Developer LocoPuyo has melded something which can be seen as a combination of StarCraft and Geometry Wars. The similarities shared between Pwnage of Empires and StarCraft are instantly made clear: players have engineers which mine resources such as gas and rocks, construct buildings such as barracks, and develop “boss” ships similar to the battlecruiser with the overpowered Yamato cannon seen in StarCraft. Even the buildings and vehicles look similar. Furthermore, each vehicle has an avatar portrait perhaps belonging to a developer or friend, and the engineers have voiceovers which I found amusing.
I find the cover art to be a bit misleading too, as it appears to be a woman wielding an assault rifle, regardless of the fact that no combat on foot ever takes place in the game. You might go in expecting one experience, only to find out that it is something else entirely.
As a die-hard PC gamer, I cringed when I first saw this was a console RTS because history has demonstrated that they just don’t work on the platform. The nearly infinite number of keys on a keyboard and mouse obviously offer a plethora of options as opposed to a console’s limited number of buttons. I can honestly state, however, that this is the first console RTS I have seen where the control scheme works, and surprisingly well at that. The left thumb stick is used for movement, while the right thumb stick will expand/contract the size of your box which is used to select units. You can instantly snap back to your base by simply pressing the left thumb stick down which proved invaluable during attacks. On the shooter side of things, you can control where your ships move as well as the direction in which they fire. It’s important to master these skills as the enemy comes, and quickly. Once you get the hang of things, you can always take your game to the next level by playing multiplayer as well, whether through system link, or on Xbox Live.
The game is not without its flaws though. It has a bit of a learning curve, which you can only overcome by playing the first mission over a few times until you get the control scheme down. After that point, you will be crusin’ and brusin’ with the best of them. The AI is a bit questionable at times as well. On a number of occasions I would tell my engineers to mine for resources, only to look over and see that despite they were all standing over the resource and only a handful of them were actually mining.
So while the game stands out due to the fluent control scheme, it’s hard to recommend with the large number of RTS titles already out there, including the launch of StarCraft II only two weeks away, albeit for the PC. As mentioned before though, this game practically is StarCraft for a console, so if you’re itching for a good RTS on a console or just can’t wait for Starcraft II, then this may be for you.
Pwnage of Empires was provided for review by the developers. It is available for 80 MS points ($1)