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Friday | December 9, 2016
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Savage 2

Savage 2

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In 2003 S2 Games released a rather offbeat multiplayer game called Savage. It was unique because it contained action style elements found in first person shooter and fighting games and combined them with strategy game elements putting you in the midst of the action at ground level. Additionally a class based unit system and a high level command interface brought the team based side of the game a fresh edge. It would be fair to say however that the game mechanics and learning curve were rather difficult for new players.

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Savage 2 carries on the mantle in much the same way, combining the enjoyable traits with the not so fun. The action and strategy combination offer up an array of wonderful game experiences while the complexity can bewilder newcomers.

Basically the game revolves around two groups of lifeforms, The Legion Of Men (us guys) and the Hordes Of Beasts (the weird looking things), these are pitted against each other in battle. The object of the game is to destroy the opposing bases with whatever weapons or spells you have at hand. On your journeys you will encounter neutral creatures to battle as well as a scar in the land from which you can summon demons to fight on your side.

As you might have already expected, the storyline plays second fiddle to the game and unless you really pay attention or read up on it you will find it hard to notice. The focus is entirely on the action. I am not complaining, the game works and plays well, however I always like a bit of background story to make me feel more a part of the setting.

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V2 differs from the original in some ways, in the original title everyone had opportunities to customise their characters to focus on specific fighting tactics, for example if you liked to snipe from a distance, you could set up the necessary weapons to do so. This time you have a number of different pre made character classes, such as scouts, builders, melee fighters and siege or support units. As you gain experience points you can add improvements to your general abilities, such as making your unit faster, stronger or to give them more magic points (mana). Commanders can also create new buildings unlocking high level classes as well as new abilities for lower classes. This new method has pros and cons, you end up with less customisation but the game seems to flow better as it is more balanced.

The general first play of Savage 2 will end up probably looking like a basic hack ‘n slash action game, swords swinging and spells flying, much like Hellgate London. The close up combat system has three main moves and it does take a bit of patience and effort to settle into how these all end up creating smooth flowing fight scenes. Well, I do say this lightly because while I was timing the blocks and counter attacks, my friend who also plays the game had as much success as me fighting, and he is firmly rooted in the "click everything as fast as possible" frame of thought. There is however a crushing flaw in the combat system, the game developers have rather bizarrely decided to put the block action as the middle mouse button, so you frequently end up moving the mouse scroll and selecting the most inappropriate weapon when you were trying to stop a sword hitting your face. I am rather surprised this made it past the game testing team. Where you awake guys? seriously.

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The character classes are rather well thought out however, if you want to be successful, you need to work within a team environment. Some of the units can heal or buff other units, others have stealth options for sneaking into enemy bases, planting bombs and running like hell. The non player character builders of the original game are now gone and there is a playable character class who can speed up the construction of buildings that the commander has initiated. These guys can even take over building creation if you lose your commander. A good strategy is to keep a few combat based units nearby for protection.

Tutorial mode, does what it says on the tin, however it fails to explain some of the finer points of play and I feel more time should have been spent on this to initiate newcomers into the rather complex game mechanics. A lot of the game play will be learned over time or by trial and error. Practice mode is pretty much a useless tacked on addition, you spend some time fighting a plethora of enemies rather than learning how to build or command teams. The only way to learn is in the middle of a live battle, and if you are new, your team mates won’t be overjoyed when you make a mess of it.

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S2 games offer match replays for every game played and are part of a comprehensive tracking system they use for balancing and any subsequent game patches. The statistic tracking is very indepth and updates in real time and it is needed to ascertain who in the team is going to be best at a specific job. Yes if you suck at this game you will more then likely be forced into being the scout, or a kamikaze stealth bomber.

Commander mode is particularly noteworthy as he is (as you would expect) the central character in the game. A good commander can mean the difference between a team loss and a team win as he can direct the players under him to locations they are most needed. That said, if people don’t pay attention to the commander then it won’t really matter what orders he gives, and trust me, unless you have a really close group of team based people playing it will happen ! This is where the game can get somewhat frustrating if you are a commander, your joy at barking out some wonderful strategic orders can equally be ruined just as quickly by your people running around like headless chickens ignoring everything you say. To be fair, the developers have included options for squad control and a number of high end buffs that you can use as commander to improve your usefulness.
All in all, the enjoyment of the game revolves around teamwork, if you are sharing the game with a group of likeminded people and completing specific tasks together as a cohesive unit it can be very rewarding.

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One of the games downsides right now is player count, there really aren’t that many people online playing it right now and I honestly have no idea why. The game is a better multiplayer experience than most I have played in the last year so it is rather frustrating to head online to find only a handful of games being played. All the servers are controlled by S2, but it is a shame this title hasn’t received the high money profiling of someone like Electronic Arts.

The multiplayer maps are limited, however they are quite large with a decent array of areas to fight within, they also vary with regards to seasonal changes which is nice to see. All the good fighting spots such as chokepoints in valleys are evident, increasing the game tension and enjoyment.

The graphics are rather good, if not groundbreaking, while they aren’t up to the standard of something like Unreal Tournament 3, they do a fine job of grabbing your attention. Animation is impressive as is the unit design, of particular note would be the Hellbourne demon.

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There are also many nice graphical touches also, and many of my personal favourites revolve around the demonic units, when they are summoned, the sky rains blood!

Audio is also very acceptable with all the effects fully catered for. Grunts, roars, clangs of weapons and weapon blasts are all suitably represented and add atmosphere to an already rather impressive looking title.

By now you will already have a good idea if you are going to like this game. Savage 2 is a really enjoyable game which dares to go along a slightly different path to many of the mainstream games we are used to seeing. The combination of ground level strategy elements with the more familiar team based action in a fantasy setting make for a rather compelling game experience. It deserves kudos for being rather unique and inventive, a good selling point in the rather stale gaming world we live in right now. The lack of monthly online fees is also a huge bonus.

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I like many of the changes the developers have made since the first one was released 5 years ago and they have fixed some of the annoying issues. One glaring issue still remains, the initial steep learning curve and a lack of decent tutorial, most of what you will learn will be online in the heat of the action. This doesn’t sound so bad, however if you enter a battle with a group of experienced users the last thing they will want is to spend time helping you learn the game mechanics while the opposition are pummelling them into the ground. I can’t help but feel this is why the online player count is so low, many people are caught in this viscous circle. It is a real shame as the game is excellent, however the blame falls firmly on S2, it could have been avoided if the game was properly play tested.

 

Gameplay
85/100
A very original game that plays well if you can master the learning curve. If you are a fan of Tribes or Battlefield but would like to try a fantasy environment it is really worth the time.
Graphics
82/100
The engine runs well and looks pretty good. It won’t set the world alight although the demons are extremely impressive.
Audio
80/100
Audio is well executed with all the necessary sounds accommodated in game. Polished.
Value
88/100
There is a lot of replay value only limited by the amount of people online.
Overall
(not an average)
85/100
A very impressive game which will unfortunately scare many potential gamers due to the incredibly steep learning curve.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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