Battles can be wild melees, but you have to constantly micromanage your units to be successful.
One of the game's most touted features is the dual-layer map system that lets you battle it out above and below ground at the same time. This certainly comes into play during some missions, where it's all but impossible to win unless you use the underground. You can, for instance, place spellcasters beneath an enemy base so they can cast spells "upward" to affect units there. On the flip side, if you're directly over an enemy base, you can return the favor. However, in a lot of missions, the dual-layer system is a management hassle because you'll have to constantly toggle between the two to hand-hold your units. Try juggling base-building, resource-gathering, and base-defending with exploring an entirely different map at the same time.
The artificial intelligence is very predictable, and it will build up and dispatch the same units at you over and over again. Once you figure out the pattern, it's easy to build a defensive layer to repel it while you're off handling other things. The only advantage the AI has is the standard RTS one that makes it much better at handling multiple tasks at once than you. Thus, in skirmish games, the AI's better at exploiting the different resource areas on the map and at directing armies at you while you're still building up your base. Armies of Exigo features the standard multiplayer modes, including melee, team melee, king of the hill, skirmish, and capture the flag. The game supports up to eight players, though we wish you good luck in trying to find an opponent. The built-in server browser makes it easy to go online, but the matchmaking lobby is largely empty throughout the day, even though the game has been widely available for more than a week.
From a technical standpoint, Armies of Exigo does put on a great show. The graphics are beautiful, while the prerendered cutscenes are downright gorgeous. You can admire the detail on the elaborate units, such as the gnome steambird, during the quiet moments of the game. Meanwhile, the action looks good, especially if you have magic users who are able to cast wide-area spells over the battlefield. The sound effects are about average for the genre, and they feature all the typical sounds that you'd expect, such as swords clashing. The music is good, but it's hardly noticeable throughout most of the game. Finally, the quality of the voice acting is uneven. As a result, there are some solid performances in there, but there are also some lame-sounding ones as well. The script could also use some variety, because not only do units utter the same two phrases over and over again, but also lines of dialogue are practically taken verbatim from The Lord of the Rings movies.
The game takes place in the forests, caves, and deserts of Noran.
Developer Black Hole certainly has displayed technical prowess with Armies of Exigo, but in the end, the game comes off as a familiar clone in a genre that was overwhelmed by clones several years ago. If Black Hole could mate its modern production values with better gameplay, then it could have a very interesting offering on its hands. That said, if you're looking for an old-school real-time strategy game, then you'll most likely enjoy Armies of Exigo, especially since it features a lot of gameplay in its single-player campaign. Just be prepared for some frustration along the way. However, if you're looking for innovation or streamlined or modern gameplay, you won't find it here.