There was a time in my life where all I would play was first person shooters and the occasional real-time strategy game. The concept of a game that mixed first-person shooter gameplay with real-time strategy aspects seemed, at the time, like some sort of gaming Holy Grail. Surprisingly, there have been relatively few games released that have attempted a mix of first-person and tactical gameplay. Eximius: Seize the Frontline is a game that earnestly attempts to mix these two genres. After two plus years of Early Access on Steam and some issues with their previous publisher, developer Ammobox Studios is finally releasing their ambitious game.
Eximius: Seize the Frontline is a first person shooter and real-time strategy hybrid that features five versus five battles. Each team is comprised of four officers, and one commander—with the commander able to go into a real-time strategy isometric view of the battlefield. You can choose between the two factions: Axeron, who wields advanced robotics or the more traditional Global Security Force (GSF) that resembles more of a modern military than their sci-fi counterparts. As an officer, gameplay is much like an objective-based first person shooter, but with the addition of NPCs that are being ordered by the commander. Eximius, unfortunately, falls into the trap of being neither a great real-time strategy or first person shooter.
As a shooter, Eximius is just okay. Movement feels stiff, though the gunplay is serviceable. Guns feel sufficiently meaty and damaging (though I think most of the guns are hit scan), with a time to kill that is extremely low—even against player characters. This can make death feel sudden, especially when you’re swarmed by a mass of commander-controlled NPCs, a phenomenon that is as frustrating as it is absurd, since the bots move in clusters, something that is normal in a real-time strategy game but completely out of place in a first person shooter. The AI in Eximius isn’t that great either, which is a shame, because it’s a large component of the game both in multiplayer and single player.
Battles in Eximius can be impressive, though. Following a small army of commander controlled soldiers can be intriguing—but they end up feeling like fodder at best, and a distraction at worst. Any NPC soldier that isn’t actively being ordered by a commander does not take initiative, either, so it’s not uncommon to see a line of soldiers just standing there, even as enemies are shooting only a street away.
One of Eximius’ selling points is the ability to call in battle suits. It’s a cool concept, and one that makes non-commander characters feel a little bit more powerful (though commanders have access to battle suits, too.) These suits have short donning animations for the GSF, while the Axeron version is literally 3D printed on your character—which is a neat concept, but it’s visually unappealing. Disappointingly, battle suits fall a little flat. They bestow abilities onto your character, but as more of a type of class specialization than a full blown exo suit.
As a real-time strategy game, Eximius feels light.You can build buildings, issue commands to players and NPCs, etc. There are a few tech upgrades, and eventually access to better units and battlefield support options. Before starting a match, each commander is given the option of playstyle, three for each faction, that changes the technologies and units available. While I understand the design decision, unlocking these units in-game in reaction to the opposing commander’s strategy would have been more interesting.
Unlike a player versus player real-time strategy game, however, Eximius doesn’t feel like two commanders doing battle. Afterall, there are four other human players on your team that very easily thwart your cunning plans, and can take advantage of the poor AI pathing. Battles feel like they’re more about superior numbers than clever tactics. Also, as a real-time strategy, Eximius suffers from horrible controls. I don’t know if it’s by design that I couldn’t pan my camera, but in the review build, even after rebinding the control, I couldn’t. Also, the view is abysmal. Zoomed out, you can barely make out that there is a battle happening below. Better UI, more distinct unit silhouettes and a better commander camera would have helped all of these issues.
There are multiple ways to play Eximius. Online player versus player or cooperative matches seem to be the way it’s meant to be played. You can player five on five battles, or cooperatively fight with other players against the AI. There is also a Co-op mode where you and four other players complete set objectives. You can also play Eximius in single player mode, though the horrible AI makes this a test of patience more than a fun game. There is a tutorial that shows you the ropes—though I wish it was better. These tutorial levels also serve as sort of challenge levels, where you can attempt to beat your previous best attempt.
Eximius: Seize the Frontline is a project that has had a lot of effort put into it. The developers have a vision that needed some compromise to provide better gameplay. Too many moving pieces, too many considerations for balance, and gameplay that isn’t fleshed out, tight, or fun makes Eximius flounder as both a real-time strategy game and as a shooter. What really makes Eximius painful is its lackluster AI—something that is damnable in a game that relies on it. If you’re looking for a great real-time strategy and first persons hooter hybrid, Eximius just doesn’t do it.
Eximius: Seize the Frontline releases tomorrow on Steam.
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