Z Steel Soldiers Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

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Z Steel Soldiers Review



Z Steel Soldiers is a RTS developed by Bitmap Brothers which was originally released back in 2001 and has recently become available through Steam. It is important to note that the game is hitting 13 years old so it will be pretty dated by today’s standards. Z: Steel Soldiers is the sequel to the excellent (but older still) Z released back in 1996 which is also available on Steam.

Z reinvigorated many elements of the RTS genre by taking the manufacture of a base and building specific units out of the equation. There was very little micromanagement and success was measured by how you utilise the troops, rather than what you built first. It was incredibly funny and was infused with a brilliant light heartiness. Sadly almost everything that endeared me to Z has been completely removed from Z: Steel Soldiers.

The general gameplay will see you take command of a base with a few troops, you can use your combat units to capture other sections of the map and may be rewarded with additional buildings where you can train more troops from or you can just build them yourself. This takes me to the first problem I have with Z: Steel Soldiers. It may not sound like much but it will take 22 seconds to build a single machine-gunner (the most basic unit), this can make building your forces for an offensive a painfully long affair, in later sections of the game dozens of troops can be lost in moments causing upwards of an additional ten to fifteen minutes to rebuild the forces. For me it was too long to simply sit and wait every time there was a reasonably large fight. Steel Soldiers has no use for tactics, brute force will always win and I found that if I had more units than the enemy I would undoubtedly prevail. Once again I will note that the game was out in 2001 so I don’t expect the same level of depth in gameplay we have nowadays but even by 2001 standards it felt incredibly lacklustre. My second complaint is that the brilliant humour from the original is completely missing, there are obviously some attempts to rekindle the fire but none really take hold.

My biggest complaint by far is the user interface. The UI is abysmal. There’s no other way to put it. After fighting with the UI for the first dozen levels I lost all interest in trying to ask any more than the bare minimum from it. Selecting units by a simple click and drag may not seem hard but Steel Soldiers often refused to select the units and when I did manage to select them if I tried to move them too quickly after it nothing would happen. This made managing my troops on the middle of combat a lesson in frustration and I was about ready to throw in the towel. Don’t get me wrong, the gameplay itself isn’t bad as much as it is incredibly mediocre and uninspired.

The campaign is mercilessly tedious with every level boiling down to the same routine with only very minor differences. Often you will need to get a certain unit to a location however the only indication you have as to who “Lassar” is will be a slight flash on the character model. There are no names selected or highlighted for special characters so these missions can become very annoying. The enemy AI has no real persona beyond sending enough troops to count as an “attack” with no real threat of ever destroying your base. The only time I really died in missions was when my special “escort” unit would decide to stand and fight an enemy rather than obeying my frantic clicked orders to disengage.

Sadly the voice acting is rather poor, I am sure that I heard one character talking during the beginning of a mission and the accent changed. Now it’s not impossible that I am mistaken here but I listened to it a few times and I genuinely believe that by the context of what is said that it was the same character (the accent then reasserted itself mid-sentence). It is a shame that little mistakes like this slipped through the net because they have a hugely detrimental effect to the overall experience.

The final nail in Z: Steel Soldiers coffin is the complete lack of any skirmish or multiplayer modes. While lobbies and matchmaking weren’t huge back in 2001 I would have expected a simple skirmish option to face off against the AI.

So far this has been fairly negative and it may seem overly critical after such a long period of time however I still go back and play the original Z and I still have a great time. The graphical quality can be forgiven, Steel Soldiers is fairly mediocre on the eyes with unit animations being pretty blocky and very bland level design but once again…… its 13 years old so this is to be expected. I think the true disappointment with Z: Steel Soldiers is that they changed and removed everything that made the original the great game that it was. There is plenty of gameplay on offer for those who are more interested in quantity over quality. While Steel Soldiers won’t challenge a veteran RTS player if you have the patience for the sarcastically long build time on troops and you can get past the UI issues then you will find a mediocre but solid game.