8-bit Armies is a real time strategy game, developed and published by Petroglyph who is probably most well-known for Star Wars: Empire at War. They are a team of ex-Westwood developers who worked on the Command and Conquer series which pretty much moulded the RTS genre as we know it today. 8-Bit armies takes everything which we loved from the original C&C games, improved all of the small issues and turned it into a really fun RTS.
The game play is almost identical to that of Command & Conquer Tiberian Sun, with the GDI style units and buildings. The campaign side of the game doesn’t focus very much on the base building aspect of the game; you do have to build a base, but you start off with one half-built already which you just add to. The campaign mode is done a little differently when we compare it to other games in this genre. Each mission has three objectives, a bronze, silver and gold level of difficulty. Completing the bronze objective opens up the next mission, whilst completing the silver and gold objectives unlocks extra units for you to build, and also gives you additional units, resources and power at the start of every level. I really thought having this mechanic in the game gave an extra layer of depth to the game play, and adds plenty of replayability. You often find yourself not having the right units or simply not enough time to complete the silver and gold objectives without unlocking some new units first. This means you do spend a lot of time backtracking to previously beaten levels however it doesn’t feel a huge chore like it would do in other games which make you do that.
Throughout the campaign, the missions objectives vary from level to level, they aren’t all “Wipe out the enemy”. Granted some of them are to obliterate your enemy, but some of them are quite interesting such as racing to earn a certain amount of money in a certain time frame, surviving against waves of enemies for an allotted amount of time, capturing hostages, along with plenty more which keep the game fresh from level to level. 8-bit Armies also has a skirmish mode which is almost compulsory in any RTS game now, this is the bread and butter of any game of this type. Simply build your base, raise an army and crush your opponent. No frills, no fancy objectives – just all-out war with up to 8 opponents.
8-Bit Armies runs on a voxel engine from an isometric angle. The game is brimming with colour. It should be pointed out that the game is nowhere near “8-bit”, but more of a Minecraft look-a-like. Normally I despise the Minecraft look, but I was blown away with how stunning this game looked. There are plenty of small details gone into making this game look as good as it does, from things such as the smoke coming off destroyed vehicles, to how all of the bullets and rockets look. A few of the levels have a few hidden Easter eggs, which will make for an interesting find, such as Penguins just chilling out beside a volcano. The audio in 8-Bit Armies doesn’t have much in terms of voice acting, but what there is will really spark that nostalgic feeling with the computer voice from C&C. All of your units are, however, mute, so no longer do you get to hear your army march into battle. The soundtrack was composed by none other than Frank Klepacki who is well known for his work in C&C – sadly this isn’t up there with his best though.
Don’t expect to get a compelling or interesting story from the campaign, since there isn’t any plot at all. There isn’t any mission briefing in between levels, nothing. This leaves you feeling slightly empty and without reason for completing the objectives set out before you other than just for gaming purposes. It would have been nice to even have a C&C-esque cheesy storyline of sorts in the background.
Completing 8-Bit Armies took me a disappointingly short amount of time – and this was with collecting gold medals in every campaign level. I couldn’t quite believe it was over and done with in under than six hours. You will get plenty of replayability out of the skirmishes and playing online, and even jumping into the co-op campaign mode; but alas this is essentially the same as the single player so nothing new to see. The multiplayer scene is probably at its peak right now, so if you are the sort that wants to go toe-to-toe with other players, you best get in there quick before the numbers start dwindling.
As you’d expect for a game that has an art style like 8-Bit Armies, the game is not demanding on hardware at all. Everything loads in a snappy fashion, and frame rates do not drop below 60 even when you have hundreds of units on screen at a time. I was delighted to see that I could even play in 4k as well.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing 8-Bit Armies; what lets it down is a simplified game-play that is so simple, it almost makes the game a walk in the park to play. I didn’t feel challenged at any time whilst playing. The short campaign shows how quick you can blast through in a small time frame. I am not sure how many skirmishes people will be happy to keep replaying before they grow tired of the watered down mechanics that this game has. Is the game worth its £10.99 price tag? Yeah I would say so. Even though the game play is simple, I was still gripped to my screen ploughing through the levels. This game is a huge nostalgia high for those who played the original C&C series and want to relive the greats of the genre; but it is by far not going to stand-up to the more modern RTS titles which we have watched hit the scene in recent years.