Review by: Jason Purdy
Published: December 21, 1998
In a world full of knock-offs and wannabes, it is very refreshing to see a game that is nothing like anything that has come before it. Unholy War is such a game. It isn’t trying to be anything but itself, and I think Crystal Dynamics deserves some major kudos right off the bat for creating an original, enjoyable title.
Gleaming accolades aside, Unholy War is an action/strategy game that tells the tale of a peaceful planet by the name of Xsarra. Xsarra is a nice enough planet, with no wars, strife, famine, or other assorted nastiness, where everybody gets alone with everybody else. I imagine the main reason for this is that you would never want to meet any of the inhabitants of Xsarra (known as the Arcanes) in a dark alley at night. If they’re not carrying whips, swords, or mauls, you can be sure that their body is probably made from living flame. The arts of war were never allowed to fade into history, and arcane magics flow from every pore of these peace-loving folk. Anyway, all was well in the happy little village, until one dark day when the Teknos came waltzing along, bent on destruction.
While the powers of the arcanes are based on cold steel and magic, the powers of the Teknos are based on titanium shielding and ion drives. Yes, it’s the old technology vs. magic fight all over again, and all the Shadowrun fans rejoice. The Teknos forces consist of a bevy of stainless steel gladiators, each with more gratuitously painful-looking appendages than the last. Metal wasp stingers, buzzsaws, lightning guns and more fill out the arsenal of flesh-rending surgical devices at their command. Spooky stuff.
From a gameplay perspective, Unholy War offers two separate ways to play. For the pure action fanatic, there is the Mayhem mode. In this scenario, two players (or a single player vs. the computer.) each select from a pool of mechanized or magical warriors, or a combination of the two, and go at it until one side is completely wiped out. This is good, clean, brutal fun, and a good place to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the different fighters. It is also excellent preparation for the second mode, Strategy, where two players (or a single player vs. the computer) take a handful of units and attempt to best one another in a resource-gathering, base-defending, throat-slashing duel to the finish. This mode also contains an extended campaign, which is a series of missions that culminates in either the elimination of Xsarra’s native inhabitants, or in the extermination of the electronic invaders.