Armored Moon is real time strategy providing about forty hours of real-time strategy gaming fun. The year is 2069 and Earth's colonies thrive on the Moon. Unfortunately, there is a major disagreement over who should control the thriving. The bad guys, called G7, want the Moon for themselves. The good guys, called Union 24, want to keep them from getting it. Fortunately for us gamers, it looks like a war is inevitable.
Both sides battle with four types of units: Biped weapons chassis, Fighter spacecraft, Cyborgs, and Suppliers. There are several classes of Bipeds, each with unique capabilities, but only one type of the other three units. Fighters are fighters, and Cyborgs are weak-kneed semi-humans whose only redeeming trait is their ability to capture Towns. Suppliers are interesting units who repair damaged Bipeds. Units gain experience in combat, so it's important to keep them alive.
Shot Two Armored Moon uses a three-quarter isometric view. The graphics and sound are good, not great - it's difficult to distinguish the different Bipeds, and the sound didn't work on two of the three computers tested. Nevertheless, the ambiance isn't bad - short ranged auto-cannons chatter, long range missiles paint the battlefield with smoke trails, and the area effect plasma weapons raise multi-tile blue-green explosions.
The interface takes about five minutes to master, and the economic model ten more. There are six types of buildings and two types of "currency." To summon troops you need a Transporter, a Control Center and the currency/stock to buy them. Control Centers limit the total number of units available and Towns limit the cash and stock (i.e. types of units at hand).
Armored Moon includes ten missions, which isn't much by today's gaming standards, and the game probably won't be in contention for Game of the Year - it lacks the glitz and longevity of some of its more expensive real-time brethren. But for half the price of those titles, this software packs quite a gaming wallop.
Imagine for a moment that you're in charge of new releases for a movie company. A few months ago, the latest Star Wars chapter was released. Audiences flooded the theaters. The story was well conceived, the visuals superlative, and - most important - it was simply a great film. Your assistant brings in the latest film your company has produced. Like the new Star Wars film, it's science fantasy. Unfortunately for your company, that's where the similarities end. The plot is inspired by Ed Wood's Plan Nine from Outer Space, the visuals are day-glow Frisbees and Revell model kits, and it's a chore to sit through five minutes of the screening. Would you release this movie to the public? Would you expect to make anything back from releasing this movie? Hopefully not. Common sense would tell you it's going to be a flop.
It's obvious then that the folks at Microforum who decided to release Armored Moon, its entry into the over-saturated real-time strategy market, had a marked lack of common sense. Armored Moon is simply one of the worst RTS games to grace your local retailer's shelves (sorry Eidos, Conquest Earth is still the worst RTS game if only for the presales hype), especially when compared to recent titles such as Total Annihilation and Dark Reign.
The basic plot is that in the future, when the Earth's resources are dwindling to nothing, mankind will expand out to the stars - and in this case the moon. An evil megacorporation (are there ever benign megacorporations?) discovers that the moon harbors a vast amount of minerals that could be useful to the Earth. So in true megacorporation fashion, it tries to take over the moon while you, the underdog, fight to take it back.
The first thing you'll notice about Armored Moon is that there are no sides to choose from. You get to play one side and one side only. Then, you'll notice that there are only ten missions. Okay, so the game is short lived. The multiplayer aspect of it will keep it on your hard drive perhaps. It might if there was a multiplayer aspect. With trepidation, you click on the new game button hoping that at least the game will provide some sort of entertainment for your money.
Gameplay is presented in a three-quarter view. The maps used are fairly small and essentially feature three different colors: gray, dark gray, and black. Units are chicken-like blobs of pixels with little animation to them. An SVGA card is needed even though the original VGA Warcraft had better-looking graphics than this atrocious piece of software. Control of the units is thankfully standard fare; point and click or drag a box and click. You can also organize groups. Sound effects are so-so. After all, it's not hard to screw up the sound of an explosion. On the other hand ,the unit acknowledgment voice-overs sound as if they were done by Fred from the mailroom.
Now for the real zinger. Graphics and sound effects can be forgiven if the actual gameplay is decent. Microforum apparently forgot about this. The inspiration for gameplay is not Command & Conquer or Dark Reign, but rather 7th Legion. Does anyone remember that RTS game? In Armored Moon, there is nothing to harvest. You are given an allotted amount of cash along with an allotted number of units per mission. You can gain money and units by capturing enemy towns, but you are still limited to a maximum amount of each. The icing on the cake is that each mission also has a time limit.
Someone at Microforum also forgot that in a real-time strategy game there should be some semblance of strategy. There is none in Armored Moon - except get all your units in a group and walk across the map. Even though the manual contains unit statistics, you'll find little difference between your troops. The only troop you must put thought into is the cyborg, the only unit capable of capturing enemy towns and winning the scenario. And because you have a limited amount of cyborgs to accomplish this with, lose one or two, and you'll have to start all over.
Armored Moon is an insipid game with no redeeming value. First, it's short. The entire game can be finished in a few hours if you're into masochism. Second, while this game could have found a niche in users with older computer systems hungering for some fresh RTS action, its gameplay and graphics are so bad it's better to replay Warcraft.
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