Machines at War 3 is, as the title gives away, the third title in the series. I have to admit that I have not played the previous two iterations so I come into this game with no previous opinions based on the faults or praises of the past games. Machines at War 3 is a real time strategy game, and from the outset it looks very much like Command and Conquer or Total Annihilation, the top down perspective appears to have taken a lot of inspiration from these titles and would not look out of placed if they were released ten to fifteen years ago when these others originally were.
As we all know though looks aren’t everything and I have to say that graphics, for me at least, do not play a huge part in my enjoyment of an RTS game and in all honesty MAW3 looks fine with enough detail in the terrain and the various units to make it look like a modern re-imagining of Command and Conquer, which essentially it is. One nice touch was the various weather effects that were employed in the game, the rain in particular looked great when it would sweep across the map and this certainly helped increase the gritty feel of the graphics.
The soundtrack to the game is superb, I really loved the orchestral take with some songs reminding me of the Lord of the Rings movies of all things. Despite spending many hours playing various missions I never got to a point where I felt I had to turn the music off which is quite rare when it is effectively on loop, it just seemed to fit the game perfectly. The sound effects also were brilliant, when building a new structure or unit the sounds, like the music, fit perfectly. From the distorted soldier commands to the sound of missiles launching from an attack helicopter I could not fault it and it all just helps you get immersed in your task at hand.
The gameplay is, as expected, very similar to the majority of RTS games that have been released over the years. In the story based campaign you have to rescue scientists that have been captured by the Chinese; it was surprisingly long with a good variety of mission from stealth missions, guiding small units through an enemy infested map to the more standard all out war that pits your army against the enemies with the survivor being the winner. In various missions you can unlock unique units, such as the Goliath tank and whilst some missions appeared similar on first impressions I never got bored of playing through them. I do admit to getting frustrated though, one mission in particular forced you to complete tasks within a very strict time limit and it took me many goes to get through it but this was unique in that regard. I enjoyed the single player campaign and the skirmish mode was also great to play through solo pitting my self against the AI on the other side.
To build up your base and in turn strengthen your army you have to produce Ore and Power, Ore is generated initially by your HQ but later on you can mine it and various other materials in Spec Mines that can be placed on certain areas of the map. Power on the other hand can only come from structures that you build on the map, these come from small wind turbines to large underwater geothermal plants. You can accumulate as much power as possible from as many structures as you can fit on the map but Ore has to be stored either in the HQ or in storage units that you must construct. Power is primarily used to power the buildings, factories, shields and turrets for your base where as Ore is used to construct buildings and units.
The variety of the units you can construct is fairly high, the standard types are all there, military, land vehicles, sea vehicles and aircraft, with a few unique units created from the various materials you can mine. To unlock all of the units you will need to research different tech levels at your HQ, this prevents you from just going in and building the most powerful units from the off and more importantly it does encourage you to look for new mining sites and to keep on top of your ore and power levels to keep your base running smoothly.
The AI in the game generally is good and makes the game enjoyable to play, there is nothing groundbreaking though with enemies following basic scripted patterns and there are a few bugs, the one I encountered the most was soldiers attacking walls instead of the enemy units that were blowing them up. The nature of the game made me play defensively first by building turrets guarded with shields and spreading these across the map in stages before swamping the enemies base with a variety of ground air and sea units, this may just be how I play the game though, afraid to lose and patiently waiting to crush my foe once I have crept up to them.
Overall I really enjoyed playing Machines at War 3, it is great fun and this is essentially what every game is aiming to be. Possibly the greatest aspect of this game is that it was essentially created, developed and produced by one man, James Bryant. I find it incredible that such a highly polished and enjoyable game can still be created like this in 2014. It is reminiscent of the 1980s when many great game developers were doing exactly the same with their home computers and I have to applaud him for his efforts on this game, I would not believe it was mainly the work of one man to create this game that I have had the pleasure of playing. If you love the classic RTS titles such as Command and Conquer then you really will love playing Machines at War 3.
For more info on the game, visit the developer’s site: http://www.isotope244.com/machines-at-war-3.html
Reviewed on PC