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Relic Entertainment



T (Teen)



Q1 2003


- A "passable" attempt but ultimately very boring



- Completely uninspiring story

- Bland presentation

- Lacks a coherent, solid design



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Impossible Creatures

Score: 4.0 / 10


Dashing adventurer, Rex Chance meets Lucy Willing in a not-so-classic situtation of boy meets girl, girl has a flying laboratory, girl creates mutant creatures from said laboratory to defeat the evil Upton Julius, murderer of Rex' father.  


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So goes the story of Impossible Creatures, a real-time strategy game from Relic Entertainment. Like most RTS, gameplay revolves around harvesting resources (coal & electricity), building an army and launching a strike upon the enemy.


It's the last part that IC takes an odd turn. While conventional RTS games provide a pre-defined selection of units to furnish your army, IC requires you to create your own units. Courtesy of the Creature Combiner, genetic specimens are combined to form bizarre hybrids. You can swap heads, torsos, fore/hind legs and tails, resulting in such abominations as the "Porcunk" (Porcupine/Skunk) or the "Coyain Lion" (Coyote/Mountain Lion). Although imagination and experimentation is the key, successful breeding involves capitalizing on the strengths of each creature whilst retaining as few weaknesses as possible.


Increasing your Research Level allows you to build Level 2 creatures and so on, unlocking some particularly nasty critters later on. The Genetic Amplifier gives further tech tree complexity, letting you upgrade the abilities of your existing 




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creatures (defense, speed, hit points etc.) Flying/swimming creatures are accessed by building air/water chambers. If defense is your style, you can shore up your base with structures like the Soundbeam Tower or Bramble Fence.


In a vacuous bubble, the prospect of combining creatures would create all sorts of wacky experimental fun. But in the context of real-time strategy, it becomes an unnecessary chore. It's a 


case of complexity for complexity's sake: when your goal is to eliminate the enemy through strategic/tactical means, the last thing you want to do is bother with designing your own soldiers. The skirmish mode alleviates this with pre-fabricated creatures, but this does nothing but nullify the crossbreeding concept, a rather stupid decision considering its centralized nature within the single-player campaigns.


Perhaps hoping to sell IC on crossbreeding alone, the rest of the game is poorly executed. The story is utterly boring... words cannot describe the sheer banality of Rex Chance's Indiana Jones stylings and Upton Julius' "evil scientist" routine. Presentation is bland and the lack of graphic detail just doesn't do justice to the obvious savageness of the creatures. My fearsome wolf-headed porcupine looked like a swollen brown-grey mass. Inexplicably, there's no blood, replaced by yellow sparks(!) whenever a creature lands a blow. Sound effects are similarly stale, although this is understandable: just what kind of sound would a cross between a giraffe and a lemming make anyway?  


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Initially promising, Impossible Creatures joins the scrap heap populated by similarly "gimmicky" titles like Max Payne and Red Faction. Games are like fine machinery: well-conceived, meticulously constructed and tuned to perfection. You can't piggyback an entire engine on the strength of one piston. The sooner developers learn to design their machines with respect to all moving parts, the better.


- Justin Liew

(February 12, 2003)


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