Before we start, I have a question. Is it “poonage” or “pownage”? I’m dead serious – I have no idea. I personally say “pownage,” but I’ve heard it both ways. The reason I ask, if you couldn’t tell, is because the infamous “pwn” verb is present right in the title of the game – Pwnage of Empires. Opinions? Anyway.
The game is developed by LocoPuyo, and they describe it as a “competitive real-time strategy shoot-em-up.” I was in the mood for some competition. And I can’t say I missed the similarities in title between this and “Age of Empires”…which makes me think of the group of guys that always seemed to be hanging out in the same row of computers in the lab at school, playing the game with the most intense game face I’ve ever seen.
Needless to say, I went in with high hopes, and I wasn’t disappointed. I mastered the tutorial levels nicely, but unfortunately I seem to fail terribly at the actual versus mode, and lost quite a few times. But my level of failure at strategy games is beside the point. We’re talking about the actual game, right? Right.
The basic concept of the game is very easy to grasp, since it’s something that I assume most gamers have played at one point or another. It’s your job to go out and defeat the enemy ships and bases floating out there in space. But of course they’re after you too, so you need to build your army as well as your defenses to be the best, and to do this you need to gather resources from the floating space rocks located across the battlefield.
My personal favorite thing about the game is the fact that the star systems are backwards names and words. Took me a while to realize this fact, but still.
Graphics-wise, the game is a joy to look at. While playing you’re looking at mostly flat colors, but that’s perfectly fine since it lets you tell what’s what a lot easier as the ships are all light gray/white against a blackish background.
The music is of great quality and isn’t intrusive at all – it does it’s job and let’s you know it’s there without actually distracting you at all from the task at hand (and really you can’t afford distractions in versus mode, it’s very fast-paced). The only issue I have is that the shooting sound effects are incredibly loud compared to the softness of the music and bassy effects of placing objects, so I have a tendency to turn the volume up to hear when I’m building, and then have to quickly turn it down when a big battle starts or it would wake up the whole neighbourhood.
As for the controls, they are simple to understand, especially if you’ve played strategy games before. And if not, the tutorial level is very helpful and guides you through everything you need to do to learn the ropes. Something neat and (relatively) unique for the strategy genre is the ability to “link” with any ship you want, taking manual control of it and commanding it’s every move. This is most handy when you’re trying to build things with the engineer ships, let me tell you. As for the main controls, the resizing of the selection square can seem a little wonky at first, but given the restriction of the xbox controller, it’s very capable.
The only other pieces of constructive criticism I can give the game would be that sometimes when building ships they will all exit the barracks and stop right on top of each other, so I have 10+ ships that only look like one, and they all charge into battle in exactly the same position when I group select, meaning they all die at exactly the same time, rendering my battle charge harmless in a matter of seconds. That, and also that I think there should be a guide box when you go to build something, so you can tell just how big the object is. I spent almost 10 minutes in tutorial mode drifting around an area trying to build a shipyard, and it turns out the area I wanted to build it in was waaay too small.
Other than those few minor irks and my own personal inability to play versus mode, the game is excellent. I recommend it to anyone who wants to give it a try. Just make sure you’re fast enough to beat versus mode!
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