Unholy War: A Playstation Gem

It doesn’t take more than a look at the PS2’s game library to realize that strategy/war games are among the most popular. Kessen, Age of Empires, Romance of the Three Kingdoms — the genre is huge.

Is Unholy War as good as the latest strategy games? No. But fans of classic Playstation gameplay and graphics may find an interesting and unique experience in Unholy War.

The plot is simple. Humanoid man-machine forces called the Teknos, bent on conquering a planet for its rich mineral supplies, invade and take on the planet’s indigenous forces — the mystical Arcanes.

Each side has a handful of different units, and each unit has strengths and weaknesses along with three unique attacks. Prana Devils, a basic Arcane unit, can spit acid and grab an opponent. But if matched against a Jaeger, the Teknos’ huge battle tank, the Prana is in trouble.

Highly combat-based, Unholy War offers two game modes. Mayhem, a series of one-on-one battles, pit either player against computer or a friend. Action is furious, with all the button-mashing goodness of fighting games, and battlefields can hamper both warriors with traps and obstacles.

Tactics uses the Mayhem system as its backbone for combat, but puts a strategic twist to the action.

Both sides begin with a base and a few units. Each round, the players have three turns to move their forces around the battlefield and engage enemy units, at which point the units face off in Mayhem-style combat. The hexagon-based map contains some squares with AUR, the only resource. Placing a unit on an AUR location will result in greater income, allowing for the production of more units.

Beyond their combat powers, units also have powers they can use on the map. Jaegers, for instance, can fire nuclear weapons at nearby enemies, and the Pranas can try to spawn another Prana for much less AUR cost than creating one at the base.

The goal of Tactics is to eliminate every enemy unit and occupy his base, destroying it. While turn based, Tactics mode offers a lot of fun and an accessible element of depth — you don’t need to be a Starcraft veteran or military buff to sweep an enemy’s flanks or besiege his base.

Of course, the graphics are fairly rough compared to newer games. The characters and battlefields are all polygonal and blocky, but function well and don’t use too much hardware.

Unholy War’s sound is unimpressive. Though combat noise adds to the chaos of Mayhem mode, the theme played during Tactics quickly grows dull and repetitive. Turning the sound down and listening to the radio or a CD is a good idea.

It’s no Age of Empires, but Unholy War is a great classic game. It combines fast action and strategy, and does it pretty well. Playstation fans should give this game a look.

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