Etherium preview: There's a storm coming

With a lot of real time strategy games on the market it can sometimes be hard to figure out what to try next, with some massively more complex than the others, or competition that is insane when playing in multiplayer, it can make it quite daunting to find a new game to play. Well Tindalos Interactive are attempting to minimise the confusion from their perspective by creating an RTS with minimal unit management and clicks required, while also providing a compelling universe and randomised gameplay to make every game feel different to the next.

Set within a futuristic universe Etherium sets out an age old war between three different factions, all fighting for the same thing, Etherium; a very rare resource that is laid by creatures every 1000 years. Everyone wants it for their own reasons storywise, but it’s also the main collectable resource in game that allows you to expand your bases and purchase units. So it’s up to you to try and gain as much as possible, not just for your faction but also so you can be the best at your game.

There are three main factions, each one has their own goal which ultimately ends with collecting Etherium. The Consortium, the Council and Galaad are the factions that you'll have to learn strategies for. The Council sounded like a very interesting faction as they're overly religious and see a divine power within the Etherium, but it's not only that, they’re also made up of precogs, and these powers can be utilised in game. We weren't able to see these abilities in action, but the developers promised that they gave you some interesting choices and spiced the gameplay up. The Galaad require the Etherium the most as unlike wanting it for gain or for power, they need it to live. They use it's cells to grant themselves eternal life, as long as they have a steady supply of it, without it they have no chance.

Etherium in game screenshot

One of the most interesting features and key selling points in Etherium that isn’t all that common among RTS games is the dynamic weather system that they have crafted for the seven planets that exist within the game. Each planet is vastly different from the next and not only has it’s own environment and NPCs but the weather can also be particular to a planet as well. Of course on a desert planet they may be partial to sand storms, but you can also expect horrendous weather conditions like blizzards, electrical storms or even hurricanes. But don't let that put you off, the weather can also work in your favour, you could for example cross a river because it's now frozen due to such cold conditions. However really bad weather can also immobilize your units, so keep an eye on the sky as a storm may be coming and it's better to find some cover and wait it out than attempt to take out your enemy when you're in a potentially vulnerable state.

The gameplay as you'd guess is quite similar to other real time strategy games out there, you'll have units to command and upgrades you can purchase in order to better yourself. Plus along with the standard units you also have command skills which are five special skills that you can select from a pool before your game. Skills can be defensive, offensive or general perks and will make up the strategy that could win or lose you a game. Command skill points are earned gradually during play so you have to be clever in your usage of them. Monoliths are scattered around the map and you have to take control of them in order to build a base, mixing up the gameplay by not allowing you to build bases where you wish, which is of course the norm for most RTS games where you put bases and buildings where you wish. This creates more of a required strategy by making your choices count more than usual.

Etherium also changes up everything another way, by adding a more MOBA like element in the form of mobs, which are known as secondary factions. These secondary factions depend on the environment that you’re within, but you can use them to your advantage. Secondary factions will be randomly spawned on the map and allow you to interact with them in a variety of ways. You can of course just ignore them and focus solely on crushing your opponent but you can also destroy these harmless characters for potential xp or rally them to join your side, each faction however requires different criteria in order to successfully convert them to your side, for example the robot faction needs you to create a virus clever enough to overcome them. This could be achieved by learning a piece of technology to do so, but do you want to surrender time that could be used for acquiring technology to better your odds against the enemy, or just for some little robots.

Etherium in game screenshot 2

To add a little bit of personality to the game, other than the great science fiction setting, a large portion of the game has been massively inspired by 80s culture, each of the secondary factions take an influence from icons that may be familiar to some including raiders that may remind you of the thuggish gang members from Mad Max, or perhaps the Xenomorph inspired aliens. The 80s influence isn’t just through the secondary factions though, the environments and even weather can also credit certain films, including the spectacular Dune. Which not only influences one of the planets visually but Dune 2: Battle for Arrakis was a very big inspiration for the game itself along with other old school RTS games including the Command and Conquer series.

Along with little NPCs on the planet surface you can also use the environment to your advantage by having it work with you on your defence against the enemy, this can occur if you head towards a forest. While within the forests’ bounds you can receive minimal cover which allows your units to take a little more damage before they die, you can also do similar with buildings you come across, which also provide shelter not only from enemies but potentially from the weather.

Etherium is set for a release during Q2 of 2014 and will be available on Windows, we can’t wait to see some more on the game after not being able to experience a sand storm in person, but we're sure they're spectacular.