Battle Isle 2220: Shadow of the Emperor has an interesting storyline and offers a unique strategy experience, not unlike chess where you have a set number of pieces that must be strategically positioned to achieve victory. It's a mildly entertaining game and understanding the storyline plays a very important part.
You are a member of the long oppressed group, Kai, suffering at the hands of the majority far too long. On the way to a meeting with your council, your plane crashes on a deserted island -- you are the only survivor. Entering a cave you discover, you notice traces of civilization and hear a voice talking. It is that of an emperor from an ancient civilization who ruled the planet long before the Driads took over. Soon, you find yourself using his technology to free your people and try to achieve world domination.
The game is punctuated with video sequences, often during or after each mission, that contain messages from various people. The acting is poor throughout the game and the emperor's voice sounds like a take off on Darth Vader. During combat, you see a video screen that shows the attack and how many units were destroyed or you can bypass it by using the quick play option, although the latter option makes the game far less interesting. Video backgrounds are obviously drawn, while the people look more real. Other than the clips, the rest of the game has very basic graphics.
The interface (mouse driven) and movement of pieces is very easy and a number of windows containing useful information are available through the use of icons. Moving your units requires double clicking on them in the map screen, the only place they're viewable. You track critical information like how many units are left in each group and how much fuel remains, the latter being important since no fuel means no movement. Fortunately, taking over a building allows you to refuel your units. Also, should they run out of ammunition, they can't attack.
Control of units, though, is limited and adds to the strategic aspect. Transport units travel farther than others, so using them to carry your more powerful machines can prove useful. Since you have no time limit, the action can be very slow, but you need to take sufficient time in determining unit movement since certain conditions are less favorable than others. For example, just as in real life, getting surrounded is not likely to result in a favorable battle outcome. Also, certain units can dig trenches, which offer added protection.
Some objectives, such as salvaging the wreckage of your ship in the second mission, must be met in order to advance but the main objective is usually to annihilate the enemy. This theme can become tedious and tiresome after you've played a few missions, especially since you have to start over again if you're defeated.
In the context of successful strategy games, Battle Isle 2220: Shadow of the Emperor is far from perfect. It does offer some strategic enjoyment similar to chess if played in short doses, although it doesn't have the form and techniques that make chess so interesting. Even with the bad acting, though, the storyline does become absorbing as you slowly discover your position as a pawn in the evil emperor's plan.
Graphics: The full motion video sequences look nice but the backgrounds look painted. The shots of your units attacking are decent but are not too detailed. Simple graphics are used for the icons of all troops.
Sound: The voice of the emperor is done well but the rest is poor. Music during the game is neither obtrusive nor enhancing but provides a good background.
Enjoyment: At the beginning, it's entertaining to watch the video sequences of your units destroying the enemy but gameplay becomes boring after the first few missions. The story, however, does get interesting as the game progresses.
Replay Value: The multiplayer game is a good alternative for playing after the single-player campaign is complete. Once the storyline has been discovered, solo replay value diminishes.
Battle Isle 2220: Shadow of the Emperor is a hex-based strategy game featuring live-action video sequences and real-time 3D fight animations.
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