When I was younger I loved Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate. I ate it so much. So much so that one day (like many other Irish kids) I stumbled onto something revolutionary. I found that when I ate a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate bar and then a packet of Tayto cheese and onion crisps immediately after it, the flavour of the crisps would be enhanced.
To me, it was an absolute game-changer. Fast forward to 2013 and the impossible happened. Cadbury’s and Tayto joined forces to make a Cadbury Tayto Chocolate bar. Yes, you heard that right, a chocolate bar that had bits of cheese and onion crisps. two amazing ingredients brought together into one equally savoury and equally sweet snack. But, it didn’t turn out so well. The reviews were not very flattering and all around it was a bit of a flop. Turns out two great snacks, although amazing individually, don’t go well together. They don’t really make them anymore (legend has it they’re only available in Tayto Park). Like the Cadbury Tayto chocolate bar, Eximius: Seize the Frontline tries to merge two amazing genres of video games, namely first-person shooters (FPS) and real-time strategy (RTS), together to give you a unique gaming experience.
The Extraordinary Eximius: Seize the Frontline
What Eximius: Seize the Frontline succeeds in is emulating its sheer ambition. This game’s premise alone merits applause and attention. The folks over at Ammobox Studios are trying to seamlessly weave squad-based FPS combat with RTS in a AAA game.
Holy fudge waffles that sounds great! So can we all just take a minute to say, man, that is ambitious because at the very least that’s what this game warrants. Eximius: Seize the Frontline is an RTS/FPS hybrid multiplayer game. It has no real single-player features apart from playing against bots on team skirmish or co-op. The main game modes are co-op (PvE), and Team Skirmish (PvE/PvP). Every game of Team Skirmish has two squads of five against each other. You have one commander on each team who basically does all the RTS.
In co-op, it’s basically you and your squad against a set number of bots (with one of you playing as the commander). You can play as one of two factions, the GSF or Axeron. Both have different play styles and unique abilities. For instance, the GSF can only build structures through the use of engineers who call down airdrops to build said structures. Axeron can refill ground troops through the use of a mule robot that can move to any location, whereas the GSF can only call down ammo depots at set locations.
RTS vs FPS
But, does Eximius live up to the ambition it so blatantly portrays? Not quite….? In a few ways yes, but in many others no. The RTS can be very engaging, so much so that you’ll forget about the FPS side of things. Commander mode is the RTS mode of Eximius: Seize the Frontline. The transition from FPS to RTS is done at the press of 1 button which feels amazing and so handy. You can reposition and spawn in troops in the middle of a firefight.
Command armour at the other end of the map with ease. It feels so badass and makes you feel like a genuine battlefield commander. Resource management in RTS adds another dynamic for commanders in each match. You’re not only fighting for control of A, B and C, but you’re also vying for control of three resources, money, energy and ammo. Each of these resources goes into making fresh units, calling in airstrikes or UAVs. Furthermore, the two factions put an interesting spin on how you play as a commander. For example, you can lock down resources as the GSF, but only engineers can capture resources and objectives.
However, I always feel the need to switch out of commander mode and jump into the fray because my stupid AI can’t seem to accomplish anything! The AI in this game is so frustratingly bad that I don’t know where to begin. In co-op, the enemy bots are either a pushover or straight up steamrolling you and your squad, with just ridiculous amounts of troops and rocket launchers and tanks. I mean this when I say it, there is no in-between with this AI.
They’re either the dumbest bullet magnets of all time or the most hardcore swarm of veteran rocket lancers. And don’t get me started on the friendly AI. They have horrendous pathfinding and can barely get around a burnout car. In one incident that sticks out to me, I brought a healer with a squad of marines I had just spawned in to, you know, give them a bit more longevity. I position them as best I can and cap the point, leaving all the troops in a defensive stance.
Fast forward five seconds, I’m in commander mode and I casually scroll over to a now dead squad, whose medic can’t simply stick because he can’t follow the move order I gave him. And whoops the whole squad is dead and I’ve lost the point. The tank AI is abysmal at pathfinding as well, often remaining still in awkward and compromising positions. Losing firefights can be a pain, but losing them because the AI keeps getting stuck for no discernible reason is just infuriating. I guess the one saving grace of the AI is that the officers (the roles that human players can take) that the AI pilots are at least somewhat decent and can cap a point and at least traverse the map with relative ease, but then again I have no control over them.
The FPS in Eximius: Seize the Frontline is just okay. Nothing really exceptional, but nothing really bad about it. But the battle suit system in this game is so much fun to play. These battle suits will probably be the main draw of playing as an officer (the non-commander role for human players). You build up credits as you play and can then use this energy to upgrade your weapons or call in a battle suit. Always get the battle suit! They grant you special abilities, such as the ability to call in drones, turrets, shoot anti-tank rounds or become invulnerable to the enemy.
These put a fun spin on an otherwise dull FPS experience. I found myself opting out of being the commander just to focus on shredding people with my battle suit. Or even neglecting my commander duties just to call in my battle suit. But, when you do call in your battle suit and walk up to claim it, you’re locked into one of the weirdest transition scenes. The scene is just you looking ahead, stationary.
You think your game just crashed at first but no, it’s just an awkward suit up scene that frankly doesn’t need to be there in the first place. This brings the lacking graphics of Eximius: Seize the Frontline to the forefront. The character models don’t feel polished and the environment seems to load in a little too late. The UI is very clunky, and at times it can feel downright unresponsive in commander mode. I was going to mention sub-par hit registering in Eximius: Seize the Frontline, but thankfully a recent patch has more or less fixed that.
Bringing it to the Frontline, Eximius: Seize the Frontline
And this dear reader is what brings me back to Ammo Box and the ambition that Eximius: Seize the Frontline brings to the table. The fact that the developers of Eximius have been ironing out some egregious kinks gives me hope. It gives me hope for the future of Eximius. The consistent hot fixing and updating are what gives me a glimmer of hope for Eximius: Seize the Frontline. I see a studio that cares about its product. Unfortunately that is all that Eximius has going for it at the moment, a consistent developer, promises, fun RTS and battlesuits, and a dash of hope.
I wish I could tell you that assigning a squad to your buddy for them to command feels great, but the AI has such a limited use on the battlefield, as their commands amount to standstill and shoot or move and shoot. I wish I could tell you that this hybrid RTS/FPS is a joy to play with friends from start to finish, but I can’t unfortunately.
All I can say is please pay attention to this ambitious early access project by Ammobox Studios, because they have real potential to make this into something great. Is Eximius a bad game? Not particularly. Does it work? Kinda. But gosh darn it, I hope they get there one day! I am personally rooting for Ammobox studios to turn this one around.