Conquer, it was enjoyable to play and I found myself immersed as I regressed into the child that I was when I first discovered Dune on the PC.
I award 8-Bit Armies the Thumb Culture Gold Award!
Disclaimer: We received a code to carry out this review