Savage: The Battle for Newerth Review

It's a savage earth

Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 18th March 2004

Savage: The Battle for Newerth

  • Developer: S2games
  • Publisher: Digital Jesters
  • Release Date: 27th February 2004

Multiplayer games can quite often be overlooked by the general gaming community due to the amount of time they require from the player, which is a shame especially when games like Savage come along and offer something original and highly absorbing.

Savage is set in the distant future where mankind has stripped the Earth of its natural resources and the human race has become fragmented into isolated tribes led by vicious war chiefs. In these times the creatures of the world have evolved and developed an intelligence equal to that of man and after been continuously subjected to humanity's cruelties and deprivations, a deep hatred of man has forever been instilled within them. Now the Beasts and mankind are embroiled in a vicious battle for Newerth (New Earth).

Savage combines elements of play from PC games’ most popular genres, mainly first person shooter action and real-time strategy, although for good measure there’s a little third person action and RPG skill building thrown in too. So how does it all work in Savage? Basically each team is made up of up to 32 players; two players will play as the commander of each team. The commanders will play the game as a real-time strategy title while everyone else plays as a unit and takes part in the sometimes chaotic first person action.

If you take up the role of commander of your team the game provides a very different experience from as if you were playing as a unit, you could say commanders are effectively playing a completely different game as they will play with a birds eye view of the battlefield. In general Savage has a pretty steep learning curve for both of its styles of play but playing as the commander is slightly more demanding and some may find it a little too daunting to take up.

It’s the commanders job to co-ordinate all the other players and research new units and technology as well as to develop your teams base and build up defences. The commanders job sounds easier then it actually is, units are all controlled by other human players so they could decide to ignore your orders if they wished and occasionally they do but for the vast majority of time other players don’t seem to mind doing as they are told.

As commander you also have AI controlled worker units at your disposal. Worker units take care of all the menial work, such as collecting resources and building up your base camp. These are generally slow to get work completed and will take their time collecting resources, making it difficult for you to meet the demands of your team-mates in the form of providing new units, weapons and items.

You can issue orders to any unit in Savage, which are received with an obvious marker telling the unit where he or she needs to be on the map, the player will also receive a verbal message if one of the games preset messages is given, other then that you will have to type more specific orders in the games built in chat window.

Playing as the commander can be very frustrating as when resources run low you have to limit what you can research and thus limit weapons available to your team who can become very aggravated in the pursuit of victory. If your team decides you aren’t doing a good enough job, they can cast a vote for you to be impeached and replaced by another player. This can be quite annoying when you’re trying to learn the ropes as it takes some getting use to and there’s no offline mode or tutorial to show you what you’re suppose to be doing.

Playing as a unit is where Savage really excels; players are plunged into battles on massive maps littered with ruins, mountains and forests. Again playing as a unit in Savage has a steep learning curve and at first you are more likely to be a liability to your team until you pick up the basics.

Abilities of your character vary depending on what race you choose to play as, for instance human players have the ability to block attacks whereas players using beast units can lunge at enemies and gain ground on them quite rapidly. Weapons available to you are also dependent on which team you are playing on, humans tend to have ranged weapons available from the start in the form of bows and cross bows while beasts will have more powerful melee attacks and tend to be generally harder to stop.

Human weapons tend to be technology based, with a range of chemical, electrical and projectile based weapons at their disposal. The Beasts weapons are magical based and utilise elements from earth, such as fire, lightening and frost that are fired from staffs as bolts of energy.

Each race has 5 units available, 2 of which are siege units, each unit is progressively stronger and more formidable then the previous one although they are only available after been researched and by purchasing them with gold which is collected every time you defeat an enemy unit. Siege units are generally slower moving then other units and are prone to attack, although the power they provide is enough to demolish buildings and take out enemies with ease.

Siege weapons available to humans include giant catapults that can perform powerful attacks on enemies from afar while the beast hordes get a shaman that can cast powerful spells and a gigantic behemoth that towers above trees and buildings and uses an up rooted tree to perform attacks.

When performing melee attacks the game switches to a third person perspective, this view is generally easier to use during play as attacks are more focused on the unit you are attacking and mastering ranged weapons can take sometime, also you get a broader view of the Battlefield and have a better understanding of what is actually going on.

As mentioned earlier the game features a level-up system similar to that found in RPG games, players can gain experience to fill a level up meter which once full will reward players with armour and improved hand weapons to make you more formidable in battle. Players can fill up their experience meter by helping with the collection of resources, building up the base camp and obviously by taking out the opposing team. It’s a good system that rewards players for helping out with the boring work when they are needed.

The quality of matches in Savage varies quite drastically and its hard to find a game where someone isn’t asking “what exactly am I supposed to be doing?” but if you do manage to find a game where everyone is fairly well experienced then playing Savage can become very rewarding, addictive and intense. Matches run for about an hour and can easily reach the last few minutes if your team works together and your commander manages units and resources and plans ahead.

Graphically Savage is one of the better looking multiplayer games with some great effects at times, play is generally smooth but tears are quite common and the frame rate can start to struggle a bit when the action gets intense although the games ambitious draw distances and effects can be turned down to suit your computers abilities and the speed of your Internet connection.

Character models look good if a little simplistic and they do tend to move a little strangely but that aside it all looks good from the ground unit’s point of view. When playing as commander graphics aren’t as strong, as the game is presented in typical RTS game styling, here textures can become a little blurred and units can be difficult to pick out unless you zoom in close. That said the commanders interface is well laid out and everything you need is easily accessible and well marked.

Sound wise Savage features an excellent musical score that really fits in with the games theme, explosion effects sound a little dated while other weapon effects are excellent, especially those of arrows ripping through the air. The little voice acting that is present in Savage is generally good but it’s not really that noticeable if you are involved in the thick of things.

Savage is an exclusively multiplayer game which is difficult to get to grips with; its one major flaw seems to be the omission of a tutorial mode and the games steep learning curve which a lot of players, especially those less experienced in online gaming will find intimidating. But, once you master the basic skills required to play the game it can become extremely engrossing, especially if playing with like minded people and those willing to work as a team which thankfully, there seems plenty of.

Review Score: 8/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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