By: Ted Chow
With a shortage of real-time strategy games on the market these days, it’s nice to come across the few games that continue to keep the genre alive. While Etherium isn’t your fast-paced Starcraft 2 affair in terms of micro-management and APM, the game has bits and pieces that make it stand out amongst the crowd. This is mostly due to the strategic nature of the game with the different victory conditions and game modes available. If you enjoy a blend of Starcraft 2 and Civilization, you’ll see some similarities that may pique your interest.
The controls in Etherium are pretty meticulous and deliberate, akin to a board game of sorts. There is no barrier to entry if your APM is on the lower end or if you can’t micro all the nuisances that come with unit abilities and other intricate tactics. You’ll move your units and build structures as though you were playing a game of chess, strategically planning out your road to victory.
Camera panning and other map functions also feel pretty fluid as you move across your screen. Overall, Etherium has solid controls with good frame rates for a smooth experience.
Etherium can have some good production value at times, but when it comes to the in-game units and other structures, the quality can be inconsistent. The graphics can be bland at times and often muddied and unintelligible to the eye as everything is naturally zoomed too far out for you to notice these issues. The soundtrack was also timid at best and doesn’t stand out all too much as to encapsulate and invigorate you in the heat of battle.
The best way to describe Etherium is that it is a mix between Civilization and Starcraft 2 as it takes elements from both. Much of the game relies on you managing your territories and building structures in order to stay alive. Your bases offer some simple Civilization level city management in order to unlock additional options to help with your planetary conquest.
The other portion of the game revolves around conquering the surrounding map and your enemies through different victory conditions. The most common route would be to amass an army and destroy the enemy outright, but technological victories and your match score can serve as other factors to win.
Etherium comes with a few different game modes and races to play as and against. Skirmishes are quick matches, while conquest mode can be equated to your single player. Races have some interesting back lore and strategic depth to the producible units and global abilities you acquire.
Every race has some reason to try to collect the resources of the six planet worlds that you have access to, each containing their own natural disasters to throw curveballs in your conquest. Additionally, every planet has multiple variable maps as well as neutral civilizations that you can bring under your banner.
Combat in this game is where the real time in RTS comes into play. Like other RTS, certain units fulfill different roles such as infantry, tank and air. Hard counters are available to every unit and all of the action is presented in real time.
The strategy portion comes into play when you maneuver your squad-based units into arctic forests and other terrain to give your forces an edge in combat. For example, bringing your squad into a forest will give them natural defenses, while fighting enemies hidden in the forest will incur penalties for your exposed soldiers. Combine that with the global abilities available to each race and you can rain down heavy orbital bombardments or other sneaky tactics to give your units the edge in battle.
While the game may feel lukewarm to RTS players accustomed to faster-paced play, Etherium is a game that doesn’t transcend itself into uncharted territory, but rather stays close to the vest in its mechanics. The combat may feel lackluster at times and the visual effects are not always up to par. However, the game shines in the strategic department and is best suited for those that want to take their time.