Game Rant's Anthony Taormina reviews Army Corps of Hell
While fans will continue to clamor for Nintendo to deliver another entry in the Pikmin franchise, many developers will attempt to take from Pikmin's example and create a familiar yet new experience. That's what Square Enix was trying to do with Army Corps of Hell, their first developmental effort for the PlayStation Vita.
Army Corps isn't all Pikmin, and it isn't all Overlord (the other Pikmin clone to release in the past couple of years), it's a combination of the two. But, in trying to simply capture a demographic, Square Enix failed to create a game that does anything more than repeat, in literally every way possible.
The story in Army Corps of Hell, if you could even call it that, centers on the former ruler of Hell who has been overthrown, and has now turned to a horde of goblins to try to reclaim said throne. As you'd expect the goblins become the controllable minions, and are, in essence, forced to do the bidding of the demon lord, oftentimes meeting a cruel fate because of it. It's a simple motivation for the horde control gameplay in Army Corps, but it feels like story for story's sake, and never really amounts to anything.
But story wasn't going to be the strong suit in a game like this anyways, that responsibility rests solely with the gameplay, which, while extremely more engaging than the story, loses its flavor fairly quick. Army Corps puts the player in control of three different types of goblin — the soldier, the magi, and the spearman — each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The soldier's skill is attacking from close range - and bunches together with fellow soldiers for a larger "salvo attack" that deals out the most damage in the game. Spearman can travel further across the arena to avoid enemies with quicker or area-based attacks, but have a narrower attack radius. The magi can deal out damage to the largest group of enemies (and by largest I mean three), making them perfect for mid-range combat.
Controlling each goblin type is a separate affair, which adds a little bit of strategy to the mix, but mostly it's pretty clear which enemy requires which type of goblin. Unfortunately, before loading up each level, it's unclear what type of goblins will be needed, so it's usually best to stock up on all three types. After that, it's a lot of lather, rinse, and repeat, with very few elements to break up the monotony.
The goblin groups are each controlled differently, in theory, but upon further inspection it's usually a combination of holding the left trigger and pulling the right trigger, or vice versa. The player can dodge around the claustrophobic areas to avoid getting hit, but since goblins can, save for a few elemental attacks, be resurrected, sometimes it's best to just sit back and attack ad nauseam. Put all together, Army Corps of Hell becomes a thoughtless chore of taking one's horde of goblins from mini-area to mini-area, until either a boss fight or a larger combat sequence concludes the level.
Enemies in the game are relegated to a few different types, and bosses are even less so. Throwing in a larger number, or different colors of those same types of enemies, gives the illusion that elements are changing, but after about the first hour everything becomes surprisingly familiar, or more aptly put, repetitive.
Combat gets repetitive, the level designs get repetitive, literally everything becomes repetitive, and ruins what could have been a fun little game. There's multiplayer to make things feel less controlled, sure, but with so many better options available to fill that void on the Vita it's hard to make a case for Army Corps' version. Never has the adjective "stale" been more appropriate than while playing Army Corps of Hell.
At first, the idea of a Pikmin and Overlord hybrid sounds like fun, and when working through the first few levels it actually is, but going for any amount of longevity -- a.k.a. actually trying to get your money's worth -- reveals just how shallow the overall experience is. In trying to make a launch title for the next evolution of the handheld, you'd think that Square Enix would have evolved a concept beyond an extremely basic set of art assets and rules.
Speaking of the Vita, don't even bother looking for innovative rear or front touch controls here, they are relegated to a few mini-games that barely even factor into the core gameplay. In reality, based on the visuals and the limited variety of heavy death metal music replaying over and over, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Army Corps was meant to be a PSP title, but got pushed over to the Vita.
At the end of the day, Army Corps isn’t a missed opportunity; it's a bad idea that does little to disguise itself. The gameplay has its moments, but those take place in the first hour, and don't rear their heads except for in a few boss fights, which also lose their magic by being repeated several times over.
Taken in bite-sized pieces, with long stretches in between, Army Corps of Hell might not seem as repetitive as it is, but looking at the bigger picture it's hard to overlook the shallow launch title Square Enix put together. Games by their very nature ask the gamer to complete the same actions over and over again, but it's the good ones that help the player from realizing it.
Have you had a chance to check out Army Corps of Hell? Feel free to share your thoughts on the game in the comments below.
Army Corps of Hell is out now for the PS Vita.