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.
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 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 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.
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.