Aztec Wars (Windows)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  JudgeDeadd (22576)
Written on  :  Jan 29, 2010
Rating  :  3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars

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A casual RTS, essentially.

The Good

Nice graphics
Great, if sparse, music
Fun gameplay sometimes

The Bad

Only one campaign
Abysmal cutscenes
Bad story

The Bottom Line

Aztec Wars is, essentially, a very simple RTS without the need for any fancy tactical thinking on the player's side. The backstory is a typical "alternate history" deal: the Aztecs decided to make the first move before European conquerors and set off to take over all of America and Europe. Only two forces stand against this threat: the Russes and the Cathayans (who also seem to include Japanese, since they use ninjas.) There's only one campaign, unfortunately, where you play as the Russes and take on the role of a new leader who is put in charge of, surprise surprise, vanquishing the enemy. There's also some in-game story progression involving some random NPCs, but the storyline isn't at all engrossing, interesting, memorable or easy to follow. It's a pity there aren't campaigns for the other nations, but at least there's a bevy of standalone missions to play.

The technology of your nation makes no attempts at realism and rides firmly on the Rule Of Cool. Aztecs, for example, use Indians that ride on bisons (supposedly, since horses never lived in America, the Indians traditionally rode bisons - and not ordinary bisons, either, but bisons specially trained to not fear gunshots! Don't try telling that to your History teacher); Russes use steam-powered tanks that shoot giant spinning axes; and the Cathayans use yellow-furred yetis with colorful clubs.

The gameplay is simpler than in other real time strategies. Every mission is basically "kill all enemies". To accomplish this, you set up some money-making buildings (no numerous types of resources or harvester units in this game), produce tons of units and flood the enemy with them. If you're an expert RTS buff, you'll probably feel disgusted by such repetitive and brusque gameplay, and indeed constructing your base is a pretty tedious process, but it's oddly satisfying to see your big army duking it out with the equally large enemy forces. It's too bad that certain units are pretty much useless; some are too weak; some can stand their own, but by the time they become available you already have other, equally strong units.

The game controls are pretty different from other RTS's you may have played before, so I implore you to check the manual (or the readme.doc file) for controls before playing, especially since there is no in-game tutorial or key setup.

The technical layer of the game is pretty nice. The graphics of the terrain, your units and buildings are well-modeled, though the animation isn't too fluid. Probably the nicest and most enjoyable bit of warfare beauty is when you send a bunch of Russian zeppelins and watch as they drop bombs on enemy buildings, causing a fanfare of bright explosions. Each civilization has different units and buildings, which are designed with consistent styles. A cute bit of trivia is that each side uses different means of transport for its military vehicles: the Russes' vehicles drive on tank treads, the Cathayans use wheels, and the Aztec inventions either walk or... hop on one foot.

The music consists of a couple of very nice, atmospheric tunes, but there's too few of them. The unit sound bites are just cheesy enough to stick in your mind. Unfortunately, the unit AI is not as merriness-inducing. Your units sometimes stop dead in their tracks for no reason whatsoever, or even shake in place as if they were having an epileptic fit.

The cutscenes in the game betray its low budget, since the FMVs (movie sequences) look quite horrible. I can't say anything about the voice acting because I have the Polish version, which is, by the way, terrible. The actors' lines are badly acted and not at all synchronized with the characters' mouth movements, which is very visible from the way the characters keep "chewing gum" or miraculously talking without even opening their yaps.

Overall, Aztec Wars is certainly no game for the RTS fan/expert, but someone who's tired with action games and wants to try a simple strategy for a change could find this quite enjoyable.