The real time strategy genre is no stranger to the PC community. In fact, it’s long-standing roots go all the way back to some of the most memorable games ever available on the platform. With such a rich history it was really just a matter of time before a developer came along and borrowed pieces from the most prominent releases in the genre and combined them into something that feels new and full of promise.
Welcome to Etherium, the new RTS by developer Focus Home Interactive. By taking the tactical map control of Company of Heroes, the terrain strategy of Dawn of War, and the massive army scope of Starcraft, Focus has honed in on all the elements of what defined these stellar titles and managed to place them into one game that feels quite unique in spite of its borrowed parts.
Etherium is a futuristic sci-fi RTS that puts the player in control of one of three warring factions all spurred into conflict over resource called, you guessed it, etherium. This resource litters each and every map, but only exists in several important control points. This emphasis on controlling resource placement might seem standard at first but Focus has managed to take it even further by forcing users to control these strategic points, making expansions become some of the most important parts of your base.
"Etherium is a futuristic sci-fi RTS that puts the player in control of one of three warring factions all spurred into conflict over resource called, you guessed it, etherium."
Through the game’s unique upgrade system there is one main hub that each player starts off with, these hubs can play host to a limited number of tiered research upgrades that will bolster your army, your resources, or your technology. Every time you expand one new building appears for each captured point and one for each etherium sphere, severely limiting the amount of produced buildings. Since each of these points are also necessary for upgrades, they can become incredibly valuable to your overall military presence.
There’s not much in terms of story when it comes to Etherium’s campaign, but that doesn’t hold this title back in any way. Instead of a standard campaign Etherium offers up a Conquest mode that allows players to control one of the three factions in multiple battles. The mode offers up a thin layer of turn based strategy on top of the RTS elements and players can spend espionage points to learn their enemies plan of action rather than just resorting to overwhelming force on the battlefield.
"Etherium is a great game. It’s not much in terms of graphical prowess, but the simple unit models get the job done, and the terrain is a feast for the eyes."
Multiplayer is a fun way to spend time skirmishing against other opponents, but it seems to be relatively bland in terms of options. It’s definitely fun, but a more competitive atmosphere could have contributed a lot towards the game’s longevity. Weather and the elements matter in Etherium. Different maps feature different weather dynamics that directly impact the flow of battle. Some maps are molten worlds that feature massive earthquakes that release lava and brimstone upon certain choke points, and if you’re not careful you might find your units caught in the fire. Other maps are massive frozen worlds that feature blizzards that will freeze terrain, creating new paths to access. It’s a great concept that can totally change the tides of battle if players aren’t paying attention.
Etherium is a great game. It’s not much in terms of graphical prowess, but the simple unit models get the job done, and the terrain is a feast for the eyes. Focus Home Interactive has stumbled upon something special here, and while this game may be lacking the polish of many triple-A RTS releases, it lays a foundation for what could end up being the next great strategy series. Only time will tell, but color me impressed.
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: PC