Imagine if Mad Max came as an RTS, how cool would that be? Oh, wait, hang on, here comes Apox from Bluegiant Interactive, set in a near post-apocalyptic, Mad-Max-esque future. Blimey, it’s as if they read my mind.
Apox looks like a very cool game, why? Well get a load of this:
– Multi-player games with up to 32 players.
– Over a hundred maps.
– A map editor.
– The ability to place soldiers into vehicles to form new units.
– Plus, loads of updated, playable maps from the Apox community.
Told you it looked cool, but how does it play? You start the game by choosing any one of several mission options: Basic Training, Missions, Single Player, Co-op and Multiplayer. The basic training comprises of a pretty good tutorial that gets you used to the RTS system to start with, followed by the Apox method of supply and battle scenarios, although if you’ve played games like this before then it won’t take you long to get into the flow of things.
As in most RTS games, going all the way back to C&C, you have to gather resources to keep yourself going, build an effective defensive system, and likewise, build an effective offensive. In Apox, the resources are oil/gas refineries and valuable scrap metal, survivors of the wasteland and ammo. You start any game with a scarp yard, a barracks and your command building. From there you can create other basic buildings and soldiers to build everything with. Each building has a unique tech tree that flows accordingly to the amount of resources you have at hand. For example, the barracks, they dish out gunners, flame-thrower units and the like. Gather more resources via your scrap yard and you can upgrade the barracks to a soldier barracks that allows you to create a sniper and a heavy gunner. This upgrade also allows you to start researching molotov cocktails and mines. Upgrade again to the siege barracks and you get to build RPG and mortar units. The same goes for the auto factory where you can build cars with machine gun emplacements, or flame-thrower units, eventually upgrading to armoured anti-tank units. In fact there are a good number of ways to inflict pain and misery on your opponents, not that anyone reading this would enjoy that, of course!
Resources, resources, resources, they are the key factor to anything you want to build or research in APOX. Send your men out to capture oil refineries and populate the commandeered buildings with soldiers to operate them. Watch them build a pipeline from the refinery to your base, then setup flame-thrower defence towers to guard the pipeline against the enemy. Find scrap cars or other sources of metal and your men gather it up and ferry it back to your scrap yard. The same with ammo factories. Employ a couple of men to operate it and they’ll run back and forth delivering ammo to your troops as well as your main base. This resource sharing ability works with other friendly units as well. If your hunkered down and running low on ammo send a friendly unit over (or ask for one online) and the troops will share the ammo out automatically. The same goes for fuel, metal and weapons. I like this feature of sharing resources and it certainly comes in handy when your back is against the wall and you’re running low on just about everything. You can even build a pipeline to another players’ and share their refinery’s output. Stick one near an enemy and you can nick it!
However, all the scrap metal and oil/gas supplies in the world are useless without survivors from the wasteland to help operate and build them. This is probably the single most important resource you can have in this game, as you can gather fuel and metal fairly easily. Capture enemy buildings and units though and you receive a few extra survivors to add to your complement, but be careful, as while in some RTS’s you can just keep building and building, in Apox some thought is needed, as your survivor rate is very slow to grow which, in a way, forces you out of the relative safety of your base to capture and explore.
The Missions and Single Player options consists of a number of pre-built maps that ask you to defend your base, capture an oil refinery, sneak into the enemy camp and take the prisoners and steal resources from the enemy CPU camp. There also a versus mode against bots in either a 3 Vs. 3, 5 Vs. 5 or 16 Vs. 16 scrimmage. Again, all fairly standard stuff that gets you used to the controls and how to win against the CPU, but it does begin to ready you for Apox’s massive online maps so it’s worth having a blast at them at least.
Co-op and Multiplayer are where this game really shines. As previously stated, you can have up to thirty two players online in either, humans Vs. bots or human Vs. human or any combination of the two, it all depends on how the host has set up the match. Get a server full of players and the game becomes very interesting and a race against the clock for domination of the map. The game servers are located all over the world and have, surprisingly, very good ping rates – I played a Texas based server without any noticeable lag with a 2Mb line. The AI of the bots can be set to easy, normal and hard with easy being a good twenty minute play and hard being an almost-all-nighter, especially if you have sixteen of them to beat.
Graphics are nicely drawn, with the usual 3D-RTS view. The units move and operate without too much difficulty, and when zoomed in, look very good. But again, the graphics really only come into play when you’re sending in a large troop of men, together with the collective armies of a couple of online co-op buddies and they run across flame-thrower towers and RPG’s units. Then the battlefield comes alive with action, mixing explosions with flaming bodies, gunfire and a rampaging car with a machine gun rattling away on the roof. Fantastic, and music to my eyes. Speaking of which, the music is a fairly bland affair, but then who’s listening to music when you have to listen out for attack alarms and enemy gunfire. At times it can all become a bit confusing with so many cries of agony and loud booming explosions you lose track of where you are.
I did come across a few problems, although they are only minor niggles and may improve with updates. The AI seems to have the ability to rapid build. In under a few minutes from starting a game they had machine gun cars and mortar units, whilst I was still waiting for enough survivors to build my auto factory. And whilst I’m on the subject of the AI, how come their ammo depots and refineries are right next to them and mine always seem to be half way across the map, making defending them a nightmare. Maybe the game just wants to make me cry? My only other gripe is the stability. I’m playing via Steam, an application that for some reason I’ve never got on with and I’ve had a few instances where, mid-online-battle (plus I was winning!) the game crashed out to the desktop. But I’m going to be positive, and I’m going to blame Steam for this rather than Apox. As I’ve said, I’ve found Steam to be shockingly unstable at times.
Apox is a great RTS and I’ll be online for many months to come, more than likely I’ll be famous for being cannon-fodder, but at least the game keeps me playing, which is a lot more than other RTS’s that are currently out there. The micro-management of resources isn’t too intensive to distract from the combat and the units behave themselves and defend/attack admirably well and winning the game isn’t completely unachievable providing you use good tactics and manage your resources effectively. If you’re going to try an online RTS then try Apox, you won’t be disappointed.
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