Almost a month ago I picked up two demos, one was Sam & Max: Culture Shock and the other was Left Behind: Eternal Forces. It says everything that Sam & Max got reviewed on the 13th of November, and this review isn’t getting written until now.
As a committed Christian, I was initially genuinely interested in seeing what this game was going to be like, and after I started playing it (and wanted to stop) a responsibility to share some fact based opinions on the game kept me going.
Even before you get to the game, I was very concerned about the message below. Basically it reads; “If you wish to host or create a multiplayer game, you must open and forward port 31321 (UDP and TCP, incoming and outgoing) for both hardware and software firewalls.”
What this means, is that anyone who follows their instructions will be making themselves extremely vulnerable. It’s also a statement about the developers, Left Behind Games and their poor development skills. After all, every other game manages to carry out multiplayer without opening up security vulnerabilities, why can’t LBG?
The demo kicks off with some very nice cinematics, based on when Christians are raptured (called up) from the Earth. It made me pretty optimistic about the graphics until I got to the first menu screen which was very amateurish.
The in-game graphics were what really turned me off. From the default camera view, it doesn’t look much better than a late-nineties real time strategy game. However, to make it worse, it makes the PC work like a mid-2006 game, another example of poor development quality.
The camera controls are ok. I’m glad that they covered this adequately, as it’s a default requirement for a RTS these days. However something was wrong, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but the controls definitely weren’t as slick as Company of Heroes. One feature which helps with the camera limitations is the ‘follow camera’ mode. As the name suggests, when activated, the camera follows the character, saving the effort of following a character around the world.
The game pits two forces against each other, the Global Community Peacekeepers (bad guys) and the Tributlation Force (good guys).
The actual precept of the game I believe is the one of the few strengths of the game. The idea is that you go through various levels, converting people and building your group of believers, medics, builders etc etc. They handle the expansion process by acquiring and converting existing buildings and then converts can be trained to be soldiers, medics or whatever. This is unique in terms of the RTS games I’ve played, and I found it an interesting innovation that could potentially be used to better effect elsewhere.
There are a few other interesting points introduced due to the very different subject matter. One of these are the spirit levels. It’s a bit like ‘health’ except that you also have health. Spirit could be effected by a number of things (up or down) and that if you got below a certain level, you ‘lose your faith.’ An interesting point here (one of the many interesting gender statements) is that males when converted start with far lower spirit levels than females. This means that when you convert a male, you better get them praying or worshiping or they’ll easily backslide. Interesting.
Any feminists reading this? Don’t play this game. Somewhat predictably, very conservative views of Women are built into the game. For instance only male converts can be builders, soldier and disciples. Woman can ‘serve’ as musicians or nurses.
Another interesting innovation are the “life stories.” Every person has a life story which is different from every one else I came across (surely they haven’t generated thousands of unique stories). These update if you convert them, and presumably update in other ways as the game progresses. This is also pretty cool, and something which could be used to good effect in other games.
While I’m trying to find good things about the game, the building construction animation is also pretty good.
In the gameplay I saw (before I could no longer handle it) the soldiers weren’t involved in converting people. It’s simply a dangerous world, and sometimes you need guys with guns at your back. So if there’s an unbiblical basis to the game, I have a feeling it should be based on the entire precept of the game, not just at the point that they’re “converting people at gunpoint”.
A word to Christian parents who are wondering what to buy their kids this Christmas. Please don’t buy this game. Buy your child a good game. There are plenty of not explicitly Christian games that are suitable for Christian kids to play. Go into your local store and ask for a game that doesn’t have violence or explicit language, the store people will be happy that you’re taking an interest in the content that your kids are playing and will make some good suggestions.
If someone involved in the making of the game reads this, then I’m sorry for you. I’m not attacking you personally, but if you’re going to release a game with this much publicity it has to meet certain standards. The old saying stands true, if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the fire.