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Wrath Unleashed - Reviewied

Lucas Divine - Editor

Recently LucasArts ventured out of its comfortable Star Wars gaming market into new waters with Wrath Unleashed. decided to take a look at a LucasArts game that probably isn't something our readers have ever heard of before. Wrath Unleashed is a strategy/action game based in a fantasy world, this isn't the same mix of the best of both strategy and action that we've seen before. This is not a hybrid between the two genres, but a game having complete elements of each genre within its gameplay.

Game Basics
Wraith Unleashed is available on the Xbox and Playstation 2 consoles, and is best run on the faster Xbox. Up to four players can join the action at once. There are 15 multiplayer maps and over 12 single player maps.

Each side (up to 4 sides in multiplayer) has as army they command on a cosmos battlefield. Like other board strategy games (like Risk), your army moves across hex gameboard spaces, which have differing qualities per space (more on this later). When two opposing units confront one another, the second half of the gameplay comes into effect. The battles aren't your classic RPG turn based fights, but rather button mashing battles in the vein of Street Fighter and Mortal Combat. But you aren't using with street thugs in these fights, instead you are controling amazing phantasmal creatures with incredible magical abilities.

You play as one of four gods controlling a mighty army, each god represents a different element - fire, water, wind, earth. Your decision on which faction to play as affects the creature designs and what terrains you creatures will have an advantage on.

The single player campaigns lack a very deep storyline, but laying the smack down on the AI is quite fun. The storylines are fitting for the game, with the gods fighting it out with their armies for the future of the cosmos. Be warned the single player campaigns are short, having only 4 missions per army. Another factor that plays into the single player campaigns is that the enemy strategies are not easy to predict. There are also many modes of play to practice and test out. The single player is designed to prepare you for the multiplayer action.

The battles take place on huge maps, with each character a piece of a large gameboard.

Game Design
There aren't many games on the market like Wrath Unleashed, which is refreshing considering the current batch of games that seem to be just little tweak on an established genre. Wrath Unleashed seems to be completed designed from the ground up it doesn't stand on the shoulders of any game.

The boards that the game is played on are dark and dingy and not that impressive. It is hard to tell what the spaces are from far out and even up close they do not have much detail. It would have been nice to let the user create custom boards and/or custom spaces.

The character design in the game is a major plus. These gods and creatures are huge, fight on a massive scale, and have amazing abilities. Getting to the point, the character designs are very fitting for this game, and are one of the strong pluses for this game. There are different levels of strengths for the characters, with the creatures becoming more impressive as the stats increase.

Although there is a great variety of character classes on each team, there are very few unique classes to any one god. For example, each team has a unicorn, god, large flying creature, etc. The game would have been much more interesting if your selection of a team gave you characters with very differing abilities.

The sound in the game is fitting to a fantasy world, but is not significant otherwise. The battle music has energy to it, and the world music is the type of quiet music fitting for a grand scale war

The customization in this game is minimal. A player can create his own army, but the selection is not that impressive. You get the standard options, and have to pick a certain number of creatures in each strength group. So you can not have 3 gods or 11 unicorns. This makes it more balanced, but it leaves the player wondering what the battles would be like if they could have a different style army.

This battle sequence shows the spectacular character designs.

Apart from the world map and the strategy, there is the battle element of the game. When one creature is moved into the space of another creature, a battle ensues. The battles are like fighting games, where each button on the controller is used for a different type of attack, for example strong magic, weak magic, strong physical, weak physical, special move, and so forth.

Depending on the gamespace the characters are fighting on, one of the characters might have an advantage (wind, water, earth, or fire depending on the army). Each character has a strength level, so a level three character has three bars of health vs. a level one character with only one. In general, the game is designed so that the stronger character should win. But the key to the game is 'should'.

If a player is good at fighting games, but bad at strategy games, they still would enjoy this game because the battles really control the course of the game. Case in point, while playing the game, a unicorn can beat a god, just by being tenacious and knowing the moves. So learning both elements of the game, fighting and strategy, comes into play.

The battles are quite fun once you've mastered each creature's moves. The battles are fast paced and feel like real combat.

This game is enjoyable and satisfying. The battles generally play out in less than 30 turns (because the world ends at 30 turns), and so each battle typically lasts 40-50 minutes, which includes generally 15-25 battles. The game does not get monotonous, but does get easier once the general battle techniques and strategies have been figured out.

It is a blast to play as the gods, the sense of powering if thrilling. Tides of battles and even whole campaigns can change quickly.

In regards to multiplayer, this game is a strategy game, so all the players must be ready for a longer game. The game does support up to four players which can make the game quite challenging.

Even the weakest character in the game can pull out an upset victory.

On the upside, this game has a high learning curve, which is good for strategy gamers. Lots of details and things to learn - gamers will definitely need to take advantage of the gamebook. Wrath Unleashed will please both strategy and action gamers, especially those who like fantasy.

Other positives that strengthen this game are the character designs and the multiplayer. The character designs are neat, imaginative and have a massive feel. The multiplayer games are fun, especially with evenly matched opponents. Finally, the game is flat out satisfying. You really get drawn into the campaign, you want to win these battles.

On the downside, this game has incredibly slow load times. For example, the game has to LOAD just to get to the title screen. There is loading between menus and even long load times between the strategy board and the battles. This makes the game feel choppy and disjointed at times.

Other downsides include the fact that there is no map or character generator, which would have been great for hardcore gamers. Also there is also no online play. Finally the game is short, only 4 missions per campaign and the map locations and strategies are not as detailed and complicated as they could have been.

Overall final impressions
Simply put, this game has some flaws, but is still very satisfying. The game has some truly amazing characters, but lacks variety and the load times are excruciatingly long.

If you are looking for something a little off beat after playing Republic Commando this is the game for you. You get to further expand upon your strategy skills that you gained during your stint as lead of a commando unit, while taking a breather from First Person Shooters to focus on good old fashion button mashing fights.

Final Score: 8.0/10

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