One of the best games you’ve never heard of!
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.
The musical score in Savage 2 increases immersion ten fold with soothing music that builds at the beginning and transitions to heart-pounding percussion once the first players begin fighting. The music changes depending on specific events in the game. When a faction begins to spawn Hellbourne units, a dark-themed score begins while the sky turns dark red and rains ash and fire. The musical tracks themselves are so suiting to the game that players will be hesitant to run their favorite songs in the background.
The combat is what long-time fans have come to expect from Savage. Fast-paced melee, hectic charges, and long distance ranged exchanges are all ways players engage in combat. By default, melee combat is fought from a third-person perspective, allowing the player to see around and behind while ranged combat using bows, guns or magic are all in first-person. However, it is possible to switch ranged combat from first- to third-person. The combat hasn’t changed much from the original, where players must time blocks and swings to keep from being stunned. If a player attacks an enemy currently blocking, he will be stunned for a short time, making him vulnerable. This isn’t to say that the combat is mindless, but that it is simple to understand while requiring an amount of skill, timing, and strategy.
Despite the removal of upgraded weapons like the sniper bow, Savage 2 incorporates RPG elements by including an above-average stat-tracking system. Players will earn experience points that are persistent, allowing them to compare overall stats to other players on the player ladder. Furthermore, each match is recorded and given specific ID numbers, making it possible for players to go online and download a match’s replay video, see who had the high scores, and rate the match’s excitement. At the end of each match, players can rate their commander and leave a short message as well as provide “Karma” points to individual players.
Experience points and attribute points are reset after each match to ensure that a player with a ton of experience points can’t join a game in progress and completely dominate. Experience points are earned by following the commander’s orders, killing NPCs and enemies, repairing buildings and siege weapons, and healing and casting spells. Fast-paced combat not something you want to do all match long? If not, scouting and building are just as important and will earn you those experience points just the same. Once a player has earned enough experience points, a level is gained and more attribute points are available to place in the rather standard categories: strength, endurance, intelligence, and agility.
Despite all that Savage 2 does well, there are some minor problems. For example, poor terrain design comes into play when players are wasting time attempting to scale the smallest of rocks and getting stuck on edges can be commonplace depending on the map. For the commander, switching between building and resource management to squad control can be cumbersome, forcing the commander to click around randomly before being able to select the building icon. While most of these shortcomings can be remedied with a game update, there is also a bit of a learning curve for newcomers to the world of Newerth. Understanding the maps and game mechanics can be difficult and like most large-scale and team-oriented multiplayer games, it requires a bit of patience at first.
Unfortunately, the largest obstacle Savage 2 must overcome is a lack of exposure. With over 35,000 unique players registered, Savage 2 is growing but until it gains the popularity it deserves, one can expect to have difficulty finding popular servers. To its cause, S2Games does allow players to download a demo of the game, which is essentially a free trial, letting players play the full game for a limited time without stat tracking. Once the demo has expired, the player can choose whether to purchase an account.
Savage 2 is an action-packed multiplayer game that brings the three big genres together in an effective and fun way. It builds upon its predecessor with all new features while holding true to its overall feel and excitement. And, while it isn’t a next-generation title, the game will provide all the exciting gameplay, depth of strategy, and replay value that gamers expect in today’s multiplayer-only titles.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Beautiful and smooth style that is appealing without being next-gen. 3.5 Control
Simple and easy to understand, the controls become second nature quickly. Minor bugs associated with commander controls. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The musical score is impressive and immersive. The combat sound effects can be a little underwhelming at times, but the addition of the Arnold voice macros is a hilarious compensation. Currently a non-functioning VOIP, but expected to be working in future updates. 4.0 Play Value
Action-packed despite being a little confusing at first. Veterans will be right at home while newcomers won’t be far behind. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.