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Impire – PC

Impire – PC

thCAMUEMVOPlatform: PC

Developer: Cyanide Studios

Publisher: Paradox Interactive

Release Date: February 14, 2013

Genre:  RTS

Nerd Rating: 4 out of 10

Reviewed by Malefico

 

Impire is a third person action/strategy dungeon management game. Like all the other games in this genre, it owes its roots the that most hallowed and kick-ass progenitor, Dungeon Keeper, developed by the now defunct Bullfrog Studios and released in 1997.

Cmpaign Start

In Impire, you play as a demon named Baal-Abaddon, summoned from the Netherworld to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting population of Ardania. Your summoner, the sorcerer Oscar van Fairweather, serves as your advisor/trainer during the initial part of the game, until you “let him go” and assume full control of an army of evil.

The Basics

Graphics and animation quality was quite good on the POS, and frame rates bounced between 35-50 throughout game play.

Video Settings

Basic mouse controls are- click or click and drag to select unit(s), right click to order movement and attack/interaction, number keys to select squads, and Tab to select Baal. Moving the mouse or W.A,S and D scrolls the map, the wheel zooms the perspective in and out, and Q and E rotate the perspective.

 

Like any of these games, you first summon worker minions to perform mundane tasks like building/repairing rooms, gathering treasure dropped by foes, and staffing rooms that require workers.

Basic rooms include the Mushroom… room where molds and fungi (apparently the preferred food of hell spawn) are grown. A Storeroom is necessary to store your Treasure, Mushrooms and other Materials. Guard your Storeroom well- if it is destroyed, you lose. A Nursery produces new combat units, and a Kitchen feeds them when necessary. Your troops can die in battle, but also lose their Aggressiveness (they refuse to fight) if not fed regularly.

Nursery

Baal starts with a melee and lightning attack, and can teleport himself or groups of troops to any explored location in the dungeon. As he grows in power, he can spend skill points to increase his attack, defensive and other skills. Grab the speed upgrade, it comes in handy as dungeon size grows and you have to defend against simultaneous attacks.

Minion 1

In order to spawn new fighters, you must first encounter one of their type and kill it. The new unit then becomes available through your Nursery, provided you have enough room in your army. As your dungeon grows, it increases in level, allowing you to increase the size of your impish mob. Fighting imps come in a variety of light and heavy melee, ranged and casting units:

Berserker– The bulk infantry of your horde. Relatively weak attack, but cheap and fast to build.

Scout– Basic ranged unit, arrow attacks deal decent damage and these units tend not to get hit a lot unless you lose your melee forces.

Priest– Capable of magical attacks and healing your troops, these little guys are indispensable. They die quickly, so be sure to group them in a balanced force.

Once spawned, you can order your troops to guard, patrol or follow you in a behavior menu for each unit. As they fight they increase in level, doing more damage and acquiring a greater number of hit points themselves. Some units gain additional abilities at higher levels as well. Units can be organized into squads to increase their effectiveness and allow you to select/move them with a number key. Additional squads must be purchased to unlock them. The game requires that you send squads to conduct surface raids against nearby areas to gather Treasure and Materials necessary to purchase more squads and build vital rooms. In later levels, you gain the ability to construct traps that also use resources.

World Map

Impire allows you to amass more powerful troops relatively quickly, and you’ll need them. In addition to facing other aspiring evil potentates, you must defend your dungeon against random incursions of heroes out to destroy your subterranean kingdom (sound familiar?). Eventually, you’ll face multiple opponents while contending against the periodic invasions.

The Bottom Line

Impire features detailed, well-rendered environments and models. Animations are good- your little imp minions trot around to fulfill your nefarious will, grinning as they go. I also thought the area effects were well-done. Lighting and textures convey the dungeon environment well. Map scrolling is smooth, but can feels claustrophobic, even zoomed out. At times I felt as if I couldn’t see enough of the terrain and frequent scrolling is necessary to bring different areas into view. The game lacks a mini-map that would allow you to quickly select trouble spots as they arise.

Room Placement

In-game music is subtle and contributes to the overall mood as you spread your particular variety of creeping, festering evil. Sound effects are repetitive, with unit acknowledgments limited to one or two responses, and combat resulting in a series of grunts and shrieks that quickly become annoying. While the environment looks good and the game concept has some promise, the real disappointment of Impire lies in the implementation.

Let’s start with the map, and what it does (and doesn’t) accomplish. First, remember the squads I talked about earlier? Unless units are grouped into squads, they don’t show up in the large scale map. You have to zoom in to find them. This is relatively easy if they have orders to guard, but downright difficult if they are patrolling. Since heroes enter your dungeon in random locations, setting units to patrol is necessary. You will end up scrolling around the map frequently, and as I said before the area of view is limited so it can take some time to find trouble spots or units that aren’t in squads.

Loot

Which leads to problem two: whether an imp is alone, or in an unorganized group or squad, there’s no way to set a group behavior. You have to bring up each unit’s behavior menu and issue order that way. As soon as you order a unit to patrol, he takes off in a random direction and wanders an area around his starting point. The net effect is to divide your troops, so that attacking enemies destroy units piecemeal whether they are in a squad or not. The AI is terrible. Units spot and attack enemies as they see them, rather than engaging in any kind of coherent defense so assigning units to squads is of very limited effectiveness. And I can’t think of any other game that requires you to pay for this privilege, especially when you can only have four units to a squad. Also, you can only have a maximum of five squads… ever.

When you do succeed in massing your forces, combat is a muddled mess. There’s no way to target enemies with the keyboard, and their identifying tag is small so it becomes a chore to select specific enemies and bring them down to turn the tide in your favor. Your imps, so cute when wandering are small and surround the enemies, so using heal spells on valuable units is difficult as well. You just have to mass as many troops as possible and hope the good ones don’t die. If they do, spawn more, get them to the same general area, add them back into the squad, set the behaviors again, it’s just ridiculous. You’ll spend much more time organizing your army and replacing losses than actually fighting.

Finally, the game requires very little strategy, either when planning/building your dungeon or assaulting an enemy warren. In Dungeon Keeper, the game to which all genre pretenders aspire, where and when you placed rooms and traps was important, and you could build multiple facilities to assure your troops were nearby threat areas. In Impire, you’re much more limited in terms of placement and the structure of the game makes it much harder to get troops where they need to be, when they need to be there. Once you break through to an enemy area, strategy goes out the window- you just build as big an army as you can, as quickly as possible and rush your evil nemesis and his forces.

Gate

The Verdict

When I first bought this game, I was excited as I really enjoy these kinds of concepts. At their best, they play to the dark side in all of us and offer a real challenge- building and controlling a cesspool of evil is fun and rewarding.

In the end, Impire just made me wish I hadn’t sold my copies of Dungeon Keeper/Keeper 2. In fact, since it “borrows” so many of the elements of the truly enjoyable originals, it was almost as if I was playing Keeper’s deformed, inbred, mentally handicapped cousin.

So, save your money… Go find a used copy of Dungeon Keeper and play a real dungeon management game, if you can get it to run. Spoiler alert- the graphics are poor by today’s standard, but the game design is actually good, something I can’t say about Impire. Damaged game play elements that should have been sent back to the Netherworld are the true demons in this game.

Written by Nerd Bacon

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