Wel, I decided to bite the bullet and bought the game (Warparty, that is). It’s a relatively cheap RTS with an interesting, somewhat ridiculous theme (cavemen, dinosaurs and zombies). Compared to other budget RTS games of late (Empires Apart, the 8-Bit series), this seems – with what little I’ve played so far – rather a bit better, especially with its three story-based campaigns.
It’s not a WarCraft 3 clone.
Gameplay-wise it seems closer to the Age of Empires series than anything else. You even get almost exactly the same brief sound when you click the town centre! You collect food by harvesting berries from bushes, hunting animals, or through farming (exactly as in Age of Empires, not as in WarCraft). You can even “upgrade” (read: age up) your settlement, at which point you pick between one of two “talents” to give you what seem mostly passive bonuses (sort of like picking between two deities in Age of Mythology).
Furthermore, you collect “crystals” (i.e. gold) from smallish piles that are grouped together as in StarCraft, as well as larger clusters that are more like gold and stone piles in Age of Empires. You can also capture shrines to generate power (like favour in Age of Mythology) to use Populous-like (or indeed Age of Mythology-like) special attacks like meteor strikes. I like this mechanism in particular, especially since the shrines tend to be guarded (like the treasures in Age of Empires III).
To increase your population limit, you construct houses. To improve your units, you build a special structure that allows upgrades. Upgrading (aging up) your settlement unlocks new buildings/units and tech. Again, that’s all very much Age of Empires to me, not so much WarCraft 3. Hero units were also a feature in Age of Mythology and Age of Empires III (as well as Halo Wars), so I don’t necessarily see them cribbing from Blizzard here, either. Except that Ensemble no doubt took some inspiration from WarCraft, of course.
I’ve played the tutorial and some of the Wildlanders campaign. I actually managed to fuck up a mission by trying to rush the zombie faction hero foolishly with a bunch of weak units, thereby giving him a relatively large army in turn at an early point in the game (since every unit that dies near him is turned into a zombie!). I hadn’t realized this and it wasn’t long before he chased after the scattered remnants of my fleeing army. He wreaked havoc in my base and I had no way to stop him, so I restarted and made sure I didn’t make that mistake again!
The game looks pretty good. The voice acting is mostly terrible, but in a way that I don’t find it too offensive. The UI is rather clunky and the main font (Impact, I think?) is awful, but nothing I can’t deal with. This is, after all, a budget title, so I can live with it being a bit rough around the edges. Some of the ground textures likewise are a little iffy, but the art design for all the 3D stuff is well done, I think, with cutesy dinosaurs. Heck, it’s an RTS where you train caveman cavalry that ride triceratops and sabretooth tigers into battle!
I dabbled a bit in skirmish mode and either the AI cheats like hell or it’s actually pretty decent. Reviews on Steam suggest the latter, but I haven’t played enough to tell either way yet. Otherwise, it’s all pretty well done Age of Empires-style fare so far that’s a bargain at the current asking price of I guess around $25 US (I paid ca. €22 for it). It’s made me curious as to what else the developer may do in future.
One serious issue that I need to point out is the complete lack of a way to save the game mid-mission. I had to leave at some point and was rather dismayed, after spending 15 minutes in a mission, that I couldn’t save and quite the game, only “surrender”. I hope this is something that can be patched at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future.
In short, I’d recommend this so far.
I never understand this kind of criticism.