Review: Why it’s impossible to take anything seriously in Elements of War

Here’s what we didn’t like about this RTS.

By Matt Eades, April 27, 2011

Possibly the best way to think of Elements of War would be to picture it as an old, beaten up car that has seen more owners than you have fingers. It doesn’t run particularly well, certainly doesn’t look stunning and after taking it out for a spin, you feel that you desperately need a shower.

Elements of War is a real time strategy game that attempts to combine modern warfare with futuristic elements, such as power armor and vehicles that can turn the force of the weather against your enemies. While this is supposed to be the selling point for the game, the weather weapons are far too rarely used (at least in the seven or so hours I played) to actually motivate the player to continue with the story.

Upon deciding to start the game, the player is treated to a cut-scene very reminiscent to the load-screen cinematics present in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. While in CoD we are treated to some enjoyable dialogue, with Elements of War we are forced to endure three plus minutes of a script that was clearly lost in translation. Many of the onscreen subtitles lack proper grammar and quite often the dialogue doesn’t even match. Going back to the Call of Duty comparison one final time, in CoD the game is actually loading, but with Elements of War is just looks like it is. After the cinematic we are treated to yet another loading screen.

The gameplay mechanics for Elements of War are also incredibly clunky and hard to use. Instead of allowing the player to move their point of view by mouse-ing to the edge of the screen, as almost every RTS before it has, Elements of War forces you to use the WASD keys. Interestingly enough, there is also no way to rebind gameplay keys. The mouse I was using to play with didn’t have a middle mouse button, so for the entirety of the campaign I was unable to change my camera angle.

Selecting units is fairly standard; you can either click on a unit or drag a selection box around a group of them, however selecting units out of a group is next to impossible. Each unit has a unique special ability and it is often necessary to select a specific unit and use its ability. Upon choosing your single unit, all other selected units are dropped and the player has to drag around them all again.

Along with some major gameplay issues there are also many smaller subtleties that conspire against the player. Alone, any of these smaller issues would probably go unnoticed but Elements of War continuously piles them on and they eventually become overbearing. Perhaps most noticeable is the lack of any sort of sound level balancing. After adjusting the volume to a comfortable level for the dialogue in a cut scene, the scene will abruptly switch to a firefight which is so loud it becomes impossible to hear the dialogue. Another niggling issue is that soldiers will play idle sounds while they are standing still (e.g. sniffling or farting). This isn’t really a problem, except for the fact that those sounds continue to play over cut scenes. Combined with the American soldier’s inexplicable Russian accents and it becomes impossible to take anything seriously.

Overall, Elements of War feels like some old RTS from the early 90’s. The clunky controls, uninteresting story and frustrating gameplay elements make it almost impossible to enjoy. While the weather controlling vehicles are fairly neat, they don’t really make the game enjoyable or fun to play. Returning to the old, busted car metaphor, it’s like having a brand new radio in that car. Sure it’s enjoyable, but it doesn’t change the fact that the exhaust is battered, the windscreen is cracked and the battery is leaking onto the floor.

4 out of 10

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