Annex: Conquer the World Desura Review

Annex: Conquer the World is a completely free, slightly futuristic wartime overhead real time strategy. Like moth other real time strategies, the objective is simple… destroy the enemy’s base while defending your own. There are certain scenarios that force you to work with limited units and when they’re gone, you’ve lost.

The game follows a simple formula, you start with workers that do your bidding. These workers are machines that gather crystals and bring them back to your hope base to be used as credits and currency to buy things. Your workers can construct buildings for credits. The more workers, the faster it gets built. To get troops and vehicles, you’ll need to build barracks, factories, hangers and so on. Each of these troops and vehicles cost credits, supplies and personnel. To get more supplies, just build a warehouse. These three resources keep things simple.

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From there, you can click on your home base to advance your technology. Advancing the technology will unlock better troops and vehicles in barracks and factories. There’s a larger harvester that can’t build. You’ll even unlock a mobile base to make it more efficient for your workers to harvest. This feels necessary in later scenarios. There’s a balance with better units costing more both in credits, supplies and personnel, so nothing feels too unbalanced.

You don’t spend supplies or personnel, so much as you have a constant pool. If the troops or vehicles get destroyed, the supplies and personnel are replenished. This keeps you playing and in the game and doesn’t bog you down in gathering resources. There are a finite amount of crystals, so if the map has run dry, it creates a necessary sort of end game. It also makes for some desperate circumstances.

There are over forty scenarios from the start. These scenarios are basic, no cut scenes, which is a good thing, just brief text about each before and after you start them. I’d much rather play a RTS without cut scenes or stops in the action. You have full control to lead your army the way you want to.

The scenarios feel like they form loose campaigns that put you in control of different factions. Each faction has different troop and vehicle models, which was a nice touch. Scenarios can give you allies, as well as stack the deck against you with multiple factions and that’s what I really like, fighting a war on multiple fronts.

The real problem the game has is opponents are pretty passive, even on hard difficulties. They’ll maintain their own area and sometimes chase retreating units, but that’s about it. It makes the defense turrets, pillboxes and rocket sentries feel useless when no one ever comes to invade you. Since you can’t change the difficulty with these scenarios, the only way to get a real challenge is to  start a custom game and pick a map. That’s when you’ll see your opposition build up a massive army and send them all at once.

Your units are aggressive. If they take down an enemy, they’ll immediately move to the enemy’s position. So if you want them to hold a line, they’ll keep advancing unless you keep repositioning them. You can double click a unit to highlight every unit of its type, or you can do the more traditional click and drag to highlight units. Right mouse click will send them moving or attacking if its on an enemy. Speaking of attack, some units I’ve noticed have a laughably slow firing rate, unless I keep clicking for them to attack. It just seems odd.

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Another issue was in campaigns with larger maps it just became boring having to wait to build my units then send them across the map only to have them destroyed over and over again. Sure I could build a nearby staging area, but I feel like that would just take time and resources when my workers could be harvesting crystals. Vehicles are of course much faster, but troops are much cheaper. Its this boredom with larger maps that kept me from enjoying certain levels and continuing to play Annex. Even extra enemies that attack both factions would have helped shake things up a bit.

You’ll notice Annex is a game with mid 90s technology. While that might be seen as a bad thing, that just means the game runs on older computers. There’s still fun here for fans of real time strategies. You’ll find a lot of different climates, everything from dirt and swamps to snowy forests or sand. The maps are never so big that you’ll get lost, but you’ll be in each scenario for 20 – 60 minutes, so it feels very bite sized. Each map uses fog of war and you can see what your ally can see. Maps even go from dawn until dusk, you’ll see the shadows move and the tint change.

Maps have a lot of flat terrain, with a few rivers, gorges and cliffs. Nothing really to take advantage of other than frequent bridges that can create bottlenecks and choke points. I just wish enemies made better use of it, but I guess that’s why Annex allows for multiplayer over LAN or the Internet. Its not a bad game, its just the computer is lacking.

Another thing sorely missing was the lack of an explore option with units to have them uncover new areas. There are of course aerial scouts, but you still need to keep watch over them or they’ll be destroyed pretty easy. The game has a nice rock paper scissors mechanic going on with the units. Rockets take out airborne vehicles, mortars take out stationary objectives like buildings and turrets, but they’re easily killed by anything else, vehicles can take more damage, but they’re big and bulky where troops can have more guns in less space.

When you win a match, it sometimes feels like a delayed reaction. The base will be destroyed, all buildings will be leveled to the ground, but there’s still no screen for a minute that you’ve won. Even after you’ve won, you can chose to keep going. I’m not sure why, but hey its there.  There’s a statistics screen after every match, showing you how well all sides fared in battle.

For those of you out there that like to make your own maps, there’s an easy to use standalone map editor that comes with the game. It amounts to drawing a picture to make a map. White dots are trees, blue is water. Its simple, even if it might look crude. I’d rather have simple, than designing terrain or adding trees one by one and rotating them all into place.

The music is decent with a hard generic metal edge to it. The sound design sounds like it should. Guns firing, rockets being launched, but nothing notable. The voice acting wasn’t the best and the heavier units use modulation to make the same voices deeper instead of using different actors.

Annex has all of the RTS check boxes filled out and it does things admirably even with its negatives. I appreciate the campaign, but I just wish there was either more diversity or challenge to keep me interested in more than just a scenario a day.

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