Saturday, September 06, 2008

Bot Arena 3

Every time I see a game involving battling robots, I secretly hope it'll be something like RoboWar or RoboSport, which are two of my favorite games of that type. And certainly it's not too difficult to envision a vastly-improved version of either. Sadly, Bot Arena 3, while not a bad game, is a bit disappointing, in that it doesn't quite live up to either of those two.

The basic premise of Bot Arena is very simple. In career mode, you build a team of bots -- each bot has a chassis, armor, and a weapon. (Technically the weapon is optional -- you can send out unarmed bots as decoys -- but in practice this is never a useful tactic.) Every armor and weapon has a weight, and every chassis has a certain maximum capacity, so you can't necessarily load up your robot with the best of everything. Once you've built your team, you can enter them in an event. Most events have a weight limit, so you can't just continuously upgrade your robots -- you have to pick and choose how best to build a team within the weight limit. (You can have as many or as few robots as you'd like on your team, as long as you're within the weight limit, but in general you tend to end up with two or three bots.) As you win matches, more parts become available to you, and you can enter the correspondingly higher-level matches. (Not all weapons are weapons; some repair tools are available also, which allows you to, at least theoretically, build a team of robots that works well together.) The shop interface is a little unwieldy at times -- it would be nice if you could just drag and drop parts rather than the somewhat complicated mounting/unmounting system.

Once in the arena, however, the bots are largely out of your hands. They have a very basic AI, which can be very frustrating at times (often, one bot will wander out of the conflict for no apparent reason, leaving the rest of your bots to get pounded on). You can also issue direct orders by either commanding your bot to move to a specific location or to follow a specific bot. However, this task requires pretty much all of your attention for a single bot, so you're leaving the rest of your bots up to the AI, and your bots don't even necessarily follow your orders particularly well. So while there is a fair amount of randomness, and you can slightly improve your odds (in theory) with good ordering, in the vast majority of cases, the outcome of the battle is decided even before it begins, by the outfitting of the bots. And since this is not a particularly difficult task once you get the hang of it, this kind of limits the ceiling of interestingness of the game. The game also offers a challenge mode, in which you and your opponent have preselected teams, and you have to lead your team to victory; this mostly serves to highlight the inadequacy and annoyingness of the in-arena controls.

The graphics are not bad, but they're pretty basic. There's a nice variety of sound effects, which help to give each robot a distinctive feel, but they do get a little tiresome. The music is serviceable, although it's on a very short loop, so you don't want to spend too much time shopping or in the arena.

Overall, much though I like the idea of robot combat, there's just not quite enough in Bot Arena to make this a really interesting game. The career mode is not a bad way to spend a few minutes, and it definitely is fun to work your way up the ladder, but the weight limit actually kind of makes the strategy easier, since it's just a matter of figuring out how best to meet the limit exactly and going from there. The challenge mode is quite frustrating. It's not a terrible game, but it doesn't quite live up to what I hoped it could be.

1 comment:

ToastyKen said...

I refuse to play any game that's not sponsored by Killem Weapon Systems! :)