“Remember Herzog Zwei and/or Brutal Legend? Want More? You’re In Luck!”
Herzog Zwei, for those who don’t know, is considered one of the first Real Time Strategy games, predating the iconic Starcrafts, Warcrafts and Command and Conquers that most people recognize the genre by. Being one of the first RTS games, it didn’t have all of the now-familiar standards, such as the “omniscient player” approach to gameplay (for example, in a Command and Conquer game, “you” are untouchable, even if your team is destroyed), and you manually controlled an avatar that participated in battle, even while controlling more familiar features like unit production. This action/strategy hybrid was recently revisited in Brutal Legend, and now has skillfully been brought to the Xbox Indie Scene.
Armor Valley has you controlling an oversized helicopter, a “hovercopter,” complete with a mini-command station, missile bays, and machinegun turrets. Your goal is to progress from your base towards the enemy’s, and you certainly can’t do it alone; you’ll need to stay close to your base for reloading and refueling, and near your allies for their additional firepower. Each type of ally you can create has a different purpose, be it to capture buildings, ground-to-ground fire, or surface-to-air attacks. A fourth type, the Disrupter, is perhaps the most key of all: The mission is “won” by getting a Disruptor unit into the enemy base, destroying their defenses around their command base. The controls are solid, and have a sensitive “feel” to them that appropriately mimics the fact that you are in a levitating steel whale, but the gameplay is forgiving enough that you won’t be throwing your controller in rage. As well as beating the story mode, you can play ‘quickmissions’, either against an AI or against another (local) player, and are even given your choice of multiple styles of hovercopter, including a jet variant, which pleasantly requires control over the wing tilt to fly rather than the hovercopter’s physics. Sadly, the 2-players options are exclusively local/competitive, which means that Protégé Productions missed both an opportunity for cooperation and online modes, for example, a 2vs2 mission against two other players over Xbox Live would have brought four friends together in this excellent Indie release.
The production values for Armor Valley are top-notch, through and through. Armor Valley shows a decent 3d engine, quality sound effects and music, and a shining polish to the presentation. Even small details, such as a helpful and non-intrusive tutorial, are included, showing that Protégé Productions didn’t cut any corners to make their debut on XBLIG a smash success.
Despite a rather cookie-cutter approach to multiplayer, I thoroughly enjoyed Armor Valley, and it scratched an itch that had had me looking at Brutal Legend longingly. If you’re thinking that action and strategy are two great tastes that taste great together, or wouldn’t mind reliving your very own epic Air Wolf (or Whale, I guess, given the hovercopter’s size), you should really check out Armor Valley.
Game score 9/10
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