Machines is an average RTS game with similarities to Command & Conquer and several other titles in the genre. Both sides in the conflict have the same units and features, distinguishable only by different colors. The premise is that the human race died out (no reason given) and their machine creations continue to colonize worlds with no purpose other than simply carrying out their programming. While playing a campaign mode is normally the focus of a real-time strategy game, Machines' strength lies in its skirmish scenarios.
While the weak storyline results in a lackluster campaign mode compared with successful games of this type, skirmish mode offers several good preset missions that highlight the originality of Machines. Most are large battles in which both sides square off with an equal number of units. No research of new units or collection of mineral deposits is required since all units are already in place. Battles test your strategy skills since attacking the opponent's army head-on will likely result in your quick annihilation. Instead, you must place troops in strategic positions based on their strengths.
In some missions, you control only a few units and do battle on a space station. All battles, though, require destruction of all enemy units as well as their radar beacon in order to achieve victory. Options allow up to four teams playing simultaneously and the number of units each team starts with is adjustable. Switching to first-person view in any one of the missions gives you the perspective of a first-person shooter.
In the campaign, you use a robot to locate mineral deposits and then build mining outposts. Another unit (mover) is then created to transport the minerals to your home base to get more money to create more units. The weapons and units in Machines are quite impressive but have less purpose than those seen in similar games. The units can become very powerful but without a good storyline, the overall effect is diminished.
At the beginning of the game, you build little spider-like machines known as Reapers with decent firepower but with more research, you eventually create Knights, Commandants and an impressive fighting machine called the Gorilla. The latter is at least four times bigger than any other unit in the game and extremely powerful. Some units destroy everything within a 20-ft radius and airborne units can shoot missiles from above. The aforementioned Knights can destroy any of the Reapers with a single blast, while espionage units can deposit mines in enemy buildings. Altogether, the units are one of the most striking features in Machines and many can be used immediately in the skirmish mode.
Machines has a very easy to use interface with unique camera angles and decent graphics. Switching to first-person perspective isn't new to most RTS games but often playing the game that way is difficult. Here, though, control is not only easy but gives the game more life. When looking from the ground perspective, you simply move the mouse left and right to rotate the screen and push forward and pull back to advance or retreat. It's a simple and straightforward process, yet gives you a good perspective when in battle.
All action is mouse-controlled but first-person mode requires manipulating the selected unit by using the arrow keys for movement and mouse buttons to fire. Controls are situated primarily at the left of the screen in the control bar and are easy to access. Each building and unit has different controls and modifiable AI parameters and units can be sent on fixed patrols.
With a better storyline and some full-motion video in campaign mode, Machines would hold its own against other successful titles in the genre. Although lacking some features that made the Command & Conquer series popular, it is somewhat unique. If nothing else, Machines offers mass destruction on a huge scale. Overall, the game can be summed up in three simple words: all out war.
Graphics: The 3D action is smooth, easy to control and colorful. Massively destructive weapons explode and light up the entire screen. The lasers and other weapons from your units are more interesting to look at then the units themselves, which aren't incredibly detailed. The scenery is impressive when you go on the space station due to the perspective.
Sound: The units don't have much sound but the entire game has a great techno soundtrack. The notes and flow of the music seem to match gameplay nicely.
Enjoyment: If you're a veteran of many RTS games, the campaign mode won't seem much fun due to the weak storyline. Skirmish battles, however, offer plenty of enjoyable gameplay as you control a wide variety of units and witness massive onslaughts.
Replay Value: Machines can be played on the Internet with up to three other people and equal sides (same units, same weapons). Settings in skirmish battles can be adjusted to make them more or less intense.
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M.A.X. 2, Mayday: Conflict Earth, Lord of the Rings, The: The Battle for Middle Earth II, Lord of the Rings, The: Battle for Middle-Earth, Magic & Mayhem 2: The Art of Magic, M.A.X.: Mechanized Assault & Exploration, Lords of The Realm 2, Metal Knight
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