|Developer:||SEK / Sunflowers|
|Genre:||Real Time Strategy|
|Release Date:||September 22, 2006 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Craig Dudley (Mani)|
Dinosaurs have always fascinated people, which makes me wonder why there haven't been hundreds of games featuring the prehistoric monsters, maybe that's why SEK decided to shoe horn some Dino's into their new RTS game. Adding something unique is not usually a bad thing and while the story does feel like it was written around having Dinosaurs in the game, it most definitely isn't a bad thing here either.
Of course, I'll try to give you all the usual detail but let's start off with a reasonably short description of ParaWorld, think Age of Empires meets Jurassic Park and you won't be miles away. In fact if you picked all your favourite features from any number of real time strategy titles and you're more or less guaranteed to find them here. Refine them all to the n'th degree and jam into a simply gorgeous graphics engine and it surely can't fail to be great? Can it? Well, the simple answer to that question is yes, but only just.
While most of the games features will be quite familiar to any experienced RTS gamer, the dock-able 'Army Controller' will be new to everyone. Frankly it's cool and easily allows you to view and manage all your units, a simple clicking the relevant icon will see you jump right to that unit, small over-laid icons will let you know exactly what that unit is currently up to, this includes whether or not the unit is in combat. Groups of units can also be selected and ordered about from here as well. This is undoubtedly a great addition but it also directly causes the games' biggest weakness.
The army controller can only hold a limited amount of slots due to screen real-estate. And should you completely fill it up you'll have just short of fifty units of different levels, consider that you'll need at least 10 workers in most cases and in my opinion you will have absolutely nowhere near enough military units. Again that might seem harsh but once you've tried to batter your way through some of the defensive walls and towers that can be constructed while simultaneously under withering fire from archers and other ranged units you'll get the picture. It can be like banging your head against a brick wall. Now that probably wouldn't matter if you could build a lot more units but since you can't, you might want to steel yourself for some bloody long multiplayer games.
Right, that's my major beef out of the way, I can now talk about the good things and that's pretty much the rest of the game, it is mostly superb. Graphically, ParaWorld is stunning, the environments are great, and fog in un-visited areas actually does look like fog. Trees, mountains and water are all of a very high standard too; no expense has been spared on the artwork in this particular game. That perfectionist ethic has clearly carried on with the models of the humans, dinosaurs and even the ships; they are beyond any form of criticism. Effects like fire and smoke continue the excellence, there's little doubt that ParaWorld vies with pretty much only Company of Heroes for the title of best looking RTS game ever.
Sound effects and music don't disappoint either, although a few more tracks during game-play wouldn't have gone amiss, what there is does almost sound like it's from a blockbuster movie. As is usual in RTS games, unit responses can be a little repetitive but that goes with the territory, otherwise the voice acting is fine also. There are issues with the dialogue but those can be pretty much explained by the plot being a little odd and no doubt being slightly lost in translation.
Cut-scenes are all in engine but would seem to be pre-rendered and played as movies, as such they are a tad on the blurry side, but still watchable. Some of the mid level dialogue is however seriously broken, having Stina (the female hero character) talk mid level whilst her dead and decaying body is lying five hundred yards away is a little disconcerting. Clearly she is also expert in the Para-normal.
We get three main hero characters in ParaWorld and a number of other hero characters to use as additional heroes, upgrades or indeed bad guys in the single player campaign, each has different abilities and special skills, these abilities range from being able to tame animals and dinosaurs (generally this means making them go to sleep while you cut them to bits) to being a crack shot with a bow and arrow over extreme distances, these abilities increase as you hero characters level up, increasing levels is achieved by acquiring 'skulls', these are as you might expect points for killing things, be it enemies or innocent Dinosaurs you plan to use as food. Promoting heroes to certain levels will also unlock some new standard units such as poison throwers. It sounds bizarre and well, umm, is. It works though for some strange reason.
As heroes reach these high levels they also impart bonuses on the units around them, again this varies from hero to hero so choosing the right ones to match your playing style in multiplayer games could be essential. Our units can also pick up a number of artefacts which also can pass on a bonus of some kind to your tribe, from being able to see further to all your units causing more damage, clearly worth having.
Of course things would be a bit dull if we did not have any different factions, in ParaWorld we get three tribes, each has their differences in terms of both style and substance. Firstly we get the Norsemen and as the name suggests these are pretty much Vikings, very effective in close combat and can build huge fortifications, odd behaviour for your average Viking to be fair; rape, pillage and sea faring being much more down his particular street according to legend. Secondly we have the Dustriders, a very nomadic and therefore mobile tribe who are great animal trainers and as such have the largest selection of Dinosaurs units in their arsenal. The mysterious Dragon Clan is the final tribe and the most technologically advanced tribe by far, some guns and less Dino's seems to be the order of the day here.
I seem to have got all the way through a review of a game that is very Dinosaur centric without actually talking about the pre-historic reptiles all that much, they are your heavier or cavalry units and range from high speed scouts to slow lumbering giants with a log cannon attachment that's extremely effective against walls and buildings, all are superbly drawn and animated as you might expect. In some cases Dinosaurs are your naval units too; yes ParaWorld does require skills in the whole warship, transport and fishing game-play mechanic too. Did I already say that there's a bit of everything in here?
ParaWorld is beautiful, absolutely gorgeous in fact; it's quite frankly the best looking RTS game I've ever played although Company of Heroes does push it all the way to the line. However as we all know looks are not everything. This particular German stunner has all the ingredients of a masterpiece but just isn't quite that good. The story is convoluted and somewhat bizarre; clearly much has been lost in translation. We also have a serious shortage of military units when we consider the defensive qualities of the walls which can be built. All is not lost however, a patch to either add extra units to the Army Controller or hugely calm down the strength of defensive walls and we could very well have a great game on our hands; as it is, we have a very, very well made RTS that doesn't quite excite this particular gamer.
- Graphically stunning
- Army Controller gives easy control over your whole army
- Good voice acting, sounds and music
- Lots of unit types
Not so good stuff
- Army Controller seriously limits the amount of units you can have
- Odd story
- Defensive walls are too strong for my liking