|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: S2Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: S2Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-32||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Derek Hidey
Not many gamers are aware of Savage, a multiplayer-only game developed and published by S2Games. The unique vision was first realized when Savage: The Battle for Newerth was released in September 2003, putting the first real-time strategy shooter (RTSS) game on the retail market. However, despite its combining of the FPS, RPG, and RTS genres, the game received very little attention by the media and consumers, making its fans consider it a lost jewel of gaming.
Nevertheless, almost five years later S2Games is at it again with their second installment, Savage 2: A Tortured Soul. Savage 2 is a multiplayer-only game pitting two large teams against each other, so don't expect much plot or storyline. The conflict is between two factions: Legion of Man and Beast Horde; each one has distinct-looking units and buildings as well as having unique skill trees. Players will have the option of picking among four different archetypal classes such as a builder/engineer, ranger/ranged attacker, melee specialist, and mage/healer. There are some differences in classes between Man and Beast. For example, the Beast equivalent to the Man's barbarian class is a caster that can summon NPC beasts to help fight.
One major gameplay difference between Savage 2 and the original is how buildings are constructed. In the original, all the players, regardless of class, were able to help construction by swinging their weapons next to the building. However, Savage 2 requires the player to pick a specific builder class and, instead of just swinging a weapon, the player pushes and holds "R" to construct. This change forces teams to find a suitable balance between their combat and builder classes, adding another aspect of strategy.
Each match played forces the two factions to contest over resource mines and a new type of resource to Savage 2 called Hellbourne Scars. The Hellbourne Scars are captured by the faction that builds a shrine on top of it. Once built, each player begins to earn soul points by killing enemy players and NPCs of level five and higher. Once the player has accumulated five souls, he can go to the shrine and transform into a large and powerful Hellbourne unit, capable of destroying building and units with ease. While controlling the gold mines and choke points are still important in Savage 2, the Hellbourne Scars provide another facet to strategy.
As always, players have the option of taking a personnel role or a commanding role in the game. At the beginning of each match, the game goes through starting phases that allow the players to get organized. It is during this time that a commander is elected by each faction and officers are assigned. As a commander, the player has a top-down view of the map and plays a vital role as a builder and mage, much like in an RTS. Not only will commanders have to keep track of resources and overall battlefield movements, but he can also reinforce his units by casting buffs or debuffs, making it possible to turn the tide of a battle.
Possibly taking a page from EA's Battlefield series, Savage 2 also incorporates squad-based strategy. In the first Savage, when the commander would issue orders to the team, it would be an order for everyone. However, in Savage 2, the players are automatically divided into squads of four players each, including the officer. Commanders then have the ability to give squad-specific orders, making it much easier to divide and conquer. The game also has a built-in VOIP feature, which is currently disabled until S2Games gets the kinks worked out and a more traditional voice menu for players who don't have microphones. There are even built-in Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes that can be used, practically forcing many victorious players to spam the California governor's many one-liners, such as "You are mine now! You belong to me!"
While Savage 2 doesn't push the envelope with next-generation visuals, the game's environments are rich, lively, and full of color. From snow-covered hills to autumn-colored trees, each map will offer a variety of eye candy. A weather system that brings the occasional thunderstorm and rain is also a nice addition. The spell effects and combat animations are colorful and exaggerated, fitting the mood and setting of Savage perfectly.