Like a grumpy old man who still maintains most of Birmingham was all fields back in his day, when we know damn well it was canals and smog, LucasArts is going through a retrospective period. Last month we had the ‘return to humour’ of Armed And Dangerous, and this month we have Wrath Unleashed, a game which has spent most of its development period looking back lovingly to past times.
You see, Wrath Unleashed is largely based on the old Amiga game Archon. Released in 1986, Archon aimed to combine chess with the state-of-the-art interactive action that modern gaming afforded. Where the Amiga game kept the board and basic rules of chess, Wrath Unleashed offers a series of randomly generated maps created from hexagons to offer greater scope for movement and strategy. The aim is to move about the map with your assortment of beasts, attacking enemy hexagons and taking control of key targets (temples, portals and so on). By taking control of an enemy’s property you dominate the map and you win.
Despite a great deal of scepticism on our part, Wrath Unleashed is actually pretty good fun. Sure, we saw the early screens of bizarre D&D-style creatures and semi-clad girls fighting it out in bare environments, and we thought ‘crap’. But behind the Bravo soft-porn character design is a strong arcade/strategy game. Movement is swift and simple, and, unlike many other games of this type, everything is kept obvious. After a few games, you’ll understand the strengths and weaknesses of your pieces. Even the battle sections are well implemented and challenging – but then this is from the people who gave us Indy and Buffy, after all.
In keeping with the strategic nature of the game, hexagons will feature different terrains, with each character in the game affiliated to a terrain type, so to keep the advantage in a fight it’s best to stick to your own ground and force the enemy to play by your rules. Maps can be created to one of three sizes and, importantly, armies can be edited to suit your style of play – more pawns and less knights?
Sadly, Wrath Unleashed is let down by the short-term nature of the game in single-player mode – any competent gamer should rattle through this quite quickly. As a multiplayer game, however, it can run and run. With a simultaneous four-player option and a basis in both chess and Powerstone, Wrath Unleashed is best experienced with friends.
The style and gameplay here may have more in common with the dubious mid- Eighties taste of the game this is inspired by, but give it a chance and Wrath Unleashed becomes very playable, proving old ideas need not die with bad fashion sense.