REVIEW: Wrath Unleashed

Wrath Unleashed (also for X-Box) is an Archon-esque mix of board game strategy and action-based battles (genre-mates include: The Unholy War for PS1 and Dark Legions for DOS). Wrath Unleashed is pretty unambitious (taking spells and units from Archon), but fun enough—despite button-mashing, exploitable combat.

The tactical board is straight forward and genre fans will grasp the mechanics after the first mission. The missions have varying objectives (kill a unit, find an item), but typically you must capture a certain number of temples (“magic squares” to Archon players). The hex-based maps are small and often symmetrical, studded with buildings (warps gates, magic amplifiers) and terrain tiles that affect combat based on unit type. Each turn you move a unit and attack, or cast spells.

Said earlier, spells are ripped from Archon. ”Summon Elemental” makes a temporary fast-harass unit. “Bind” paralyzes a unit. “Transform Land” swaps a hex’s terrain. The list is small, but each is useful and balanced. Unlike Archon, many different units cast spells. In fact, most creatures can cast basic spells when on a certain building. The magical abundance creates flexibility. There are more tactics than just matching strong units against weak units.

Wrath Unleashed’s AI is decent, but in Advance Wars fashion, the challenge is from the AI’s superior position and number of units. The early missions are easy. Later missions are an uphill grind for the first half of every battle.

Then there are the action battles. The 2 dueling units warp to an open arena studded with traps. Combat is a button-mashing affair won through tedious hit-and-run or spamming a single move. Exploitation is must, especially on the tougher AI levels. Annoying since the (more enjoyable) strategic segments hinge on combat performance. To compare: I would say Wrath Unleashed’s battles are as ludicrous and cheap as those in Base Wars for NES.

Wrath Unleashed is fun and challenging, but somewhat unsatisfying. Improvements over the Archon formula are numerous: 4 characters with unique armies, a 16 mission campaign, more detailed terrain, a deeper magic system. But combat is so flawed that the experience can be frustrating. Prepare for middle of the road enjoyment.


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