Review by: Scott Steinberg
Published: February 5, 2000
No matter how much they may deserve, some products just can’t get a fair shake. It’s a common problem that occurs when jaded reviewers receive a title that looks similar at first glance to hundreds of other titles, and don’t spend the time to delve deep enough to look for the game’s substance. Unfortunately for Armada, the latest title from Metro 3D, whose Star Command for the PC went largely unnoticed, this process appears to have garnered somewhat unfavorable reviews with the print media. Based upon its looks, people have been quick to label it an Asteroids clone and arguably the lamest game for the Dreamcast, but they couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
Set in the far future, Armada tells us about a time when humankind left the confines of Earth and headed for the stars to colonize new worlds. By adapting to life on the multitude of worlds that made up the universe, people evolved into hundreds of demi-human species that did little to concern themselves with the affairs of the other races. During this era, an armada of biomechanical creatures descended upon humanity and began a genocidal war that would last for centuries. Having watched the armada destroy horrifying numbers of their brethren, six of the Earth-born tribes formed the Allied Command, in the hopes of pooling their resources to neutralize the Armada’s threat. Together, the members of the Allied Command were able to salvage a single world from which their civilization is now based, and develop technology that could defend them from the armada’s aggression. It is in this period of time that we find ourselves in the role of a starship captain, plying the interstellar wastes and working to win the freedom of Allied Command’s members either by destroying the armada or finding a means of communicating with it.
Despite its guise as an action-shooter that looks nothing so much as an updated version of Asteroids for the new millennium, you’ll quickly find that Armada is nothing other than an action-RPG. Though it isn’t cloaked in the usual fantasy or steampunk trappings of the traditional role-playing game, you’ll still find aspects of character development and interaction laced throughout the plot line. Missions are assigned, goals and objectives are presented, and definite rewards and plot advances are awarded as a direct result of your actions. Actual play sequences may remind you of Fire Fight or Asteroids; however, both subtle and overt references such as the hit point levels that enemies possess continually remind you that Armada isn’t necessarily as shallow as the games from which it was derived.
One of the earliest indications of this is the need to pick a race with which to start, each of which comes from a different background and offers access to unique abilities. Terrans are the most basic race (and the most akin to today’s humans) and have better combat strength than most of their kindred races. Nomads, on the other hand, are genetically engineered to be superior miners, soldiers, and servants, and possess the strongest military technology currently known to man. The Eldred society is based around a matriarchy that controls access to important cloaking technologies and are masters of space travel. Appearing as cyborgs, the Scarab race formed colony mind groups through brain implants and operate as a hive, but although they don’t offer much in the way of individuality, they create some of the fastest ships in the galaxy. Members of the Drakken species can convert solar radiation into energy in a manner akin to photosynthesis, and are therefore able to survive in deep space with little difficulty. Finally, the Vorgans possess a special organ in their brain that has allowed them to become mentally superior to the other races; therefore they excel in the realm of science.