Gamers looking for a nearly insane challenge should enjoy the fast action of the technology-driven Steel Soldiers. This mission-based strategy game requires creating an army of robot warriors, expanding the boundaries of the empire, and building facilities to manufacture robots, vehicles and weapons, a complicated mix, which is sure to scare novices away. The constant need to battle on numerous fronts, protect facilities and territories from incessant attacks, and complete missions simultaneously is tough. Most gamers won't be able to think straight, let alone execute the tons of mouse clicks necessary to keep from being overwhelmed.
Steel Soldiers is reminiscent of build-and-destroy games like Populous and SimEarth, as well as real-time warfare games such as Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines and Panzer General 3D Assault. It combines elements from both genres, and in doing so, creates a game that is somewhat less than any of the aforementioned titles. Simply too much happens at once, making it difficult to focus on any particular aspect for more than a few seconds.
Gameplay improves slightly in the latter stages, as the number of vehicles with special capabilities increase and allow you to launch decent attacks without fear of losing your entire collection of soldiers. Unfortunately, too many gamers will quit playing before they reach the point where vehicles become significant to gameplay.
Enjoyment is also reduced due to the difficult user interface that makes it difficult at times to select the right soldier and have him execute orders efficiently. Further compounding the problem, robotic soldiers are unbelievably stupid -- they won't move when attacked or do much of anything unless prodded. Games like Steel Soldiers require at least a minimal amount of AI, but none is apparent here. The multiplayer feature appears to be a positive aspect, but finding sessions can be difficult since only GameSpy supports online play.
Steel Soldiers is an ambitious game that simply tries to cram too much action into a tiny package. It's hard to believe that removing action from a game might enhance it, but that's precisely what Steel Soldiers needs.
Graphics: Slightly below average when compared to contemporary games. Characters and vehicles are not as clearly defined as they could be, and while each robot class is discernible from the others, the tiny graphics make viewing difficult, especially in lower terrain. The same is true for vehicles, though planes, tanks, and trucks are slightly more detailed.
Sound: The repetitive sound is typical of war games. Guns crackle, robots screech, and explosions boom. There's nothing innovative, and the soundtrack is similar to dozens of others in the genre.
Enjoyment: The game is far too complex, and gameplay isn't helped by a weak user interface that makes playing even more difficult.
Replay Value: Playing more than a few times will be a chore, as trudging through it once is tough enough.
People who downloaded Steel Soldiers (a.k.a. Z: Steel Soldiers) have also downloaded:
Z, Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, Steel Panthers 3: Brigade Command (1939-1999), Sudden Strike, Sudden Strike 2, Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy, StarCraft
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