Wrath Unleashed is a new hybrid action strategy game from LucasArts and The Collective that's reminiscent of an old computer gaming classic, Archon, which was kind of like chess but with real-time combat between the units on the board. The game's not ideal on every level, but it's good enough on all of them so that it should provide an entertaining experience and a decent amount of replay value for those who enjoy equal parts methodical strategy and button-mashing mayhem.
Wrath Unleashed presents equal parts strategy and action in a mixture that's pretty entertaining overall.
There are four factions in Wrath Unleashed that have both elemental and moral affiliations, and each is led by a demigod or demigoddess who personifies these factors. Light Order is the purest force of good; it focuses on water and is led by the fair Aenna. The noble and fiery Epothos commands the Light Chaos forces, while Durlock uses his mastery of earth and metals to corral the creatures of Dark Order. Finally, the totally evil Helamis is the mistress of the air and commands the forces of Dark Chaos. There's only enough backstory in Wrath Unleashed to engender this elemental conflict, and the gods' constant squabbling and vying for the throne of Gaia are all that's necessary to provide the impetus for the game's battles.
There are several ways to get into battle in Wrath Unleashed. Most players will be interested in playing the campaign mode first, since it features missions that are tied in to the game's storyline (thin though it may be). You can play the four factions' campaigns in any order, although you may be disappointed to learn that there are only four missions per campaign. The missions ramp up in difficulty, though, and they're all quite different from each other. So 16 missions isn't really that bad, especially when you take into account that the quick battle mode will provide much more replay value thanks to the prematch variables (like army size and map type) you can fiddle with. In this mode, up to four factions--using your desired mix of human and AI players--can compete on close to a dozen game boards. There are a few other, lesser modes to flesh out the experience a little, such as versus and team fighter modes that ditch all the strategy and just let you focus on the game's action combat (in single duels or a progression of matches, respectively). Finally, an army builder option lets you construct a custom force to use in battles.
The game's strategy component is complex yet reasonably easy to get into.
Once you get down to the actual gameplay in Wrath Unleashed, you've got a bit of a learning curve ahead of you. The game includes a single-mission tutorial that lays out the basics but is a little bit on the short side; at the end, it's suggested that you read the manual to understand more advanced concepts. Anyway, matches take place primarily on hex-grid game boards of varying layouts. You and your opponents take turns moving units around, while trying to claim various structures or defeat key enemies, until someone has satisfied the mission's victory requirement. These usually have you completing simple tasks, such as capturing the majority of the map's temples or defeating all the enemies on the board. When two units occupy the same hex, a battle ensues, and the loser vanishes from the map. This should be pretty familiar territory to strategy aficionados, though there's a bit more to the game than just the strategizing.
The action component in Wrath Unleashed proceeds from the clash of two units, at which point the game turns into a sort of giant monster pseudofighting game. You'll switch to a close-up 3D arena where the two units will fight in real time, and you'll be wholly responsible for keeping your unit alive and winning the fight. You've got a healthy enough assortment of offensive options. Melee and magic attacks both come in light and heavy versions, and you also have a special magical attack that takes more time to pull off. You can also block and sidestep to stave off enemy attacks. A few environmental hazards exist, which can trip you up or do extra damage if you aren't careful. Pretty basic stuff, really. Of course, some units are overwhelmingly more powerful than others, but it's neat that if you get really good at the combat, you can sometimes win a battle with a much lesser unit through your fighting skill alone, which can really help to turn the tide of a match.