Original War takes place in both the future and the far distant past. The prehistoric-era combat reflects the first large-scale battles ever seen on planet Earth, but are spawned by resource hungry nations of the future, the US and Russia. Unfortunately, this tired and frustrating game is also stuck in the past by its failure to take advantage of the current state of development in the RTS genre, with an aggravating role-playing element thrown into the mix as well.
The basic style of gameplay is similar to the first few Command & Conquer games in that you select units, maneuver them over a map, and try to blow up the opponent while harvesting helpful resources and building structures. Standard fare for gamers with a touch of nostalgia for the "old" RTS days, though a bit rusty and made even worse by a weak AI.
Getting your units to go where they're needed is a hassle thanks to horrid path finding abilities. They meander all over the map, often taking the one route you didn't want, seemingly by design. Vehicles back into enemy fire when directed to go the other direction, soldiers happily march into dangerous areas, and in general, all hell breaks loose when you try to maneuver a large number of forces to a specific locale.
This might not be critical if additional unit creation were possible, but in Original War, units don't come back when they die. So, to compensate, one assumes that units must be fairly tough, but that's not the case, as death can come swiftly under enemy fire. Instead of a flowing battle, you'll have to save and restore often to make sure you have enough units to complete your mission.
Annoyingly, Original War feels less like an on-going campaign than a puzzle game. You invest much of your time accomplishing tasks with mind-numbing, methodical intent, picking off enemies one-by-one, or searching for the elusive "right" way to destroy the enemy while losing the least amount of units on each map. The game has none of the vitality or strategy found in even the most mediocre RTS challenges.
The RPG element is ill designed and frustrating with its needlessly awkward class system. Having units gain levels is nice, but you often have to build structures and switch unit classes simply to gain more of one than the other to complete a given task. The flow is destroyed, for example, when you have to stop the action and go through the tedious process of switching engineers to soldiers in order to break through the enemy line, then switch back to engineers. Having access to all units would have given the game better pace.
Aside from some nicely designed cut scenes, the visuals looks like something from the mid-90s with muddled graphics that make it hard to see where you are, where you're headed, or even where you've been. Terrain is often a mystery even when you're on top of it, and locales have no distinguishing features to help sort them out. The laughable voice acting is so bad it's embarrassing.
Original War is a clunky, cliché-filled game that actually takes the genre back a step even while trying hard to be innovative. The basic design is flawed -- too easy for veteran RTS fans and needlessly difficult and slow-paced for new fans.
Graphics: Interesting visuals are few and far between. Graphics are mostly a combination of outdated painted maps and under-animated units, often making it difficult to follow the action.
Sound: The voice work is awful, with sub-par music and sound effects.
Enjoyment: So many little problems, combined with basic design flaws, make gameplay a chore. The mix of RPG and RTS doesn't work well in this case and the game feels more like work than enjoyment.
Replay Value: With limited multiplayer elements, and uninspired missions, few gamers will want to invest quality time in Original War.
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