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Review by: Josh Horowitz
Published: September 12, 2001
“It was a sight one could never forget. Over the range of hills, as far as eye could see, crept a darkening hem, ever longer and broader, until the shadow spread across the slope from east to west, then downwards, downwards, uncannily swift, and all the green herbage of that wide vista was being mown as by a giant sickle, leaving only the vast moving shadow, extending, deepening, and moving rapidly nearer.”
- from Carl Stephenson’s short story, “Leiningen Versus the Ants”
“This is the ant. Treat it with respect. For it may very well be the next dominant lifeform of our planet.”
- from the 1977 cult film “Empire of the Ants”
Ten years ago, Maxis released a strategy title unlike any of its kind. Players controlled the destinies not of cities and people, but of thousands of common ants living in a microcosm known as someone’s backyard. Although innovative for its time, SimAnt never really caught on like its cousin SimCity, but it no doubt captured the imagination of the French developers over at Microids. In an unusual entry to the real-time strategy genre, Microids presents a computer game based on the 1991 Bernard Werber book of the same name, Empire of the Ants. Totally unrelated to the 1977 cult film, EOTA gives players a chance to apply their myrmecological strategy-gaming prowess to various insects in an epic campaign that will determine the fate of a tiny, yet mighty empire.
The story behind EOTA comes straight from Werber’s novel. The Bel-O-Kan Federation (aka the Western Empire of Russet Ants), ruled by the Queen Mother Bel-O-Kiu-Kiuni, is trying to expand its territory while protecting its borders from hostile invaders. To be successful in this endeavor, players must control practically all aspects of ant society, from the workers as they gather food and resources, to the warriors of the 702nd as they explore the terrain and fight the enemy. Along the way, there are outside forces to contend with, such as changing seasonal climates, vicious predators, and rival factions aiming to crush your armies like … well … ants.
There are a series of 21 missions spanning three campaigns chronicling the efforts of the Bel-O-Kan. These missions cover various periods of the Western Empire’s long history, including epic struggles against the dreaded dwarf ants, skirmishes with termites for resource supremacy, and even an alliance with the wily bees. Maps take place in different woodland and rural environments, all seen from a movable, top-down, 3D perspective. In addition, the program employs an underground viewpoint that allows players to examine a series of tunnels and chambers from the inside of ant hills, hives, and nests. As missions progress, you discover new insectoid technologies and creative fighting techniques to further vanquish your foes.
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