As someone who has lived in the Middle East his entire life, and as someone who has witnessed the birth of hardcore video game development in Oman, I'm especially excited that games from the Middle East are finally getting recognition across the world. Just a few months ago I reviewed Dark Years (also from an Iranian developer) for the PC. In the review I write that "Dark Years comes off as a pretty good attempt at creating an aperture between the Iranian gaming scene to the rest of the world. However, the aperture is very, very small." E.T. Armies blasts that aperture into the hole the size of Jupiter's red spot.
Developed by Iranian company, Raspina, E.T. Armies is an ersatz first-person shooter that's seemingly stitched together from practically every action-oriented video game released this past decade. Whether intentional or not, you'll undoubtedly find yourself reminiscening about the Helghast army from Killzone; Isaac Clarke from Dead Space; the disgruntled cogs from Gears of War; the officers from Clive Barker's Jericho; Dubai of the future from Spec Ops: The Line; and if you've ever dabbled in FPS Creator (a free game development software), the countless amateur fan-made half-games.
These not-so-covert inspirations hit you like a hard brick - and all this is just in the first hour of the game. The more you progress the more the similarities to the aforementioned, and indeed other games the likes of Halo, Destiny, Rage, Mass Effect and Far Cry: Blood Dragon, become more and more pronounceable. Needless to say I quickly gave up on adding two and two together as each and every time I did it, the burning desire to return to the original games grew only that much more stronger. I'm genuinely surprised, however, that no elements from Half-Life make appearances in this game. Maybe Half-Life isn't as popular in the Middle East as I thought it would be.
But this is not to say E.T. Armies is a boring, dead game. Oh no, far from it. The obvious cues to other games notwithstanding, E.T. Armies is actually a spectacular effort for an indie newcomer. Granted, the writing's a bit off, the story is flimsy, the cover mechanics are practically nonexistent, the voice-acting is not the greatest, and the impact of firepower don't feel 'felt'. But despite the numerous shortcomings, there's a certain fidelity, a charm to it that just cannot be denied. It's a clear promise of great things to come. Seriously, if Raspina has any intention to continue making more games like this, suffice to say I'm already a dedicated fan. If you follow the indie game scene closely as I do, then you know the first-person shooter genre is the go-to genre for budding developers hoping to become the next best thing in the world of gaming.
You will notice however that the genre has been appearing less frequently than ever before as more and more indie developers are taking the so-called 'art' approach - implementing personal and political stories into the mix. While quite a few do take place from a first-person perspective, they aren't 'shooters' by any sense. So a game like E.T. Armies, flawed yes but still a treat, has me convinced that revolutionary innovations to the so-called least innovative genre will come from the indie gaming scene. That pioneering developer hasn't emerged yet, but if more companies like Raspina from unexpected parts of the world get noticed by the serious market, we will soon enough have one.
E.T. Armies is set in a dystopian future where Earth has all been but abandoned by everyone. Resources are low and a ruthless enemy force by the name of Forsaken has taken over the deserted planet. The few remaining, for some reason or another (I don't know and I don't care), have banded together and are attempting to eradicate the Forsaken once and for all. Yeah, the story is just as forgettable as it is bland and unoriginal. The only thing that kept my attention longer than a couple of seconds was the usage of Arabic names for characters, such as Farhad and Ashkan. I had a childhood friend by the name of Farhad so this was very much pleasing to hear.
Virtually no solid reason is given as to why you're gunning down enemies, holding the fort, or just generally engaging in a massacre of faceless foes. This confusion is further alleviated by the weak attempt at a coherent story, but now I'm just unnecessarily focusing on a decidedly superficial matter. Since only a small number of games actually manage to get the story aspect of their games right, among them blockbuster AAA games, the total lack of a proper story in E.T. Armies can be forgiven. Let's change tracks and talk about character development, shall we? Oh that's right, there's zero servings going around of that, too. Great, now I got absolutely nothing else to talk about.
At this point you may be wondering what my overall reception toward the game is. How I do wish the answer was the usual and simple "positive" or "negative". Sure the flaws are numerous, but E.T. Armies is not a game that lets the experience get bogged down by them. For a first attempt by a company operating in that part of the world not recognized at all in the video game industry, I see E.T. Armies as a promise, one of the genesis points of a brand new vanguard that might, who knows, one day rub shoulders with Japan and America. Until such a time comes, enjoy this game. I really recommend it.
Article by Hamza