Left Behind: Eternal Forces Review
By Michael Richter |
The video game industry is no stranger to controversy. Whether the waves are being made over sex, drugs or violence, it seems that there's always something on which legislators, lawyers and parent groups can hang their scorn. Games that promote lifestyles and behaviors that would be intolerable in the real world routinely come under attack for the influence they are believed to have on gamers.
Left Behind: Eternal Forces seemed like the perfect antidote to that. Nevertheless, this Christian-themed game, based on the popular book series about mankind's final days against the Antichrist, has inspired its own controversies. Some rejected the seeming intolerance inherent in the game's emphasis on converting non-believers. Some objected to what they perceived to be the game's exploitation of Christian theology. Misinformed or not, the controversy has definitely helped raise the visibility of this game and bring it to audiences it might never have reached otherwise.
In brief, the game follows the basic premise of the book. One day, all the true Christians vanished from the world. Though the authorities left on the Earth tried to explain this away as some freakish magnetic pulse, a small group of people suddenly realized that the Christians had been raptured up to Heaven. These new believers, those left behind, now find themselves fighting against the forces of the Antichrist who is building his world government on the bones on the United Nations.
The game lets players take charge of the new believers in the struggle in a standard real-time strategy format. New York City is your battleground and missionaries are your soldiers. You'll be fighting against the forces of the Antichrist -- secular recruiters, rock stars and cultists. Who comes out on top will depend on how well you use the resources at your disposal.
At the most basic level, the game is about using your disciple units to recruit more believers. These believers can then be sent to a variety of structures for training in other essential roles: they can become disciples themselves and go out to recruit more believers; they can become builders to buy and refit old buildings; they can become musicians to shift the allegiance of evil units to neutral; they can become soldiers or doctors to help on the frontlines when things get bloody. There are various tiers and upgrades to be found among each of the classes but the basic functions are still the same.
Although the buildings you own provide important resources like housing, food and cash, everything in the game revolves around the resource of spirit. Each unit has their own spirit ranking. You can increase it by praying or decrease it by killing other units. Raise the spirit of a neutral and he or she will join the good guys. Lower it and they'll take their part with the forces of evil.
The early missions focus on walking around and recruiting new units. As you gain more experience with the interface, you'll start to build your own infrastructure by taking over buildings in the city. You'll also come into conflict with the bad guys of the game, the Global Community Peacekeepers. Since they don't have to worry about their spirit rating dropping too low, they're not penalized for killing your units.
To keep the balance of power in your favor, you'll have to find non-violent ways to avoid getting killed. Your units will definitely fight back in a life or death situation but, for the most part, you want to either avoid your enemies or have a ready plan to convert to your side using musicians and disciples. This gets much harder as the game progresses.
There are some small problems with the overall interface. For one thing, your disciples seem to have a hard time selecting neutrals to convert. We frequently (and we mean frequently) had to click around and around just to get our disciples on task. Eventually, you'll stumble on the idea of setting your units to automatically use their powers but even this causes problems. The units just aren't smart enough to take any initiative here so you'll spend the majority of your time micromanaging the particulars rather than planning out your overall strategy.