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JadeDragon's reviews and playing tips: Pocket PC games

Argentum, by Ionside $19.95
Reviewed June 2002

Whether you've waited for months with baited breath or had no clue what Argentum was, you now can play one of the best RTS games on Pocket PC.

The Story
It is exciting when a RTS game can build up a fantastic story and integrate the game play into this story, therefore pulling you more deeply into the game. We've seen this happen on other gaming platforms. Argentum has started the journey to adding this exciting element to Pocket PC. The story behind the game is told in the cut scene at the beginning of the game: basically in the future, the Earth-based Galactic Exploration Alliance is in negotiations with Ni'rikei over Argentum, a space-based "living energy". GEA Ambassadors are sent to meet with Ni'rikei for one last attempt at peace. On the way over there, the Ambassadors got attacked and lost contact with GEA. The game starts here and you are Commander Steele who will play a big part in this War. With each level, this story will develop a little further. And the only way to complete the levels is mine enough Argentum, build your army and destroy the enemies.

The Game Play
The game play in Argentum is pretty much the traditional RTS game play. You're given an objective at the beginning of each level, mainly the same one: to destroy enemy base. Once you click on the Deploy button, you are ready to go. There is a tutorial in the beginning of the game to show you how to collect Argentum, how to build/train soldiers and attack enemies. The tutorial is short but efficient to get you started. There are total of 14 long levels. The levels are long often not because the terrain is that massive, but because the battles are hard to fight. A level ends when one of the bases is destroyed. The only big difference in Argentum is both you and your enemy have mines that are full with Argentum, the source for building everything from Power Plants to factories, from radar towers to troops. There's a limit on how much Argentum you have, but it usually is enough for completing the levels. When you click on the mines, it will show you how much Argentum is left in that mine. You don't have to capture other bases/structures to generate funds, all you have to do is to search and destroy.

The game scene takes up 2/3 of the screen. There is an aerial map shows where your troops and enemy troops are. You need to have enough power and working radar to enable this map. Once you select objects in your camp, a small area on the bottom of your screen will show what you can build or train, and how much Argentum will be used, etc. You can select 5 groups and move them in stages.

The level for friendly fire is much lower than the enemy fire level in the first few levels. You will need a lot of heavy artillery to fight just a few tanks. You also have only a limited number of troops and artillery you can choose from in these early levels. But once you advance, you will have much better matching power to fight your enemy. The movements of your troops are very smooth; in fact they will find the best trajectory to reach the target points automatically once you've given the points. You can also establish rally points where your troops will report to once they've been built or trained. You will need these rally points in the levels where you need to keep increasing your troops as well as fighting in the frontline. Moving troops from the factory to the frontline might take away some precious battle time. If you think that 14 terrains are not fertile enough for you, well, there are already talks of making mod/map add-ons. Another nice touch is the game gives you 6 slots for saving games. I use this to replay my favorite levels.

The Graphics
The graphics are beautiful and tasteful. It seems that the game developers have studied the exact lighting for movements and terrain. You can see the shadows of objects both still and moving. Different terrain designs exhibit the originality and authenticity of the environment. The explosions and fighting scenes look more real than the ones on Stargate TV show. The different terrain system showcases the various beautifully designed surfaces. And the large selection of space/military structures and artillery like the tanks, soldiers, flying ships can be qualify as eye candy.

The Sound/Music
The sound in this game is very realistic. You can tell that the developers have put some effects into the voice dubbing and SFX to help creating the environment. I used a set of stereo speakers while playing the game and the sound amplified very nicely. The music tracks fit the game play very well. They are engaging yet mixed with some mysterious flavor. The sound effects and music both play as characters in building this world of war and Argentum. Voice-overs give a feeling of a real battle.

Wish list
It seems to me that I only needed one strategy to complete all levels, and that is to build as many troops and artillery as possible and pour them over the enemy base. It'd been better if there are some variations on how to complete each level.

I've run my soldier to the edge of the map and couldn't select them again. Soldiers are kind of small; you won't have this problem with larger artillery. ITBAs, the vehicles collecting Argentum, will stop moving when the mines you assigned them to work on have nothing left. You need to re-assign ITBAs to new mines.

I experienced some slowed down in performance when I had some heavy fire scenes on both NEC MobilePro 300 and Jornada 568. It can run from a CF Card.

Argentum screen shot

Argentum screen shot


Playing Hints and Tips
Try playing the game with headphones or speakers. You will get kick out of the SFX and the music tracks.

Build as many troops and artillery as possible, especially in the early levels. Use rally points as you advance into the enemy territory. This way, your new army will get to the frontline on their own after being built or trained. Use flying ships to attack the ground defense first.

Did I say build as many troops as you can?

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics One of the best looking games on Pocket PC.
Sound Great background music tracks and sweet sound effects. You will love it when you play with your headphones or external speakers.
Fun Meter One of the best RTS games with fun game play and long levels.
Addictivity Very addictive! You will replay some favorite levels.

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