What is it with realtime? The mere mention of it sends people into uncontrolled spasms of excitement normally associated with animal mating rituals. Maybe it's just that I'm completely unable to think on my feet without pausing to reflect how this particular movement interferes with the alignment of the planets or what psychological impact that other attack would have on my people. Maybe I'm just a boring old fart. But as far as I'm concerned, RTS is a pointless and empty experience. What does it mean, anyway? What is so real about it? Controlling matchstick men with bionic arms and building weapons factories within seconds? In real war it takes hours to decide where the troops will attack next, there's a long chain of command and soldiers don't just pop out of recently constructed barracks just because you have enough wood or tiberium.
But in the midst of all this mass delusion, Odium wears its turn-based combat system with pride.
Turn, Turn, Turn
The best way to describe it would be as the bastard son of Final Fantasy and X-COM, without the epic, movie-like story of the former or the deep and involving gameplay of the latter, but with enough quality to attract fans of both. You command a team of three UN soldiers (now, there's a pleasant change) investigating a village subjected to Russian experiments. You soon discover that the town is infested with hideous mutants and biomechanical monsters with integrated weaponry. To say you explore the environment would be an exaggeration; the game constantly moves you in one direction and you occasionally pick up items (weapons, ammo, keys and medicine) and meet characters. But the real fun is in the actual combat. Think of a high-res version of X-COM with larger characters and smaller arenas and you're almost there. The stats of each ot your characters are taken a step further down the RPG road than X-COM hinted at, with experience given for every successful shot and allocation of points every time you level up. But it's still little more than 'RPG life'. The real tactics come into play when you decide which weapons to use and, considering how thin on the ground ammo is, the wrong choice could mean death. In Odium, death really sthe end. If one of your men dies, it's game over, the words bringing waves of nostalgia over you, along with more than a little annoyance. You soon learn how to keep them alive, however, and you won't be able to prevent a tremendous feeling of satisfaction as you emerge victorious.
Again, Again, Again
While the story and the development of your characters is important, it soon becomes obvious that combat is the only thing that really matters. It doesn't happen randomly, as in Final Fantasy, but it happens just as often. Every few steps ' will start up a fight, and every time you pick up an object you'll find yourself surrounded by mutants. These come in all shapes and sizes, and one of the incentives to keep going is to see what you'll have to fight next. It's not just a case of taking turns shooting until one side wins, either. Success in some battles depends on winning before a bomb goes off, or protecting a certain vital creature or object. The enemies act intelligently, getting out of the way of your strongest characters and attacking the weakest.
In the end, though, being thrust from one battle into another with barely a rest or a chance to find more ammo is disheartening and frustrating. But we should still praise Odium for making a turn-based stand against the current market trends such an enjoyable, if ultimately shallow, experience. And, yes, OK, I'll admit it, I'm sh*t at real-time strategy games.
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Odium Screenshots and Media
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