Originally released in 2003 for PC, Impossible Creatures allowed RTS enthusiasts to create armies of Chimera with over 50 biological organisms available to combine in the most bizarre and strategic ways. Now over a decade later, Relic has given the game a reboot, released on Steam with Workshop support for mods.
This revitalization of IC retains its charm and keeps the excitement alive with outrageous wildlife combos and frantic army construction. The basics are all there, however there’s much to be desired even if this is a reboot. Opening up this type of RTS to the modding community is a great tactic to generate hype for this dated title, though this is a great opportunity for the developers to improve upon the old mechanics and elements established with the original concept.
The gameplay is easy to pick up, especially for seasoned RTS gamers, as they’re simple enough to where a tutorial is unnecessary. Camera controls are a little odd and slightly irritating, and the FOV is very limited. There’s nothing more claustrophobia-inducing in an RTS than a camera that doesn’t zoom out far enough to get a good scope of your units. The middle mouse button is held to pan the camera, and alt has to be held when moving the mouse in order to orbit. This could just be my preference, but working with those controls made it difficult to see what was going on, and by the time I stabilized the camera where I wanted it, the event in question had concluded.
When buildings or units come under attack, your henchmen (who do all your building and resource-gathering) will inform you of the assault. Then they’ll announce it again, and again, and again. These annoying yet key units are too similar to Ethos, Pathos and Logos from the film: The Spirit. “The creatures are under attack! Our buildings are under attack! We was watchin”. Sure they’ll join in and attack invading creatures should they be within close proximity, however most of the time I’d rather they kept building that bramble fence or defense turret before they start smacking the flock of Rhino-Bees with their hammers or whatnot. It’s too easy to accidentally send your doofus men into battle and let them get wrecked when they’re hardly qualified to swing a pickaxe at a chunk of coal. Attacking Rhino-Bees and being successful isn’t exactly in their Curriculum Vitae, but when Hammerhead Elephants and Ants with Piranha heads start tearing apart your main base that looks like a homestead from the Book of Eli, these clunky Mr. Clean doppelgangers will cling on til the end. Most likely their end.
The henchmen aren’t useless by any means, they’re just a bit annoying, but moving on, there’s plenty going on in Impossible Creatures to keep you dedicated to demolishing the opposition. Plenty of maps and preset armies are available, with more to come with the growth of the Steam Mod Community. Hours could be spent in the Army Creation mode while you sit there trying to strategize between a max of nine units, all with different abilities depending on the animal combinations. Certain creatures require a certain level of research in order to construct, so smashing together the sharks, whales, and wicked deadly insects will only land you with a team that can’t be created until you’ve reached level five in research, leaving your squad of Howie Mandels to mine, build, and defend your ramshackle representation of an empire.
Impossible Creatures Steam Edition is a riot, and I can joke all day about the henchmen but in all seriousness this game is a lot of fun. With it being a re-release essentially, there are a few tweaks I would like to see from the developers themselves. Of course they’re busy with bug fixes and that’s understandable, but with a game concept like this, it could use loads more animals and insects. I loved my Eel Giraffes and Praying Mantis Hammerhead, but there’s room for more. Oddly enough, after messing with Army Creation Mode for about 15 minutes, you begin to realize you’re considering the same handful of creatures every time you go to make a new unit to add. There’s a healthy mix of land, water, air and amphibious creatures to allow for different types of skirmishes and tactics, but I’ve only just begun getting into character animation and I am NOT modeling the rest of earths’ beautiful creatures for a mod pack. Unless no one else does it…
The charm of Impossible Creatures has been made apparent, mixing and matching all those animals and having a few laughs at the Eel body with a Gorilla head, but then we have the RTS mechanics to speculate upon. The essentials are there, along with a few upgrades and advanced structures, but that too seems a little lacking. There is however the potential to upgrade your creatures and give them new abilities and augments, which takes things a bit further, but it could do with some variations in structures or even design. Like many games released in recent years, we look to the modding community to fulfill the emptiness where my Whale Shark would reside. Impossible Creatures Steam Edition by Relic Entertainment and Nordic Games gets a 7/10. Killer RTS gameplay, addicting creature building, and a few “wtf are those Eagles with Great White Shark heads swooping in and destroying my base!?!?!” moments.
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