reviews\ Jan 12, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Impossible Creatures - PC - Review

OK, there was a stupid joke that I heard a while back. “What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino” … the answer? “Elephino”. Get it? Well, Relic entertainment kind of took it one step further in producing Impossible Creatures, where an elephino is more than a bad joke … it’s a destructive killing machine amongst an infinite list of other weird mutations that you can come up with.


Impossible Creatures revolves around the story of Rex Chance during the 1930’s. Rex gets a letter from his father who has been missing for some time asking him to come to a remote chain of islands in the pacific. Rex, intent on finding his father to see what happened and where he had been hops on a plane and heads out to the location. Instead of finding his dear old dad, he instead stumbles on a mean individual and some creatures that resemble huge scorpions with wolf like features. This seems to be the end of our hero, when a flying locomotive piloted by another character named Lucy Willing comes from out of nowhere and rescues Rex from his death. Thus begins the story, as you and Lucy traverse a series of islands to end the reign of the psycho that you ran into and his army, and get some answers as well.


Anyone who has played an RTS title in the past will be familiar with the overall game concept. Collect resources (coal and electricity) to create new laborers, build new structures, and create armies to fight for you. Everything is a simple mouse point and click style like other RTS titles, but Relic did a couple of things differently which give it just a little bit of its own unique twist. For starters, the only resource that you really have to worry about going out to get is coal. Electricity is derived from towers that your henchmen build, so if more electricity is needed, just build a few more towers or build a generator over a natural geyser rather than have to go searching for it.


Another unique feature to Impossible Creatures is the overall presentation of the game. It doesn’t seem to rely on building quite as much as it does combat. Oh sure, it retains an overall RTS feel to it, but the developers really wanted you to focus on building armies of weird creatures rather than play a “god sim”, and it shows in a seemingly faster paced gameplay than some other titles out there. There are a lot of different things to build, like sonar defense towers, amplifier towers, or barricades and such, but many aren’t 100% necessary in winning or losing. The map will show you exactly where you need to go for the most part by a flashing blip, mission objectives are usually “get to here or here”, and the secondary ones are usually DNA collecting for your monster army. Let me explain that one a little more …


Building an army of impossible creatures is surprisingly simple, and surprisingly fun and addictive as well. Each island that you go to as you progress through the game has a various assortment of beasts walking around in the woods or across the landscape, and Rex’s main job is to collect DNA from them. Once this is done, you can utilize your lab to research what you have collected and begin building your army. For example, if you collect DNA from a porcupine and a skunk, you can utilize the traits of these two animals to build a mutant in the creature chamber.


The creature chamber is where all of your gene splicing comes into play. When you select two creatures that you have collected DNA from and researched, say our porcupine and skunk again, a new form appears on the screen usually named something like “Porcukunk”. You can then alter any part of the beast that you want, from bodies to heads to limbs to tails to get the look and ultimately the most powerful combination that you want to achieve. Each creature has its own attack, defense, speed, and special attack that can be used depending on what part of the creature you use and where you put it. In addition, each creature also has some different plusses or minuses to it in other areas, such as flight, swimming, herding or pack hunting which can give it better movement or attack/defend bonuses for being around other creatures of the same kind.


OK, for example, if I combine my porcupine and skunk again, I might decide to use the body of the porcupine, since it can utilize a “quill attack” and throw sharp quills across the screen, the tail of the skunk for a “stink cloud” attack, the head of the porcupine for a better bite attack, and the legs of the skunk for a better speed value. What I come up with looks bizarre, and becomes the first part of my army. As you find bigger and tougher creatures later on in the game, you can then start researching at higher levels and start combining some really huge and really devastating beasts. Things like giraffe bodies with the heads of whales for herding defense bonuses, a sonar attack, and good speed, or large ant bodies with the heads of sharks to burrow into the ground and snag unsuspecting opponents who walk overhead in a feeding frenzy fashion. The end result is one heck of a fast paced game of severe combat, good strategy tactics, and an endless way of splicing animals together.


OK, Impossible Creatures has a fast paced and fun single player mode, and we online freaks also get a treat with this one as well. The online multiplayer game is also a blast to play, and really provides some great fun. You can play in arenas with anywhere from 2 to 6 other players, and do everything from a frenzied deathmatch to team battles which will have the ground thundering with the hooves, fins, and paws of 6 different armies going at it for ultimate conquest. 


Now, there are only a couple of things that I can see that would get in the way of someone really enjoying this game. The first one is the faster paced gameplay, which in my opinion is a big plus. I have a couple of fellow gaming friends of mine, however, who enjoy a style more similar to Age of Mythology or Cultures 2 where a large part of the game is spent building big cities, then a big army, then looking for conquest. The maps also don’t seem to reveal as much as a lot of other RTS titles out there, and line of sight seems very limited. In many other titles, moving through an area will at least keep it there for you to see what may be going on, but in this title, after you move through an area it completely blacks out again so you never really know what may be waiting.


