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Many people will remember this game because no one really wanted it. It was ready for a year and it had no one to distribute it for Microids. Fortunately, this was picked up by Strategy First. However, I was pretty sure that Empire of the Ants won't become that famous. And I was right. Don't misunderstand me, the game has its potential – original idea, good graphics for its year, great gameplay. The problem consisted in the first impression, which we know is that most important one.
No matter there is a detailed tutorial, the game still fills you up with confusion and a feeling of complexity. To know it better, you have to play it for a while and get used to the not so typical interface. Only by doing so you will be able to really appreciate the game and the original ideas in it.
In fact, the plot is very simple. It was said on the site that the game is based on the bestseller written by Bernar Werber. I never heard of such book, so it's not really “best”. Still, even if I'm wrong, the game has no plot at all! It's based on scenarios, separated into three episodes with formal connection in between. The scenarios are twenty one in total – the funny thing is that on the site only eleven were announced. This led to a massive confusion and lots of magazine published their article with the cons that the game only has eleven scenarios.
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The campaign is led by the Empire of the so called russet ants. During the twenty one scenarios, these russet ants are fighting a variety of enemies – other ants, wasps, bees, termites, spiders, mantis and many more. At the end of first episode, the ants are in ecstasy from discovering the empire of the fingers. Yes, you heard me, the fingers. If you check the in-game encyclopedia you will find that those fingers are strange pink creatures domesticated by the humans and forced to do their work.
The game is divided into two main parts – development of the anthill and open air actions. You can't create a new anthill, you only have one and you develop it over time, just like in Dungeon Keeper. The anthill has a special spot for the Queen, incubation camera and a “nursery”. Further on, you can do whatever you want. It's always nice to have some stores in your anthill for food and construction materials. The russet ants are eating a fixed quantity of food based on their type. The food itself is collected by the workers. It is interesting that the spot a particular food takes in the store is calculated by the quality rather than the quantity. High-calorie food takes less place. It is nearly the same with the construction materials, places build with higher-quality material have better useful capacity.
How could we know which food is better? The only way is to check the manual, but I can tell you that one of the best construction materials is the spider web - it's hard to get though.
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You have around 15 buildings to pick up from, and for many you need certain technologies. Again, based on those technologies you can produce different type of ants, it's actually more of an order-type, you order them form the queen and wait for their incubation. There are two major type of ants – workers and fighers, you can only control the fighters directly while the workers are doing their job based on their task and urgency. The fighters are used for exploration, finding new sources of food or construction materials, attacking, defense of the anthill etc. They also hunt delicacies like snails.
For easier control, the soldiers are born in groups that consist 5-8 russet ants. You can however group them in the popular Ctrl + 1-9 way in order to create bigger armies.
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I personally liked the game a lot, but as I already said – it wasn't anything special for the gaming market due to its complexity and the need of time for fully exploring the features.