Ever see a Giant get squashed by a bug?
Have you ever had the pleasure of enjoying a well-seasoned pot of Creole jambalaya or gumbo? If not, you have no idea what you are missing. Leave it to our history's impoverished ethnic groups to persevere and make something incredibly tasty out of an amalgam of foodstuffs that would normally never come in contact with each other, much less share the same broth. Ingredients can include prawns, chicken, rice, sometimes barley, oysters, ham, crab legs, clams, sausage, hot-dogs, okra, beef-stock, fish, garlic, cayenne and deluge of other spices.
Bear with me. I actually do have a point.
Giants is the gumbo of video games, the jambalaya of interactivity. And much like the aforementioned cuisine, it's a scrumptious meal packed with many varieties of gaming goodness. However, the chicken bones and shells from the crab legs that can plague your Creole eating experience have made their way into Giants in the form of countless bugs and abrupt system crashes. The end result is a very interesting, very funny and very frustrating piece of software.
And very, very pretty. Giants is a fine looking game. Dynamic shadows and light sourcing are nothing short of impeccable. Look out over the oceans and see the sun's rays reflecting off the water's surface. It's amazing!
The stage is set on a planet composed of 24 lush, beautiful islands. Friendly and not so friendly indigenous life roam the land under the rule of the evil queen Sappho, her evil magic-wielding Reapers and their guards. This ruling power is not the kind you want to trifle with.
The three playable characters are all anomalies on this strange new world. There is the space-faring, militaristic Meccs who have inadvertently crashed landed on the planet. These guys shoot machine guns, throw grenades, plant bombs and use jetpacks to for limited flight. They're also an organized lot - you can command your fellow Meccs to defend, attack and retrieve, making them formidable and fun to play. Their only drawback is their limited endurance. It's not that hard to find yourself completely overwhelmed.
You can also play as Delphi, who was genetically created by Queen Sappho to be the purest form of Sea Reaper. She strongly disagrees with the injustice acted out by Sappho against the local civilians, called Smarties. Her arsenal includes spells galore and a plethora of enchanted bows and arrows. Delphi is by far the most desired character to play. While her animation is lacking, she more than makes up for it with visually stunning spells and blazing speed. The girl is a one maíƒÂ¢í¢â€šÂ¬í‚Â¦er, one woman army. Her Tornado spell is simply terrific. Enemies get sucked up in the vortex, then plummet to the ground with a sickening splat, leaving behind a permanent bloodstain. Kick ass.
Both Delphi and the Meccs are able to build bases, turning the game into a skeletal real-time strategy. Never fear - I'm not talking about painstaking resource management and complex unit trees. This is no Earth 2150.
Gather enough of the hilarious Smarties, bring them back to your base and order them to build stuff. There are spell and gun shops, turrets, vehicles and much more. You also need to make sure your Smarties have a steady supply of the cattle-like Vimp meat, as they won't work for you on an empty stomach.
Giants has simplified this aspect of the game to the point of being an interesting addition rather than a time-consuming diversion. Oh the joy I get from seeing my missile turrets shoot down those pesky rocket-pack wielding Reaper Guards...muahaha.
Last of the playable characters is the massive Kabuto, also a creation of Sappho (albeit a bit more cranky). Playing as Kabuto is probably one the most original gameplay experiences I have had this year. As this not-so-jolly, not-so-green giant, you can pick up any lifeform and eat it, use it as a projectile or impale it on one of your many horns for later. By consuming Smarties, Kabuto can lay eggs which hatch into baby Kabutos. Order baby Kabutos to attack enemies and obtain food for big mama. A small number of wrestling style body-splashes, butt-drops and more are Kabuto's main offensive maneuvers.
Kabuto looks really cool, and I'm glad he's in the game, but he's kind of boring to play. His sluggishness and the fact that he's just a big target make him less appealing than the agile Delphi or the high-tech Meccs. To add insult to injury, Kabuto's offspring aren't useful for much. But I'd love to have him as an enemy in the multiplayer or see how he handles something like Delphi's uber Tornado spell.
Which brings me to those chicken bones I mentioned earlier. The multiplayer is, at the time of this writing, almost impossible to get working. Giants comes with Mplayer, an online gaming network. Why they didn't go for the dedicated server approach of games like Unreal Tournament is beyond me.
Every time I try to join a game on Mplayer, the game freezes at the loading screen. I can't tell you how infuriating this is. Wasn't this marketed as a multiplayer dream game? I have yet to actually play it online.
The single player is immensely entertaining, but is plagued by brutal bugs. Crashes are commonplace and lots of weird audio and video glitches crop up. The FMV, which starts out hysterically funny and well done, peters out towards the end.
The RTS-style missions where you build bases can carry on for more than an hour, which is cool. The problem here is that some half-wit forgot to include an in-game save. Couple this with an abrupt system crash and you will swiftly find yourself holding a clump of your hair, torn from your scalp as you begin the arduous task of rebuilding your crap.
Take all this together and it points to a game being shoved out the door before completion. This is inexcusable. Shame on you, Interplay, for releasing such a buggy game. Where the hell are the testers? Isn't it their job to spot and report these specific types of bugs? Aaarrrggg!
I should also mention that Delphi has been censored. Originally, she appeared without a top, cartoon boobs in full glory. In a last minute moral crisis, someone decided to put a bra on her...and to change the blood from red to green. Doh! Why not take that extra time, care and energy and put it into FIXING THE GAMEPLAY BUGS instead of appeasing the suits over at the ESRB?
It's a pity such an immersive and gorgeous endeavor is plagued by so many unnecessary bugs. A couple more months of testing and tweaking would have made all the difference. Until this puppy is patched (as of this review, it isn't), be prepared for a mixed bag of gaming fun and frustration.