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DroidArena
By: Robert F. Ludwick | Game Data | 11:44pm, November 10, 2004
ImageIf you can get past the extremely steep learning curve, then you should enjoy DroidArena... Assuming of course, that you can grasp the concept of writing a script for a robot.

DroidArena is a robotic fighting simulation. In the game, you own a robot, and you are known as a decker. A decker is one that competes in robotic battles and attempts to build some sort of empire using this said robot.

Once you signup, you can purchase robot parts and put them together. Now you own a fully functional robot. Right? Wrong. Here's where the biggest drawback of the game appears. Robot scripting language. The RSL is the script language in which you write up script files to upload to your robot. These files contain the battle instructions that your robot will follow when it is in a fight.

The RSL has a very large library of available commands, but you only get so many early in the game. This makes it somewhat tough to do certain things when you own a level one robot. The command "ATAK" for example, is only available if you have the level four processor or higher. Without it, you're stuck trying to make your robot fight enemies using lower level commands. This feature makes it easier to get into the RSL, but it's still hard. It was hard for me, and I'm a programmer.

As a decker, you own a base and can outfit it with many buildings, as well as research technology and employ a contingent of spies. Your droid base will become important, as it can provide a revenue stream for when your droid is not battling. Technologies allow you to gain access to certain things here and there, and spies can come in handy if you're not able to cut it yourself but want to make an attempt to steal money from another decker.

ImageMany parts of the game are linked to your robots experience level. This is a good and bad thing at the same time. It's good because you can't overreach trying to use some high-level things you're not ready for. Some buildings only appear on level 6, some technologies are only researchable upon reaching level 3, jsut to name some examples. The same goes for spies. However, there's a major game design flaw here. There are certain robotic levels in the game that are special. Levels four and eight, for example, are really special levels. At these levels, you can buy new processors, weapons, frames, radars, and just about anything you can think up. This causes a problem if you're a level seven robot and you're about to battle a level eight. It's near impossible to defeat a "special level" robot if you're below that level, because the higher level robot will blow you apart using better technology across the board.

Corporations are a construct in the game to allow deckers to unite. Corporations are good in controlling cities. Cities are actually arenas that your droid will battle in. Cities generate revenue, and only corporations can control a city. Therefore, the corporation will make money, that is can put to use by giving it to members for upgrades, or to buy Orbs to deploy and protect the cities. Orbs act like droids in battles. Corporations also have armories, which are good if you've got old parts that you can lend to somebody else in your corporation.

The community in the game, in my experience, is lackluster. You have to join out-of-game forums to participate, and there's very little interaction within the game environment itself. This is a feature that needs to be upgraded in my opinion.

The interface is also one of the things that makes the game so hard to learn. The regular and RSL manuals do help, but the regular manual doesn't go into naar enuough detail about certain things. You'll get a good overview of the game, but unfortunately, the only way to learn certain things is to click around and to try to do things hit-or-miss style.

DroidArena is a fun game, don't get me wrong. With some key improvements and a bit more user-friendly interface (And a shallower learning curve), then this could be a truly great game. One thing that doesn't help is that it's virtually all pay-to-play. You can get a trial account, but if you don't learn the game well enough, soon enough, then you're not likely to continue.

7.4 Gameplay 888 8
Replayability 999 9
Interface 666 6
Community 666 6
Reviewer's Tilt 888 8
  Scale
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