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N3: Ninety Nine Nights

I’m not really a fan of real-time battle strategy, primarily because I suck at them. The reason why I opted to try N3 is because Q Entertainment was involved. The producer who gave us visual beauties like Rez and Lumines also put a direct hand in Ninety Nine Nights, and I’m willing to step outside my preferred genre for a pretty game.

It is indeed very pretty. I cooed and gasped at the gorgeous opening sequence. I dutifully waded through the brief tutorial, during which I wondered at the console’s power to individually animate hundreds of armored infantry, especially when my ludicrously powerful character swept them away like dry leaves. All this happens without a single perceptible hitch.

You get to bring a couple platoons with you into battle, but it might as well be your lone character against an army – he/she is certainly capable of it. The power balance is so out of control, that after singlehandedly defeating several battalions upfield, I return to the main fray only to find my own troops struggling with a paltry handful of denizens. I’m then forced to stupidly sift them out so I can get on with the bloody mission.

And while I’m on the subject of unreal balance issues, I’ll throw in my opinion about N3’s ability to immerse the player in the frenzy – It’s absolutely non-existant. Even though the game has great success in creating a graphically rich and fluid world, the overall immersion factor tanks on account of several glaring flaws.

First comes the scripting and voice acting. Imphyy sounds like she’s voiced by a twelve year-old girl, and the most uninspiring front-line speech possible compounds on a bad performance. The multi-faceted plot is as thin as sweat soup.

The next turn-off is the lack of diverse units to command. You get a choice between three types of melee soldiers and a platoon of archers. Because many of the levels demand that you constantly advance your troops to a rendezvous, the archery unit is mostly useless.

Not that it really matters that your archers shoot into a mass of mixed soldiers, because friendly fire is always disabled. Your powerful avatar du jour may sweep his weapon through the fray in graceful Wushu-inspired twirls and nuke his foes to his heart’s content, and never think twice as to whether his own men are in the way, because they never are.

With other RTS games, you have to invoke your higher functions a bit in order to manage structured bases, economic dynamics, and to organize and deploy forces according to clear objectives. However, for the implicitly protracted war called “Battle of Ninety-Nine Nights”, you simply aim for center mass, hack, slash, nuke, repeat.

Well, that was an enlightening little jaunt. Now I’m going to play Lumines on Challenge Mode until my eyeballs melt.

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