With a truly notable 51 combined Star Wars and Indiana Jones-based titles and 39 original titles of their own, Lucas Arts is no stranger to the video game world; and in Wrath: Unleashed they show that they can come up with great new ideas outside of the Star Wars universe.
Wrath: Unleashed, while having a completely new feel from previous Lucas Arts titles I’ve played, falls victim to what so many great gaming ideas have; a noticeably unfinished feel to the product. However, if throwing together Risk, Chess, and a small dash of Dead or Alive sounds like fun to you, then this may be the game you’ve been banking on.
Wrath: Unleashed starts you on the path to conquering your opponents, by way of a hexagonal tiled board and an array of creatures at your disposal as you take on the persona of one of four Demigods. You and your opponents, whether they be computer or human controlled, are laid out on opposing edges of the board (whose shape varies depending on mode selection). The idea behind the game is to complete whichever quest the game sets you out on, which involves either occupying certain key hexes or defeating your opponent’s Demigod with the use of the classic earth, wind, ice (water), and fire conflicts. Each terrain that one of your creatures occupies will, typically, be one or two of the four divisions; giving it an advantage or disadvantage based on which character was chosen (ie. Fire is weak on glaciers).
One-on-one battles ensue provided that the two opposing forces move to the same hex. The magical fistfight takes off from there. Your goal now is to punish your opponent until one of you is no longer left standing, a la any fighting game. It seems to be a case of whoever is best at fighting games gets the eventual advantage.
The graphics play out like a Clint Eastwood classic: some good, some bad, and some just plain ugly. While a lot of the visuals are eye catching and flow smoothly in the cut-scenes and movies; the main game suffers drastically from an incomplete world. The boards are simple and don’t offer much more than information, which is all they are intended it to do (I hope). This alone makes Wrath: Unleashed feel very much like nothing more than a virtual board game. The battle scenes are entertaining, with bright vibrant backgrounds and various obstacles for you, or your opponent, to be cast into. The background sky detail draws your attention as well.
Furthermore, you may notice that the Dark Chaos Archmage in the game is embarrassingly, and obviously, underdressed; which leads me to believe sex was once again gratuitously used to help sell the product. That being said, the battles are nothing special when compared to truly great fighters like Dead or Alive, Tekken, or Virtua Fighter. The graphics are fairly sub-standard throughout. I didn’t notice any huge innovations, and you’ll notice great differences in how the Demigods appear during different types of scenes in the game. There’s a definite lack of quality continuity.
Aside from the Demigod cut scenes, the characters in Wrath: Unleashed are very well developed. Each one seems to have its own unique personality, which shines through in battles. They also have a way of moving/walking that appears unique to each one and fits fluidly with how the creatures should move. Watching a Flying Dragon getting bludgeoned into submission by the Spirit Armor was the highlight of this game for me, simply because the creatures were so fun to watch. Wrath: Unleashed boasts over 30 mythological creatures, but when divided among the four Demigods, that leaves only around 8-9 unique creatures, as most of them are just duplicated with various visual changes for the sake of keeping things fairly even.
When it comes to the audio of Wrath: Unleashed, it fits well with the rest of the game, but fails to captivate, and after a few hours it becomes repetitively obnoxious. The best music in the game (as with a lot of aspects) is during the combat sequences. That’s where the audio truly picks up and helps draw you into the game a little more. The live orchestra and choir used to compose the soundtrack did a wonderful job giving the sound a real sonic dimension during the battles, but, ultimately, failed to win me over completely. The incessant droning during the map sequences is easily rectified by muting your TV, which I didn’t see as a reasonable alternative nor one I should have been forced to consider.
A multitude of game modes, quests, unlockable features, and boards make up the replay value of this game, if you choose to take on that daunting task. I was completely sober from playing Wrath: Unleashed after just three sittings, as it becomes a matter of how well you can pummel your opponent with the limited attacks at your disposal – as opposed to utilizing the strategy elements that make this game unique. You will have hours of button mashing pleasure with your friends as you figure out who can come up with the quickest A,A,X,A attack combination. If you really like Risk-style games, but would prefer a little more action along with the tedium; then Wrath: Unleashed is worth a play – otherwise you may need to wait for a sequel when, hopefully, the rougher aspects of the game will be smoothed out and expanded upon.