Title: APOX: Legend
Genre: Action, Strategy, Indie
Developer: BlueGiant Interactive
Publisher: BlueGiant Interactive
Release Date: May 16, 2011
Apox was a multiplayer centric game whose DLC introduced a single player campaign. This review focuses on the DLC and not the multiplayer game. Previously the games only single player segment was the tutorial section to get players accustomed to some of the unique game play decisions. The DLC attempts to drum up a story for the bleak post-apocalyptic world of Apox with seven single player missions.
First, I think it’s worth mentioning that this title is using OGRE for it’s rendering engine which is a free open source rendering engine and has come a long way in helping indie teams get up and running quicker than normal. Having said that, considering that all of the graphics were done by a small team, I think they accomplished quite a bit. The introduction to the campaign of Apox is represented comic strip style and does a really good job of conveying mood and tone through this method alone. From a isometric viewpoint, the gameplay portion of Apox is detailed enough to represent a barren yet not barren wasteland. The vast emptiness of this future world is pockmarked with the excavated remains of a past civilization. Wreckage and destruction, equally represented whether the cause of it be by man or time, sprawl across each level. The difference between old buildings that have been inhabited or newly founded establishments is easily distinguishable and helps showcase the state of civilization at the time or the reckless abandon with which the survivors slapped everything together, respectively.
One weird quirk is that in the tutorial stages you have the ability to rotate the camera freely but in the DLC the ability to do so seems to have been disabled. Another feature that is pretty cool is that you have the ability to rescale the HUD elements on screen. So you can expand or shrink any portion, such as minimap/character/action elements.
The gameplay is actually pretty interesting in that you don’t have to worry about resource management in the traditional RTS sense. You need only have a salvage yard to produce ammo and material automatically. One of the neat things in Apox is that your units can run out of ammo. The instance of having your forces reliant upon limited ammunition changes the dynamic of the game into salvage management which goes perfectly hand in hand with a post apocalyptic setting. Because there is a possibility that the initial unit you built will no longer be able to carry out his function, say a flame thrower unit who runs out of gas, provided he has no other weapons (each soldier can carry three weapons) he will default to his base class which is a knife wielding soldier. Combine this core mechanic with stations that need to be manned and timed release of new units, Apox forces you to use proper strategy because it’s near impossible to mass any type of unit. The tech tree isn’t that large at all so it’s much easier to properly counter certain units. However, because of the slow turn over of survivors into soldiers and finite resources *for* soldiers, it means that a rush strategy is very hard to pull off because when losing units, you are also equipping your enemy with the weapons and ammo you drop. To properly feed and defend your units, you need them in close proximity to your salvage yard(s). Thankfully, as long as any unit is near another entity they will auto share ammo to properly balance out all units. It’s these gameplay decisions that establish the pace and flow of the game. The idea is to expand your territory, suppress the opponent and adapt your forces to take on roles earned from your opponents. You don’t want your forces too far from home without any supplies as they can be easily destroyed. Heavy gunners don’t do too much damage but they do force the enemy to go prone and while snipers have a large range and massive dps, they fire slowly. Last but not least, your units can level up and become more effective, which encourages the limited group approach. I almost think that properly playing Apox is like making a salad. You don’t want to just have just lettuce in your salad with one cucumber and one tomato, you want a proper balance of everything.
This would make for a very fulfilling game, however, Apox is filled with bugs and weird issues. Sometimes, out of nowhere it becomes impossible to mass select units by clicking and dragging a mouse to draw a box around units. One time after finishing a level, it just started the same level again. When you are dead and presented with the menu options, you are allowed to save your game. Upon loading this saved game, you are brought to the moment that you die. In the level when you first meet the doctor, during the “cut scene” he started to run off screen and just kept running.
When the next cut scene happened I was instructed to keep the doctor alive where he instantly died. When playing the game, you can not load your state. To load a saved game you have to exit the game, restart it go to the campaign and then select load. So every time you die, you will have to go through this process which takes about a minute to accomplish. Another issue is that a sound file isn’t included so the game just pauses which you have to alt-tab to the desktop to click “okay” to the error of not finding the .ogg or .wav file.
All of these issues happened to me within the first three levels. It just reeks of little to no quality assurance done on this game. I understand that this is an indie title but jeez, I wasn’t going out of my way to find these things. I think if you just played the game you would easily see these issues.
The music and ambient sounds are in-line with what you should expect. The only thing I find weird and I don’t know if it was a design decision or not is that the sound of the action is reliant upon the distance at which you are viewing the game. When zooming in closer to the action, all of the sounds come to life. When zoomed out to get a better vantage point of all the action that is going on, the sound lowered accordingly. I’m not going to say I dislike this approach because it is interesting. Normally I play zoomed out so everything sounds muffled. I’d like to think that this helps people concentrate better without a ruckus of sound going on. And when you zoom in you can focus more on the action that is going on instead of thinking about the strategy part. I found myself playing around with this now and again, but mostly I played in the zoomed out view.
Outside of this interesting sound direction, one big issue with me is the voice acting. Listed in the credits is one man. And it becomes instantly recognizable that it’s one man in the first 30 seconds of gameplay. The main character talks to an old man and the exchange that happens is so amazingly apparent that it was one voice actor that it forced me to check the credits and verify if I was right. I will say this, if this same person also did the voice for the woman character in the game, then he does a FANTASTIC woman voice. Otherwise, the voice acting wouldn’t be so bad if they had cast more parts for voices. Again, I understand that this is an indie title but damn, if you can only afford one person, make sure he is going to be able to do all the parts you write. As it is, the voice acting in Apox has instantly jumped to my top 10 list of worst voice acting in games.
When we are introduced to the story of Apox, the events up until the world went to hell had either gone unrecorded or purposefully erased. You play as James Kane, the son of man who established the United Earth Stand, the only organized group to form since the destruction. Life seems to be getting better for the downtrodden folk of Apox, but then Michael Gruber, second in command of the UES, turns on Mr. Kane and kills him to take over the UES and change it. Solemnly, James Kane starts to fight back. And as he wins battles, followers start to join the new UES. As James grows in power and recruit new survivors, he goes out to seek revenge on Michael Gruber. As Kane tries to track him down, he realizes that Gruber is trying to construct a super weapon, which only further strengthens his convictions to put a stop to the man who killed his father. Can James and his new recruits bring peace back to Apox?
I like a lot of things about Apox. I like that an indie company is using open source engines and codecs. I like the setting that takes place in Apox and how well it fits together with the core gameplay. Despite the potential of Apox, Apox: Legend is half baked. There really isn’t any reason I should find such easily identifiable bugs and user interface issues. I was dreading every second of the game to see if some new random error would pop up that would either invalidate my save game OR make me load from a save point. Considering that the DLC is only $4.99 it’s not the end of the world, but it’s lacking a lot of polish right now. I will be keeping a close eye on this title and if I have any time when this game is updated I’ll try my best to follow up.
35/100: This DLC needs more TLC