The second issue here is the fact that despite its unique overall presentation, the core element of the game is the same as any other RTS title out there, and has a “been there done that” kind of feeling to it. In all fairness though, whether you are a fan of RTS games, FPS titles like Unreal Tournament or Quake III, or RPG’s like Arcanum or Diablo, they all have the same kind of overall thing to them also.


Graphically, Impossible Creatures looks fantastic. The environments are a little less detailed at times than some other games from a landscaping perspective, but the colors are bold and bright, and little things like dust clouds from a herd of galloping “porculions” and sea foam crashing on the shore add to the feel. Also, you can zoom all the way into the creatures or character’s faces, and doing so shows no pixilation or decline in overall graphic presentation.


The sound in Impossible Creatures is also good, even if the repeated one liners of Rex Chance or Lucy saying “I’m on it” or “for science” every time you ask them to move somewhere can get a little repetitive. The creatures each have their own little particular noises also, depending on what head you place on them, and the sounds of battle are pretty ferocious at times and sound good. The dialogue in the game is also well written, even if a tad silly or scripted at times, and the music has an interesting range to it. The opening title screen has this really cool swing tune that pops up and will have you tapping your foot to it, while the in game music tends to revolve more around a tribal drum theme which kind of blends into the background after a while.


Overall, Impossible Creatures is a really fun and addicting title, despite the fact that it’s pretty similar to other titles in the same genre if you strip it down to the core. RTS fans and online multiplayer fans should have a great time with it, and even if you have “been there done that” before, the sheer unique and bizarre storyline mixed with a fast paced combat style game makes it a lot of fun to play … and never a dull moment. Charles Darwin, Steve Irwin, and Catdog would be pleased, and you will be too when you pop in Impossible Creatures.


Gameplay: 8.2
Everything in this game is very simple to operate, and very easy to figure out due to a scaled down menu and point and click instructions. It also focuses more on combat rather than building, which makes it simple to learn even if you don’t go through the tutorial all the way to the end. Gamers who like title like Cultures 2 or bigger “god sim” games may not be quite as excited about the faster paced gameplay as people like me, but won’t be too disappointed due to the solid RTS backbone that it has. It also has over 60 creatures to find and experiment with, which makes building armies additive and offers a good amount of replayability. 


Graphics: 8.5
Impossible Creatures boasts some really colorful graphics, and the movements of the creatures and characters are fluid, fast, and smooth. Also, zooming into the landscape shows no faults in graphics deteriorating or getting worse. The landscapes don’t seem quite as busy as some other games, but they aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination either.


Sound: 8.0
Great opening track! The in game music isn’t bad, but the swing thing for the time era is great, and I would have loved to have more as the game went on. The character voices are well acted, sometimes silly or a tad scripted, and at times made humorous by some mild innuendos. The characters themselves get a little repetitive in the game, but nothing that gets aggravating or any more annoying than other RTS titles which have a similar “repetitive comment” thing going on.


Difficulty: Medium
There are definitely some do overs along the way while trying to find the best way to go about completing missions, but the game progresses at a pace which is easy for anyone to learn and get into, and won’t get complicated until you are ready for it as it adds more buildings on or harder creatures to find, research, or battle with. The interface is effective, but easy to learn.


Concept: 8.5
OK, the game is very similar to games of the same style, but the endless amount of monsters that you can create and the unique twist to the fighting, the special abilities, and strategies of using your creatures definitely deserves recognition. In addition, not having to focus as much on building ALL the time was a nice change of pace and I definitely tip my hat to Relic Entertainment on doing something a little different here.


Multiplayer: 8.9
This is an absolute blast. Play in arenas with up to six other opponents for ultimate supremacy using a selection of creatures from one of the various characters in the game. There are also a few maps to play on and some good opportunity for 3 on 3, 2 vs. 2 vs. 2, or all out deathmatch domination tournaments with friends from around the country.


Overall: 8.5
Overall, this was a surprisingly solid RTS game which shows off what it can do against the Warcrafts or Age of Empires titles out there. While the faster paced combat style may not be for everyone, it definitely won’t take away from anything or disappoint either. If you are a fan of RTS titles, this should be a good title to offer some fun and scientific gene splicing action for you. Also, kids who love animals will have a ball designing weird specimens of their own, and the easy interface should allow them to pick it up and play it without too many problems. Good job again to Relic on this one.  


About The Author
In This Article
From Around The Web
blog comments powered by Disqus