Goblin Commander: Unleash The Horde - PS2 - Review
Now if there’s anything that gamers are used to, it’s the fact that the next great RTS game that a company is getting ready to release for PS2 or Xbox or whatever isn’t going to work out well. It’s not that the developers don’t try or the game seemed unfinished with most of them, but trading in a mouse / keyboard combo for a controller and being expected to perform 50 commands (and even simple things like selecting multiple units) is just clumsy and more frustrating than it’s worth. Well, in this dark time where it seems like console RTS titles will forever have a dark cloud over them, a ray of sun seems to have finally poked through the clouds and the hallelujah chorus has kicked into gear. The game destined to save consoles from “bad RTS” syndrome is none other than a project done by Ron and Chris Millar (known for their work with Blizzard, the company that produced Warcraft and Diablo) known as Goblin Commander: Unleash the Horde.
When you first play or break out the instruction manual (for any of you who still do that), you’ll see that the overall element is truly RTS style play, only it may seem watered down at the initial glance. Resource management is limited to collecting souls (from enemies that are killed or captured soul fountains that supply and endless amount) and destroying objects such as log piles or pillars for gold. These are then used to bring out more armies, defenses, or upgrade weapons and armor. Also, you are limited to 10 troops on the field at one time, and they all have to move together and there’s no way to separate one out of the group or make designated units. That’s right … no building huts, no finding gold veins, no sending scout crews of one or two out, and no building workers or making big cities here. Now, before any of you RTS PC purists decide that it’s not worth the time due to the scaled down mechanics, this is actually a blessing. Read on …
The whole concept to Goblin Commander is to do simply what goblins like to do best … fight and destroy. While the above paragraph may seem like there’s not a lot to it, it thankfully works out extremely well since any of us who have played Age of Mythology or any other similar title know that the whole resource management thing is there simply to try and build some unbelievably gargantuan army to run across the screen and smash our enemy. The missions are designed so that moving your units in one mass is a good thing, and due to constant skirmishes that break out getting souls to keep pumping your army up keeps on rolling in which gives you one less thing to worry about. In addition, there are plenty of objects lying all over every map so you can always keep your wallet fat to unlock new troops or place defensive towers throughout your encampment. Basically, everything that is here works together to allow you to focus on the fun part of the game … which of course is action.
Secondly, due to the simple control layout and lack of assigning unit numbers or groups selecting multiple horde types or positioning / moving them to different parts of the map is a breeze. Since you can have control or three or more of the five goblin hordes at one time (Stonekrusher, Hellfire, Stormbringer, Plaguespitter, and Nighthorde), each with up to 10 units, this allows you to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the clans in determining strategy and approach to various situations that arise and send them with the push of a button. For example, the Stonekrusher Clan is better suited to a melee attack, while the Hellfire Clan seems to works better in ranged attacks. Each will be assigned one button, so you can move your cursor into an enemy encampment and hit X to bring the Stonekrushers in to launch an up front attack while moving the cursor to the opposite side and hitting the Circle button to sneak the Hellfires around to catch your enemies in the crossfire. It’s simple, and you can honestly “Unleash the Horde” on your enemies when you have 40 units and a Titan heading their way. Oh, I haven’t talked about the Titans yet …
Now, the biggest and baddest monsters that can be created into your army are Titans. The type of Titan varies from clan to clan, and consists of things like a Stone Ogre, a quivering ball of slime, and even a large, black, rolling spiked ball. When a titan is summoned, you can take direct control of it using the left analog stick and perform attacks or special abilities using the X, Circle, and Square buttons. Now, this does take away the ability to move your cursor around the screen and set waypoints for your troops to follow, but have no fear … the Millars have got you covered once more. Holding L1 and pressing the button for the corresponding clan (or clans) will immediately tell them to follow the Titan automatically wherever he goes, and since the Titans are built for maximum destruction and the game focuses on combat, this combination just works out perfectly. You can march the Titan into an enemy encampment, start smashing buildings, mowing down defense towers, or even doing things like eating opponents or (my personal favorite with the spiked ball) auto destructing next to a building and watching timber, stone, and goblins go flying through the air. While you are doing this, your army swarms enemy fighters to keeps them off of you so you can do what needs to be done and if the Titan falls, you automatically regain control of the armies again. It works out so well, it’s amazing that no one has thought of this before.
Goblin Commander only has one area that fell short in my opinion, which is in the multiplayer area. This would have been a perfect online opportunity and just would have been the icing on the cake, but sadly it wasn’t there. There is the option to play multiplayer split screen which is fun for a little bit, but consists of simply each player picking up to three goblin hordes and going at it until one or the other is dead versus maybe adding in captured waypoint goals or something to add a little variety. It’s great that it was included, but if you can’t always find someone to play with or don’t really have anyone to share in the destruction, once the single player game is done it’s pretty much done.
Overall, I have to give a lot of credit to the Millar brothers and Jaleco for not only setting out to make an RTS game for consoles that worked out well, but also successfully completing their mission. If you are a PS2 owner that always wondered what all the RTS hype was about from PC players but wound up disappointed from the selection that was available, give Goblin Commander a run. I play PC RTS titles often, and I have to say that I really, really enjoyed Goblin Commander. Even if you play PC mostly, give this one a shot if you are a fan of games like Warcraft … you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
While the control layout may seem simplistic and almost “watered down” from PC RTS titles, the entire mechanics of the game matched up with the simple one button press controls to give a smooth flowing and easy to figure out game. Everything from controlling multiple hordes to controlling the Titans just worked “oh so well”, and gamers new to RTS games or veterans to the style will be able to hop right in and have one heck of a good time.
While the graphics are nothing revolutionary, they do what needs to be done. The animation of the goblins themselves looks great, and the gargantuan Titans lumber or slink across the battlefields in good looking and destructive style. There were a couple of moments of periodic slowdown during massive battles, but nothing to take away from the game overall.
Also not too shabby. The goblins have a weird language all of their own, and the sounds of screaming and destruction fill the speakers nicely. There are little alerts that sound also to clue you in on things you need to pay attention to, and while the overall sound element is nothing that will make you drop your jaw to the floor, it works well for what it needs to do.
Another strong area of Goblin Commander was in the missions and the gradually increasing difficulty as you progress. The game has a great balance from start to finish to help learn the controls and perfect them before tossing something new into the mix for you to learn.
Everything in Goblin Commander just … well, worked. Control, difficulty, and building armies takes only minutes to figure out, and the destruction and fun of the game runs from start to finish.
The multiplayer in Goblin Commander is limited to the PS2 only, and while it can be fun for a little while having an online mode would have just been the be all end all for me. If there’s no one for you to really play with, the game is pretty much over when it’s over. Fortunately, there are a bunch of missions and it’s nothing that will get beaten in a weekend.
The only reason that Goblin Commander fell a little short of a 9 or over for me personally was simply the multiplayer aspect. Hands down, this is by far the best console RTS that I have played to date, and it really helps console owners who haven’t played PC RTS titles to see what all the fun is about. Whether or not you’ve played them before on PC or console, if you like action, destruction, and strategy all mixed into one, here’s the game to get.