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Left Behind: Eternal Forces review

Troubled
AT A GLANCE
  • Non-violent solutions to problems
  • Low learning curve
  • Not too evangelical?
  • Takes forever to get anywhere
  • No skirmish maps
  • Gameplay mechanics are cumbersome

Based upon the best-selling religious fiction novels about the aftermath of The Rapture (the End Times event when God takes the Christians to Heaven and leaves everyone else to their fates on Earth), Left Behind: Eternal Forces is not the real time strategy game that most people expected it to be.

It is not about gunning down non-Christians in a burst of theocratic wish fulfillment - so really, few folks other than that dude who sued the government over the "In God We Trust" on US money are likely to be offended. It is also not the effective missionary tool that its creators may have hoped to create - Left Behind compromises much of its nobility with commercialism, and preaches to the converted more than the curious.



Whether or not you agree with its spiritual message, Left Behind's game design is not on the side of the angels. It has no single player skirmish mode, so you are left with a story-based campaign that opens with a dozen nearly identical quests. Your goal is to recruit and keep converts to your cause, non-violently if possible (often through playing spiritual music) but sometimes with tanks and guns. The campaign only tells one side of the story, so you won't get to control the forces of evil unless you go online for multiplayer action. But honestly, this isn't The Lord of the Rings, with angry trees and flaming balrogs and nazgul - these participants are all people, so both factions are pretty much identical from a gameplay perspective, anyway.

Not only are there too few game modes, but the gameplay itself is rugged. Left Behind has too many technical problems to recommend it to serious strategy gamers of any spiritual stripe. The units you put in charge of recruiting can't find their way around. They'll balk at crossing an empty street to find a convert, and lampposts prove to be major navigational hazards.

Even selecting units is more trouble than it should be. There is no good camera angle, and there is no way of distinguishing what types of units are in a group. So many of the units (and buildings, for that matter) look the same that only a close look will give you the information you need. Plus, your people's spiritual stamina drains constantly, and must be refilled via prayer - an act that they must be specifically instructed to do, and which will render them motionless and unable to contribute until finished. Obviously, this has the potential to drag the gameplay to a crawl.

These may sound like nitpicky things, but they are the grammar of real time strategy games. If you can't choose units and make them go do something interesting, all the scripture relevance in the world won't keep you playing. It isn't even pretty enough for you to simply get swallowed in the grandeur of creation.



Left Behind: Eternal Forces feels less like an evangelical tool and more like a dismal attempt to cash in on the books' success. It comes with the first novel (hoping you'll get hooked and buy the other 15, soon to be 16 novels and some spinoff books, perhaps?), prompts you to buy music from the soundtrack and has advertising software that puts huge EBGames banners everywhere.

Assuming you can overlook that, what's up with the blatant-to-the-point-of-comedy stereotyping and sexism? Early enemies often look like rappers or heavy metal guitarists - who are not always role models, we'll admit, but give us a break. Plus, while a person's life experiences and spiritual education dictate what roles they can play in your army (everyone's life story is included in his or her character details), there seems to be an overriding, invisible rule that women can enter far fewer professions than men. Especially early on, the ladies are typically confined to roles like nursing and singing while jobs such as builder and soldier are largely reserved for the males. Welcome to feminism, Mr. Cleaver.

We have nothing against non-violent videogames, and we have no objection to games that have a spiritual message. That's all cool. But we don't dig bad games, and at the end of the day, Left Behind: Eternal Forces just doesn't play very well. As exciting and even (for at lot of folks, at least) uplifting as some of the content could be, it just doesn't move quickly enough or play smoothly enough to compete with the other, more gameplay focused titles in the admittedly more worldly marketplace.

More Info

Release date: Nov 08 2006 - PC (US)
Nov 08 2006 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Strategy
Published by: Left Behind Games
Developed by: Left Behind Games
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Violence

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