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Game Info:

Etherium
Developer: Tindalos Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: March 25, 2015
Available On: PC
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign & Skirmish); Up to 4 (Multiplayer)
PEGI Rating: 12+
Price: $19.99 
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you Focus Home Interactive for giving us a copy of this game to review!

In a dark & dystopian future, the three most powerful empires in the galaxy wage a bitter war over a mysterious energy source known as etherium; these mortal enemies: the totalitarian Consortium, the enigmatic Intari, and the swarming Vectide all seek to dominate this extremely rare resource by any means necessary. Adding to the tension, etherium is only briefly available for harvesting, once every thousand years, and only on six specific planets. In this far future, war and its causes haven't changed. 

Etherium is an average 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate), RTS (real time strategy) game, neither really good nor really bad. In it, players will battle for control over this coveted substance. There are two single player game modes: Conquest, and Skirmish. In Conquest, players will command one of the three factions as they fight to conquer the six planets where this resource can be found. Each planet has three sectors which must be controlled, and each faction starts off with control over one planet and a fleet. The campaign map displays the six planets, your factions technology level, and the locations of the various fleets. It also displays how many turns in the campaign are left. When the turns run out, the campaign is over, and the faction with the most victory points is declared the winner. These points are awarded based upon the number of controlled sectors, technology level, etc. 

As the campaign progresses, players will attack enemy sectors and fleets while defending their own. Sadly, each planet has only three sectors, and so there are only eighteen maps in total. The A.I.'s strategy will rarely allow its fleets to move anywhere unless the fleet is severely damaged. Given this dogged stupidity, most of the campaign will be fought over one or two planets As you may imagine, this quickly becomes repetitive as you fight over the same few maps, again and again. 

Etherium
Highlights:

Strong Points: Sharp graphics; good sound track
Weak Points: Surprisng lack of depth; dreadful A.I.; lackluster maps; stability issues 
Moral Warnings: Very strong language; mild violence

Etherium's core gameplay is fast-paced, and well balanced in a manner reminiscent of games like StarCraft. Whether in Skirmish or Conquest matches, combat usually begins in under three minutes. However, unlike StarCraft, there is precious little strategy as both sides race to expand their territory. Worse still, the A.I. is stunningly predictable. After the first few matches, it will become very apparent that your enemies have one strategy from which they will not deviate - ever. Such unswerving simplicity is disappointing, and manages to rob a great amount of potential from this title. Additionally, the game suffers from poor stability, frequently crashing to desktop, especially in Conquest mode. 

Etherium also features a multiplayer mode for up to four people. Multiplayer utilizes the same eighteen maps as Conquest, while pitting two teams, of up to two players, against one another. Sadly, getting into a multiplayer match is difficult at best due to the game's very small community. On average, players in North America will wait at least an hour, though often more, before finding an opponent. 

On a good note, the controls are responsive, and can be remapped. On a sour note, there is no guarantee that your preferences will remain after you exit. In fact, it is not uncommon to find that the controls have reset to their defaults the next time you run the game. This renders the ability to remap the controls irrelevant. And if losing your control settings wasn't bad enough, the graphics and sound settings occasionally reset as well.

Etherium
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 74%
Gameplay - 13/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 2/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 84%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 5/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Thankfully, the game is visually appealing, with graphics that are sharp and colorful, making it easy to distinguish between most units, even when the camera is zoomed out as far as possible. The maps are well rendered but uninspiring, and more akin to RTS maps of the late 90s than those of today. But, Etherium's maps do feature a handful of weather effects, like blizzards or tornadoes, which randomly strike. These effects can be fun to watch, and sometimes even create limited tactical opportunities for players to exploit. 

Audio wise, the game's sound effects are pretty good, heightening the action, and providing appropriate feedback. Additionally, its electronic music manages to add the right amount of tension, without being over the top or terribly repetitive.

Regarding morality, Etherium contains no occultism, sexuality, or authority issues. The factions' back stories are well done, if rather dark and dystopian. Violence is typical for a strategy game: mechanical units explode while infantry are gunned down, though without blood or gore. The most serious moral warning is from the game's numerous instances of strong language, especially the abuse of the Lord's name, which is frequently used as a curse word. 

Overall, Etherium provides a mildly entertaining, if paint-by-numbers experience. The factions are interesting, the controls are easy to learn, and the action is refreshingly fast-paced. The game can even be quite difficult at first, as players wrestle with its speed and unfamiliar controls. While it is not a bad game, for the price, there are numerous titles which do Etherium's best elements better, and often with: cleaner language, less stability issues, better maps, and a far more capable A.I. All in all, Etherium is a mixed-bag of good and bad.     

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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