Savage: The Battle for Newerth PC CD-ROM Official Website
by Digital Jesters
Developed by S2 Games
Released: 20th February 2004
Games that only offer online play usually require you to not only pay the initial purchase price of the game but also require you to consistently pay a subscription charge in order to be able to continue playing. Savage: The Battle for Newerth is essentially a RTS that offers exclusive online play but best of all there are no subscription costs involved. You pay the purchase price of the game and that is all. This may seem too good to be true but true it is, and as we approach release day here in the UK there are already many playing the game, from the US, online. Let's take a look at this rather innovative game.
We mentioned the games story in our preview but here it is again. The game is set in a futuristic Earth where man has paid the price for constant war. The humans that remained were split in to nomadic groups who were led by their chiefs. Whilst mankind has perished, the animal kingdom has evolved and become more intelligent. The cruelty that man has shown the animal kingdom in the past has not been forgotten and the animals are all eager to take their revenge on the humans that remain. In this dark time for humanity a hero, Jaraziah Grimm, stepped forward and united the nomadic tribes. Eventually the humans were ready to fight back and establish themselves over the animals once more. In the game then you either play as the part of the Legion of Man or as the Beast Horde.
As we've already said Savage: The Battle for Newerth is essentially a RTS game. However whilst the basic mechanics of the game conform to those of a RTS there are various differences. In a normal RTS game the player will have total control of his units and will be able to build, collect resources and upgrade units as he/she sees fit. The player is able to make decisions and his AI units will of course obey and whether or not the player gains victory or defeat is completely down to how skilled he/she is with the game. Savage make this gameplay a lot more interesting and allows many more players in on the experience. For starters a team will be made of a commander and action units and depending on what you are the game play is a very different experience.
Games are played between 2 teams. Each team has one commander and numerous action units. As an action unit you'll do tasks ranging from combat to construction and resource collecting. The commander is the one who issues the orders and the role of commander is where the game resembles a RTS with your viewpoint being an almost top down experience. You'll dish out the orders, plan the building of your base and look after resource collecting and organise attacks. The action units will have a third person view of the game, which switches to a first person view when using ranged weapons and the game feels more like an action/FPS game when playing as an action unit. The game play itself is totally dependent on how you work together as a team. I like the fact that the action units have to depend on the commander for their promotions so in effect they are encouraged to co-operate. I played games which felt like a free-for-all and other games which were quite organised. When everyone pulls together as a team it really is enjoyable but when that isn't the case it can be disappointing but in fairness this is a general problem with online games and is not specific to Savage. I didn't experience any lag during the games that I played but I was playing on a 512K ADSL connection so I can't comment on what playing on a 56K modem would be like.
Graphically, Savage looks good and I was impressed by how it performed on a modest PC. I played the game on a 2GHz Pentium 4 with a GeForce 4 MX440 and an Athlon XP 2800+ with a GeForce 4 Ti4200 and on both systems, playing at a resolution of 1024x768 with 32bit colour, the performance was rather pleasing. Even on the weaker of the two PC configurations the frame rate remained smooth. Running around as an action unit you get to admire the rather impressive long grass and other plant life as well as some of the detail in the other units. Even in the first person view (when playing as an action unit and using a ranged weapon) it all still looks good. Some of the buildings look a little bland but overall the game looks very good.
One of the main fears with online gaming is that it can be very deaf gamer unfriendly. Savage isn't too bad at all for deaf gamers. Playing as the commander all orders are issued through a menu system, similar to the one used in Unreal Tournament. Playing as an action unit your orders will be shown via text at the top centre of your screen. The location you need to go will also be highlighted by markers both in the main screen and on the mini-map. Of course reading the text on the screen does require you to take your eyes off the action for the odd second and hearing gamers will not have to scrutinize every piece of text that is appearing onscreen but on the whole it shouldn't cause too much difficulty. As games can be passworded you can just play with your friends so you could effectively arrange deaf gamer only games if you so wished, which is always a welcome feature. Text chat is also supported in the lobby and the main game itself.
Savage: The Battle for Newerth is certainly a bold attempt at something different and it's fair to say that for the most part it works very well indeed. For the most part the game is OK for deaf gamers. The game also comes with a bonus disk which includes the Samurai Wars mod as well as many other mods that have been created by the US Savage community. You'll also get a 64-page strategy guide to help ease you into the game. We can't comment on the quality of either the mod packs or the strategy guide as our review pack didn't include either. If you like your online gaming Savage is definitely worth giving a go. If you like playing as part of a team and like to be part of a clan then you'll fully appreciate what Savage has to offer and when played correctly (which is essential to enjoying the game) that is quite a lot.
Game Rating: 7.8/10
Fresh innovative game play but you'll need to be part of a well organised game to fully enjoy Savage.
Generally fine for deaf gamers.