Strategy games aren’t really all that common on consoles. A controller just doesn’t really lend itself particularly well to the menu-heavy, click focused gameplay and many console strategy games tend to suffer from control and interface issues because of this. 8-Bit Armies is a game in the vein of Command and Conquer and hoped to translate the experience onto a controller as it makes the jump from PC to console.
It isn’t entirely unsuccessful, either. It uses the shoulder buttons to open menus and a radial menus to select buildings or units to produce, while you then have units bound to face buttons when training them for quick access later. It handles the options available here quite well. Other usability features, such as being able to quickly jump to a sector of the map, lessen the load of using analog sticks to swoop about the map. In fact, there are no control issues here, but this due to some other unfortunate issues.
8 Bit Armies is a simple game. Building a sizable army and then sending them at the objective is the course of action for every mission, although not before building your base yet again. It’s a staple of the genre, but it takes a few minutes and it’s a process that starts to feel unnecessary and repetitive after a few missions. You need to gather resources and build defenses, but those defenses are rarely, if ever, tested by the AI in the single player campaign. This isn’t to say that it isn’t enjoyable, at least for a few hours, just that the enjoyment drains after repeating the same steps in every mission.
The missions all take place on different maps, introducing some variety to repeating objectives via truly unexpected environments that have no apparent explanation in the story itself. One mission took place on an erupting volcano complete with lava flows to avoid and a crater you could take detour through if you were feeling brave/didn’t care about casualties.
The levels also have a couple of optional objectives, one of which is usually to complete the mission in a certain amount of time whilst the other tends to be destroying a specific building, or avoiding using a particular type of unit. These additions do keep things feeling a little fresh, but there is only so much it can do to alleviate the repetition.
As the name heavily implies, 8-Bit Armies has a voxel aesthetic. It is bright, colourful, and sharp, but other than that nothing to get too excited about in an art style that has been used a number of times over the years. The sound design is similarly good enough and even mildly amusing as your men stand in a lava flow and just groan about it, although the heavy metal background music seems a little out of place considering the very friendly look of the game. There are a few places in tooltips and menus where text might be a little small to read from the couch. The multiplayer component of the game is pretty empty, which is unfortunate as playing against real opponents may have helped with the game’s lacking enemy AI.
Unfortunately 8-Bit Armies’ attempt at console strategy is simplified to the point that it outstays its welcome after a few hours. Whilst the campaign will keep you entertained for a few hours, the multiplayer is too empty to expect any more game time. Perhaps if you have someone who you can rely on to play against it might be worth picking up, but otherwise it’s probably not going to last long enough to be worth it.
Version tested: PS4 – also available for Xbox One, PC