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Platform

Xbox


Genre

Strategy / Fighting


Publisher

LucasArts


Developer

The Collective


ESRB

T (Teen)


Released

Q1 2004

 

 

- Chess-like turn-based movement is engrossing

- Fighting breaks up the strategy

- Good interface

- Some interesting character models

- Different modes

 

 

- Frequent load times

- The combination of fighting and turn-based strategy will put many people off

- So-so sound

- May not have "legs" to stick around long

 

 

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Wrath Unleashed

Score: 7.9 / 10

Wrath is a very interesting follow-up game for the Collective.  Their last project was Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb, so Wrath Unleashed, with it’s chess-like turned-based structure and real-time, 3D fighting is quite a departure.

 

wrath xbox review          wrath xbox review

 

If you remember the classic Battle Chess, you have a general idea of how Wrath plays out, although in the case of Wrath you get to manage the fighting aspect as well as the strategic aspects.

 

Though there are a number of different modes, including a Campaign mode, the general mechanics (and rules) don’t change: Two (actually, up to four) opponents pitted against each other on a hex game board attempt to wipe each other out (or meet some other criteria) to win.  You have one über piece – a god – and a variety of other, lesser, units at your disposal.  Your god acts as your spellcaster that can perform such tasks as summon elementals, raise your dead units and transform land to give your lesser units an advantage during combat.  For your god to perform any of these tasks it costs mana, which is collected by positioning units on mana points.

 

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Assuming control of the mana points on any map proves to be the lynchpin of any match.  If you can deprive your opponent of mana, you have an excellent chance of winning.  Of course, getting to those points and maintaining them can be tough because most times your computer AI opponent will start the match controlling a few mana points.  This is where management of your units becomes extremely important, and because you only get one move per round you really need to think ahead and know what you’re units are capable of.

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Each of the four sides has a good roster of units to get to know.  While some of the units have like counterparts on the other three sides (like the Unicorn) there are others unique to the alignment you choose.  The towering Ogre Mage is specific to the Light Order and has characteristics in both combat and movement on the board that have to be taken into account.  The control for the various units don’t differ so much as to cause confusion, but you do have to learn the nuances of each if you hope to be successful because even the “weakest” of units can take down a powerful opponent if you know what you’re doing. (Not always, but sometimes.)

 

Fortunately, the Collective has included a VS mode that allows you to practice the combat aspect of Wrath.  Button mashing can net you wins but being able to setup combos and really know the controls isn’t that hard and it brings even more wins your way.  This mode can also be played against a buddy (or you can setup custom one-off games that include the strategy portion).

 

wrath xbox review          wrath xbox review

 

The board view of Wrath is fairly Spartan (which makes it easier to make out the various units) but there are quite a few cool backdrops and environmental details that prevent it from being boring.  During combat, the animation is top notch, with plenty of environmental effects and cool-looking moves.  The character designs are good, especially the larger units like the Frost Dragon.  (Special mention should also go to the bra design of the Dark Chaos god.)  The audio isn’t so top notch.  Although the theme music is suitably stirring, most of the rest of the audio isn’t as good.  Of particular annoyance is the announcer that tells you “Player 2 passes turn” (or whatever) when the accompanying text onscreen pretty much explains what just happened.  And the “Boom, boom, boom” of each introduction to a battle gets tired pretty quickly as well.

 

Another downside to Wrath is the frequent load times.  Every time you enter or leave combat you’re stuck with a loading screen.  The fighting does a good job breaking up the strategic elements, but when you have to watch a loading screen before and after every fight it just further brings down the pacing but it wasn’t enough to deter my overall enjoyment of Wrath.

 

Fighting fans looking for something a little different might want to give Wrath a look.  The turn-based strategy offers quite a bit of challenge but the fighting should be just right, with just enough different characters to keep you going.  For strategy fans, Wrath should keep you busy for a while (although it remains to be seen what kind of "legs" Wrath will have) and if you’re not so fast on your feet you can also practice the fighting mode.  But for someone that enjoys both genres, Wrath Unleashed may be a solid purchase -- try before you buy.

 

- Omni

(March 3, 2004)

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