Check out our video review:
I didn’t play a lot of strategy games growing up and the ones I did play were usually on PC. I find strategy games to be immensely satisfying when you can pull tactics off and they’ve taught me that if I ever had to command a squad in actual combat, they would all die. A friend of mine found his copy of The Unholy War and was telling me about his childhood experiences with it. It’s a game that features both turn-based strategy and real-time battles. And alien creatures. It sounded pretty cool so I decided to give it a shot. Developed by Toys for Bob and published by Eidos Interactive, The Unholy War was released for PlayStation in September, 1998.
Set on the planet Xsarra, two factions or forces are at war – the planet’s original inhabitants known as the Arcanes and the Teknos which crash landed on the planet after fleeing from a powerful alien race known as the Hunters. After discovering the planet contained a resource called Aur, the Teknos decided to stay and mine it and would never have to worry about the Hunters again. The Arcanes weren’t exactly happy about it and the two factions have waged war for years. The story is an obvious set up for the gameplay but I do like how the strategy mode fleshes out each race in between each war.
The Unholy War does support up to two players and features two game modes – Strategy and Mayhem. Strategy is the real meat of the game and Mayhem lets you jump into real-time battles. It’s recommended you jump into the Mayhem mode first to learn some of the mechanics and there are multiple difficulty modes to select from.
You can choose to play as either the Arcanes or Teknos and each have their own warriors of different races that have their own attack styles and abilities. You can run and jump around the battlefields freely and each character has a different amount of health and energy. You need a certain amount of energy to perform certain attacks and energy does recharge over time. A big part of the gameplay is knowing what each warrior is capable of because some are better against others. Some warriors can fire projectiles, some can fly, others can move quickly, and some can tank of a lot damage. Each faction has a varied roster of characters to choose from but, unfortunately, the game isn’t exactly balanced.
Based on my experience, cheapness wins and the Arcanes have the better team because most of the faction’s characters have abilities that can be easily exploited. It’s probably best to play against another person who knows what they’re doing but even then the Arcanes will still have an advantage. The AI will exhibit how cheap some of these characters can be and are relentless with attacks. Any character that can fly and/or fire projectiles always seems to have an advantage. The Arcanes have a warrior called Fire Witch. It can fire flaming projectiles and fly indefinitely. Furthermore, it can recharge energy while flying unlike some other flying characters like the Teknos’ Killcycle which needs to be on the ground to recharge energy. Plus, trying to hit flying characters can be a pain in the ass. That’s not to say the Teknos have no good characters because they do. Jaeger is one of their best because it tank a lot of damage and fire homing missiles.
The Strategy mode will showcase everything the game has to offer and is where you can unlock hidden characters and battlefields. The Strategy mode plays out in wars which are set on different maps. Each map consists of hexes and both teams take turns moving their characters around the map. A character can only move a certain amount of hexes per turn and if they land on a hex next to a character from the opposing team, they have the option to attack and doing so puts you on the battlefield where you proceed to engage the enemy in a real-time battle. The objective of each map is to destroy or capture the opposing team’s base and wipe them out. It’s probably best to play through the Strategy mode with another player but the AI can make for a tough opponent on the Normal and Hard difficulties. It will sometimes make questionable decisions on the maps but proves to be a worthy and even cheap opponent during real-time battles.
Each Strategy map is laid out differently and the game teaches you mechanics as you progress. Some of the early maps don’t contain any bases so you have to simply wipe out the other team. Most maps contain Aur sites. Hexes with Aur can be mined by characters. You simply place a character on the hex and they will mine Aur and some characters can mine more than others. Aur is a resource that can be spent to perform special abilities and buy additional characters. Each character has their own special ability that can be used on the maps. Some can heal allies, others can damage opponents, and some can teleport. Some characters have more unique abilities and they can all be useful if used appropriately.
Each battlefield is like a small arena and the gameplay during real-time battles reminds me of the gameplay in Power Stone. Each battlefield is laid out differently and they each have their own quirks and hazards. Pickups will spawn and last for a limited time, giving whoever picks them up an edge during the battle. These include health, super jump, speed, invincibility, and energy jolt which lets you attack without losing energy. Depending on the two characters, the length of a battle can range from ten seconds to five minutes. Battles tend to drag on any time you’re up against a flying character, at least when up against the AI.
The Unholy War features some pretty cool character designs and visually diverse environments. It’s a fairly colorful game with some decent visual effects exhibited during combat. Each character will make different sounds and/or grunt during battles and attacks often sound powerful. I can’t say the soundtrack did much for me and only one song sticks out and it’s the one heard when navigating around any of the Strategy maps. It’s a very dramatic tune which I think helps build some tension. On the technical side, I witnessed the frame rate dip occasionally but encountered no major bugs or issues.
I had a pretty good time with The Unholy War. I don’t think it’s balanced but it’s still fun. Each faction features a varied roster of interesting characters and it’s got this cool sci-fi fantasy atmosphere with some decent world-building to get you into it. I also think it’s a good game for anyone new to the strategy genre. Or anyone who sucks at strategy games like me. It’s pretty easy to pick up and play and the game teaches you everything you need to know to get started. Unfortunately, the unbalanced gameplay can make it feel cheap but, regardless, it does offer a good challenge when playing solo.
I would recommend The Unholy War to fans of the strategy and action genres. It doesn’t have a steep learning curve and it contains a nice blend of turn-based strategy and real-time battles. It’s definitely not the best strategy game I’ve ever played but it is enjoyable so definitely check it out if you think it looks interesting or are looking for a good strategy game for PlayStation.