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Game Profile
PlayStation 2
The Collective
GENRE: Strategy
PLAYERS:   1-4
February 10, 2004
Wrath Unleashed

 Written by Ryan Smotherman  on March 03, 2004

Full Review: Stupid long load times may make you unleash your wrath onto the game disk.

The Collective, a development team known mostly for their fan favorite action-based adventure games like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, have made the shift into the strategy genre with their latest offering, Wrath Unleashed. And unfortunately, we have a classic case of a very competent, if somewhat generic, title that falls flat on its face due to poor programming.

Wrath Unleashed certainly doesn't feature anything unique. Borrowing basic concepts from old titles such as Master of the Monsters, Shining Force, and Archon, the game takes place on massive floating platforms that seem to just be hanging around in the depths of space. Four Demigods, who each control one of the four basic elements (Fire, Earth, Wind, and Water), as well as an order type (Light Order, Light Chaos, Dark Order, Dark Chaos), are in cahoots with one another and lucky for you, you get to step in on the fun. As you can tell, we have a cut and dry case of light versus dark, with the conflicting powers of the elements in the mix. Real original, right? Not really. But hey, lack of originality certainly doesn't mean a lack of fun.

That's right. The strategy-based gameplay contained within Wrath Unleashed is surprisingly proficient, and with nary a bit of time you'll have the fundamentals down, along with your opponents behind. Your basic goal usually involves killing your opponents Demigod or capturing a certain amount of temples and/or citadels. Along with your protagonist you'll have control of a complete army of vicious beings, ranging in attack power, life points, movement spaces and different magic abilities. Naturally, you're only allowed so many of a certain class of monsters, thus limiting you to having 10 super creatures to thrash your opponent with.

Strategy basically comes in positioning your creatures on the various sized play grids. Each space has a certain elemental essence (i.e. - volcano equals fire, glacier equals water, and so on and so forth), with some combining a range of ones together and others being neutral. This is important because the character's element that matches the space is given a great advantage is combat. Scattered throughout each level you'll also find mana wats that help you build your mana points that lets your main character cast helpful spells. These aren't too varied, with such powers as Wrath, Teleport, Resurrect, and Heal leading the pack as the most useful. Other spaces contain the aforementioned temples/citadels, which are an essential part of the gameplay since creatures that reside on them can't be the targets of spells.

All in all, the game's pretty entertaining thus far? that is until you enter your first battle. As you'd expect, moving your character on to one of your opponent's initiates combat. Though, the loading time before and after the battle are excruciatingly long. It's been a while since I had a long loading time ruin the entire flow of a game for me. When timed I found that it's takes around 25 seconds to load up the battle, and slightly more to get back to the playing field. Needless to say, this is awful (10-15 would suffice), and just plain makes the game a pain to play. This is actually quite a pity, because the battle system is surprisingly fun, if a bit short-lived (the loading time is usually longer than the match). Each character is given a weak and strong melee attack button that can be hit repeatedly to create simple combos, as well as a weak and strong magic attack that either shoots some sort of projectile or releases a burst of energy that damages anything in it's vicinity.

The matches themselves can take quite a while to complete, especially when all four Demigods are going at it at once. This can also try your patience quite a bit, seeing as I couldn't find out how to switch off watching the CPU fight each other in the campaign mode. It's bad enough waiting for a battle load that you actually get to fight in, but knowing that you're just going to be sitting there and watching can really get your blood boiling. Asides from the campaign mode, you can only really do a standard battle where you pick your level and characters and modify the rules to your liking. This is actually a game that could benefit from online play if future installments see the light.

Wrath Unleashed is a disappointment on the visual front, looking barely better than a PSOne title. The artwork and design of the game is pretty well done, but the actual models lack detail and aren't texturally sound. Spell effects leave much to the imagination and the battles arenas are just as boorish and unimpressive. Overall, we have a game that could have used many more coats of polish. The audio doesn't fair too much better either. Nothing except some pretty cool tunes sticks out much.

Bottom Line
While not complete crap, Wrath Unleashed certainly had the potential to be better than it actually is. While the gameplay is good, a shorter loading time and (graphic whores pay attention) a sharper visual package would have boosted the score a few points. But as we have it, this is not a game worth plunking down 50 hard earned big ones on. Though, once a price drop takes place, gamers who enjoy strategy games with a little action thrown in, and have much patience, should definitely give it a go.

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