Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Beware of the blob... - Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal

This is a game that somewhat defies description. On paper Creepr World 3 a tower defense game, except your towers can readily move. It would be realtime strategy, except the mechanics are nothing like a typical RTS. If I had to call it something I'd Say it a Tower Defense/RTS hybrid but even that might not be quite right. Whatever it is, we're clearly dealing with a unique game.

Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal actually has a fairly complex story about humanity's fight against an invading force called the creeper which is which takes the form of this strange blue slime that spreads to cover entire worlds. What exactly the stuff is and what it's doing are a major part of the story, and there's more here than I would of expected. As always I can't give much in the way of details because of spoilers, but I will say the game takes place a very log time after the first two games, and covers a lot of what happened since then. There are some references to the first two games, but you don't need to have played them to make since of what's going on here.
From this map, you can choose what mission to take on next.
Gameplay in Creeper World 3 is fairly simple, from your main base, you build weapons to fight back the creeper, and to power them you need to build collectors, which generate energy and help build a network which you need to transmit all that energy through. your main objective on most maps is to clear a path to the emitters the creeper is coming from, allowing you to build nullifiers to destroy them. and to do that the game gives you a lot of options. on top of simple lasers you can use mortars to blow small holes in the creeper, or use aerial units to get at distant areas. you can even build ore mines to produce anti-creeper, which can hurt creeper but won't damage your buildings. The whole time you have to carefully manage your power. try to build too much at once or don't have enough collectors making power and you'll have brownouts, slowing everything down as your base struggles to meet the demand.

The creeper itself is an unusual enemy, like I said before it's basically slime and it does act like a liquid: quickly running down hill or pooling in ditches or valleys to create deep pools of the stuff. The terrain makes a huge difference as trying to clean out a pool of Creeper is very different from trying to fight uphill against it. In fact terrain is a big part of the game, unlike other strategy games, the creeper doesn't make units or plan attacks, it just spreads. How it spreads depends entirely on the maps layout and how you choose to fight it.
Terran has a huge effect on how the creeper acts
The game comes with several game modes, on top of the main campaign there's two additional areas called tormented space and the prospector zone. These areas contain extra missions, complete with their own campaign map that slowly unlocks new missions as you beat previous ones. There's also the Dial Map Device which acts as a random map generator, the generator allows you to tweak several properties to effect how maps are generated, and you can even save and name generated maps to share them online with other players, or readily play other maps that players have saved. There's even a map editor for making your own maps, as well an in game browser for easily downloading and playing user maps. Put simply, there's a lot of content to this game.

In fact, the amount of content this game has is worth mentioning. Between the campaign, tormented space, and prospector zone, there's easily hundreds of missions here. Add the map generator and user maps, and you've got virtually unlimited missions, this would be overwhelming except the game handles it in a simple but rather clever way: The bulk of the content is optional. The main story campaign is actually quite short, it's only about 16-17 missions and can be beaten in only a few hours. meaning if you just want to beat the game and see the ending, it's not all that much of a slog. If you want more, there's all the content you could need, and you can readily take or ignore almost all of it.
This is a map of the prospector zone, each one of those stars can contain several missions.
The game has a nice soundtrack, it goes for more of a sweeping, orchestral score and while there's only a few tracks, they're all nice to listen to and fit the game's overall theme of fighting against impossible odds quite nicely. Sound is somewhat minimal but effective. It's mostly the sound of weapons fire, backed with the occasional whoosh of things flying up or down from orbit, backed up by the occasional beep or siren to warn you of something important, there's no ambient sound or anything like that, but that's fine as when missions heat up the sound of weapons fire becomes almost constant. Everything works and there's nothing to distract you.

The games' graphics seem to somewhat favor form over function. Unit designs are somewhat simple with a nice, clean UI that's easy to read. The layouts of some levels can be interesting but for the most part this game seems to be designed more around being readily readable than pretty, and it succeeds at that. Units are brightly colored to stick out from the terrain and it's easy to see what's going on at a glance.
Small maps are difficult in this game, as the creeper can quickly overwhelm you.
Surprisingly I haven't encountered any major flaws with this game. The only real bug I encountered is some lag when changing menus but other than that I didn't encounter any major technical issues. The worst I can say is that in playing the game, I found some of the units to be mostly useless to me, and I tend to focus on the same small handful out of what's available, though how much of that is due to my play style vs, how the game was designed I couldn't tell.

overall I'd say Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal is a game worth having. It has a really unique take on tower defense, and with almost limitless content, the game can readily last as long as you want it to.

Creeper World 3 was developed and published by Knuckle Cracker. It is available on Steam, Gamersgate and Desura. It's homepage, which includes a demo and direct purchase option is available here.

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