If I were to tell you that I just played a real-time strategy game that involved dinosaurs, ninjas, Vikings, and flamethrowers, the next words our of your mouth might be something along the lines of "What are you smoking, and can I buy some?" But this is exactly what Sunflowers and SEK's new RTS is all about. Take one part classic strategy gameplay, mix in about twelve parts ridiculousness and you get Paraworld. And while the game may be a bit too simple for some, it delivers where it needs to and gives the player a dose of old-fashioned fun.
The story, as you might expect, is about as oddball as the premise itself, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. When you make a game based on an alternate world in which you command, among other things, dinosaurs and ninjas, your "story" doesn't need to be much more than "Here's a bunch of ridiculous ideas. Go wild!". But for those of you who are curious, the game starts as three scientists are tricked into traveling to a parallel world and conveniently become trapped, forcing them to find a way back. And while they start off working together they eventually split into the game's three playable factions, each of which with its own preferred style of battle.
The story is presented in cutscenes that utilize the in-game engine in order to maintain visual consistency, which may or may not be a good thing. While zoomed out and in the heat of battle, Paraworld looks just fine. The environments are lush, units can sport some cool textures, and there are some great effects to be seen. Unfortunately for cutscenes, things can get a little ugly when the world is zoomed in on. Characters look blocky and animations can be a little clunky and awkward looking. And while these blemishes don't necessarily make the game less enjoyable, it definitely would have been nice to have a little more polish.
The audio in Paraworld ranges from great to laughable depending on the situation. The musical score is fantastic and really does a good job of setting the mood for battle. Heroic music constantly pounds forth from your speakers to keep you pumped up as your army tears across the battlefield. It's a shame that they had to ruin the fun with painfully lame voice acting. Your commanders, especially the "tough guy" Anthony Cole, constantly spit forth dialogue that makes the stuff from the original Resident Evil sound downright tolerable.
The gameplay in Paraworld, while tried and true, is almost too traditional for its own good. Most missions consist of little more than "Build your own base, then destroy theirs". Occasionally you will get a "Defend this" mission or something else to ease the monotony, but such objectives are few and far between. Constant re-use of this all too familiar seek-and-destroy scenario is what will turn people away from Paraworld. While green players will likely find plenty of fun, RTS veterans will probably be left wanting much more.
Paraworld also uses a very familiar resource model. Gather food, stone, and wood in order to build units and allow your workers to construct and improve buildings. Resources are also fairly finite so you always need to be on the lookout for new sources to exploit and defend. However, there is one additional resource that Paraworld throws into the mix: skulls. These are gathered by defeating both enemies and neutral creatures which wander the land. Once you have amassed enough skulls you can spend them to research new epochs and advance your technology as well as use them to promote units to more powerful levels; granting them more strength, health, and perhaps even new abilities.
In fact, it is this ability to upgrade your units that plays hand in hand with Paraworld's best feature, the Army Controller. Along the left side of your screen, the Army Controller shows a portrait and the health of every unit under your command. Using this sweet little tool you can easily sort and select units as well as find out exactly what they are doing at any time. It is so simple yet it works so well.
The Army Controller is also split up into five different tiers, and this is where unit strategy comes into play. As you research new epochs to advance your technology, you also unlock the higher tiers and can promote your units to higher levels. However, each tier has a limited amount of space for units, forcing you to choose carefully which units you want to beef-up. The bottom tier, for example, has 25 spaces available while the top tier has space for only one uber unit. With a maximum army size of 52 units, workers included, Paraworld forces you to think carefully about where you invest your resources, and this creates a welcome challenge.
Paraworld is a simple real-time strategy game that may not offer a lot in terms of depth, but it really hits the nail on the head in the areas where it counts. The Army Controller is an excellent system for managing your forces and should be especially great for those who are new to or picky about RTS games. Hardcore strategy players will likely get a little bored and should look elsewhere, but more casual players will find a lot to like in Paraworld thanks to its smooth gameplay and absolutely ridiculous premise.