March 22, 2012
As the name of the game suggests, your role in the game is to create the Army Corps of Hell. You see, many eons ago an evil tyrant ruled the world. To his dismay, he was overthrown and tossed into hell by mortals and as a result he seeks revenge.
By completing the game's various chapters, you'll unlock new cutscenes which depict how the tyrant strengthens his army. The initial cutscene shows him manipulating some simple goblins who act as his army (of slaves) throughout the duration of the game. There's very little progression aside from this, so it's difficult to care a great deal about the events that are taking place. Then again, it's not that much of a compelling story concept as it is.
Gameplay revolves around your tyrant and how he controls his minion army. At the start of each chapter, you're able to take a finite amount of goblins along for the ride, and it's your job to decide how many you'd like to take, and of which class. As you progress through the game, this number increases up to 100, with you starting off with a much smaller amount.
There are three main types of goblin: soldiers, spearmen and magi. Each of them offers you something different in combat, and how you use them will determine your success during the levels.
Towards the start of the game, this isn't much of an issue. But not long after the first boss, you'll start encountering many different enemy types. And when they start having elemental properties, you can't just rely on brute force any more as you'll be sending your troops to their death. You see, each of the different types can attack in different ways. The soldiers are the most reliable, offering consistent damage by jumping on their foes. Once a certain amount have climbed on, they can them perform a special attack for massive amounts of damage. Spearmen on the other hand, aren't that effective when attacking in this form. Instead, they must charge as a massive collective in a straight line. Magi must also be charged up, but only while standing near the tyrant. However, you need to make sure you give them the right magic type.
Where possible, your minions will look to stay close to you, but you can choose between normal, defensive and quick formations. Defensive makes everyone bunch up, but with a very restricted movement speed, while quick allows all your minions to dash from side to side. In an ironic move, using defensive formations actually allows for maximum damage to be offered out. Soldiers will jump on their targets at maximum speed, and you can only use spearmen to their maximum capacity while they're bunched up.
About now, the game is probably sounding rather good. And if it continued along this path it would have been. The problem is, once you encounter the aforementioned elements, there is very little else. There are only three types of unit, there are only three types of formation, and levels and opponents you face repeat far too often.
Each level is split up into lots of different battlefields, and none of them are all that large. It means that there's always a rather restricted playing field and as you progress, obstacles are thrown in your way to make things more tricky. It's ok though; if you walk over dead goblins, there's a good chance they can be revived. There's just an overall lack of variety.
It's difficult to count how many times a massive eyeball was encountered. And yes, there is a bit of variety in the types of attacks they do, but that's not the point. Would it have been that difficult to generate a different looking enemy? Would it also have been that difficult to make the battlefields anything but a bland square?
More troop types would have also been nice. Yes, the combat relies heavily on you only having three types, but there's nothing to say they couldn't have only restricted to you having three types per level - not three types in the entire game.
The game's visuals are ok, but compared to the other PlayStation Vita launch titles, they can't be seen as anything other than disappointing. With Sony attempting to push the power of the Vita at every opportunity, it's suprising that Army Corps of Hell passed through looking like a PSP game. Yes, there are a lot of things on the screen at any given time, but the textures are way too low. On the plus side, the rather unorthodox soundtrack works rather well. While many games these days are opting for bland scores that integrate well with the game and have no real merits of their own, Army Corps of Hell goes to the extreme with a heavy metal backing.
Many of the bands featured play near to where the developers are based, and while it's a weird situation, it works very well for the game - it just fits the evil overtone.
Replay value is a place where Army Corps of Hell wins big. Your performance on each level is graded, and it's so tempting to go back and attempt to get the maximum rank. There's also a nice crafting system, which allows you to devour fallen enemies to gather resources for building better items for your goblins. Couple this with the game's four-player mode and if you're able to tolerate the game's overall blandness, there's some extra value to be had here.
Army Corps of Hell is certainly not your stereotypical launch title. It has a nefarious concept and some pretty hardcore music, but while the overall concept is good, there just isn't enough here. Too much about the game just screams of monotony, from the limited amount of units you can command, to the level design and enemy variety. Army Corps of Hell could have been so much more, but instead it ended up being decidedly average.