The day we discovered that we weren't alone...
The evidence was irrefutable. Man was no longer alone in the Universe. In fact, the aliens have been around longer than mankind itself. There was much rejoicing on planet Earth as the news spread. People thought that a new era of enlightenment was upon us.
Joy turned to fear, however, the day the Armada arrived. A swarm of ships descended from the heavens, razing cities and decimating the population. Many of those humans who survived the first wave of attack fled the planet in various seeder ships. Some made it, most didn't.
The survivors of the cataclysm settled on 6 different planets, hidden from the Armada. Over the course of 10,000 years, each of the six groups continued to evolve along vastly different paths. One thing was certain, the moment anyone ventured into space again, the Armada was there to intercept them. Finally, the six branches of humanity are once again in contact with each other and united against the Armada. Will unity among the children of Earth be enough to stop the onslaught? Or will the Armada succeed in removing humanity from the universe entirely?
One of the best games I've ever played was called Escape Velocity. Available only for the Macintosh, it successfully blended the action of Asteroids with a complex universe like the one found in Privateer 2. Similarly, Armada blends the action of Asteroids (Well, more like Sinistar) and RPG elements to bring you a game that, above all else, is just a ton of fun to play.
Being one of the few two-dimensional Dreamcast games, many folks might be ready to dismiss the game's graphics. While not stellar, the graphics fit the game to a tee. All the ships are polygonal, which allows them to tilt while turning and other little special effects. Space looks, well, like space, except the designers felt they need to put a strange fog everywhere in order to give the feeling of movement. While that would be fine in some places in the universe (like a nebula), having the fog everywhere is a little lame.
Once you pick which of the six races you wish to represent, each with their own unique ships and initial powerups, you start your journey at Allied Command. After you've talked to the residents of Allied Command, you'll be given a mission and sent into space. While the gameplay is similar to Asteroids, don't think it'll be a walk in the park. There are over a hundred different Armada ship types that are after you. At times, they seem relentless, at other times calm. But you'd better stay on your toes and keep an eye on your armor.
Space is big. Yes, that's an understatement, but it's true. The same goes for space in Armada. Allied Command is based at coordinates (0,0). From that point, space extends out to coordinates (1,000,000, 1,000,000) in both positive and negative directions. It takes a dedicated pilot to try to reach the end of space . . . either that or someone with nothing better to do.
The Armada have been hunting humanity for 10,000 years, so mankind had better develop new technologies in order to fight back. This is where the RPG elements of the game fit in. For every Armada ship you destroy, you gain an amount of experience equal to a multiple of that Armada unit's level. You also can pick through the wreckage to find credits (money) as well.
There are two ways to increase the power of your spacecraft. Besides buying upgrades for your ship (ie bigger guns, tougher armor) using the aforementioned credits, you are rewarded a new ship for every 4 levels you gain. Different combinations of upgrades work better depending on what race and what level you are. Of course, as you get tougher, so does the Armada.
When the going gets tough, the tough get friends. That's right it's multiplayer. Up to four players can play at the exact same time. Also, since Armada saves game data and character data separately, players can take their favorite characters over to their friend's house and join their friend's save game. If only there had been a Star Control type melee option, the multiplayer would have been perfect. As it stands, however, this is one of the best (and most addicting) multiplayer games I've ever played.
As much fun as this game is, it still has some problems. These problems stem not from what is included in the game, but from what isn't. Allied Command is the only 'town'. Period. Sure there are other starbases, but those just act as shops. This means that no matter how far you get in the game, it all still comes back to the start. This lack of depth is further accented by the option to "return home" at any time, allowing you to suddenly jump from wherever you are in the universe back to Allied Command without a scratch. Now that's a nice escape route.
Not that you really need it. Death doesn't matter in Armada. Sure, it keeps track of the number of deaths you have, but that number just doesn't matter as far as I can tell. That leads to another problem: No stats. When I get a weapon upgrade, I want to see a power number change or something. There just wasn't enough detail.
Same goes for the missions. All the missions are either deliver product from point A to point B or kill a specific Armada ship (Generally named something like clawkiller, deathbringer, doomcannon, etc.). Though the NPC's talk about communicating with the Armada, it just doesn't happen. It seems that they planned more depth to the game, but released it early before they were done. While it doesn't ruin the game the way Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was ruined, it's annoying that these details weren't fleshed out.
So, the Armada is threatening the existence of humanity . . . should you help? The answer is a resounding YES. Although it does have its fair share of problems, the pluses far outweigh the minuses. Play it alone or, even better, invite a few friends over and save the universe with the ones you love. Just remember to keep track of the time, this game sucks you in.