8-Bit Armies was a game released with two goals: Offer a classic RTS experience, by the people who practically built the genre from the ground up, and present it as a gateway to new audiences. With a retro inspired look, fun but basic interface and a lengthy campaign, it’s the closest we’ve had to a true Command & Conquer experience in years.
This really is about as old school as you can get, without resorting to ASCII graphics, but with a few modern improvements. While the unit building and command interface is classic C&C to the core, the build queue, structure and ability to scan about the map offers far more opportunities for unit micromanagement. The actual unit structure also retains a decent mix of hard and soft counters, but it’s largely bereft of the more bullet spongy builds you might expect, meaning a match can swing either way even during its final minutes.
Along with twenty-five offline missions, there’s a ten mission co-op campaign to help ease new players in, and plenty of bonus objectives to keep you coming back to them. Even without that though, the multiplayer and skirmish modes are solidly built, with a broad number of differently themed maps to keep you entertained, each capable of supporting up to eight players.
However, there’s one very distinct problem with this game – It’s alarmingly bereft of personality and lacking some much needed army variety. Aside from the visual aesthetic and Frank Klepacki’s outstanding soundtrack, there’s not much to make this stand out, with little in the way of unique units or even super-weapons. With only a single faction on offer with the usual mix of tank, infantryman, helicopter, nuke etc. it’s remarkably bare bones, and retains little tactical variety and staying power. Petroglyph has planned for the game to feature six key factions -with a very fun looking skeletons & wizards fantasy addition on the horizon - but in its current state it’s easy to get bored of this very basic build. This really is the sort of game which would benefit from an Early Access release, but it’s presented as finished on Steam’s main page.
8-Bit Armies ultimately offers a well-rounded, simple framework for something, which might become fantastic later on down the line, but little else. In its current state it is very hard to recommend to anyone who isn’t looking for a low budget, low requirement RTS, and even then the classic C&C releases still give you so much more bang for your buck. Keep an eye on this one in the months to come, but for the time being stick to Grey Goo and Ashes of the Singularity.
8-BIT ARMIES / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: PETROGLYPH / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW