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It can be good to be bad sometimes or a breath of fresh, fun air to inhale a protagonist role of a fiendishly foul anti-hero. But after taking it in and exhaling Impire's unique aspects, it soon gives way to questionable development decisions and faulty mechanics in this sinister take on base management coupled with some real-time strategy.
As the title suggests, Impire is a tale of conquest; a tale of an empire, an empire founded in murder and established through blood and tyranny, with roots solidified in the very bowels of Hell. And every empire has to start somewhere.
Impire begins with the demonologist Oscar Von Fairweather summoning the demon Baal Abaddon from the bottomless pit. In spite of its demonic overtones, Impire is actually quite lighthearted and tries to be comical with character interactions and dialogue. Sadly, one of the two main characters, Oscar, for the most part, is an annoy character – poorly written and unfortunately center stage all-too-often. His dialogue is usually disconnected from the conversation at hand, babbles on about daddy issues, or he is telling Baal to shut up, be silent or quiet down for seemingly no reason.
Baal, on the other hand, takes it all in stride, the Hell imp is surprisingly the more likable one of the two. Baal reminisces about the good ol' days back in the bottomless pit, back where it's truly corrupt and evil, and back where he maintained his true power and true form of a fourteen-foot-tall grand demon.
Because, you see, due to Oscar's less-than impressive summoning skills Baal is materialized at only a fraction of his true power, instead of a grand demon he is just a small imp. This isn't the first time Oscar's magical shortcomings have caused mishaps. Oscar's inept comprehension of the magical arts have been a source of ridiculed his entire life, but now that Baal is there to do his bidding, Oscar has a plan of revenge and conquest; a plan to build an evil empire.
So that's what Baal and Oscar set out to do – kill and conquer. But, every empire has humble beginnings, and the empire of Impire follows suit. You'll take control of Baal as he performs menial tasks for Oscar; like poisoning vats of meat or killing chickens, but you'll soon graduate to searching ruins for an urn of legends to invading a kingdom on Minotaurs. These quests Oscar assigns Baal might change theme or move the story onward, but they don't change the actual gameplay very much; you fight enemies and build structures.
Like many team and base management games, Impire requires Baal's forces to start from scratch by building lesser constructs while working toward gathering materials and gold to create new rooms and different minions.
With Oscar coaching you along the way, Baal will be summoning an army of malevolent fiends in no time like plague-ridden rats and specters to wraiths and warlocks. To procure the assets required to create these minions and structures, Baal can either send squads on raiding expeditions to the surface or heroes will methodically invade your dungeon who can then be held for ransom, executed, or looted for materials. The heroes invade very frequently and surface raids require no tactics, so procuring materials isn't about scarcity as much as it's about prioritizing their usage.
As your materials grow, your empire will grow. And as you move through the story expanding your reign of terror; Baal will grow as well.
Baal gains experience points to level up, and there is even a little skill tree to customize him a bit. Baal can branch into a warrior, commander or mage – changing his appearance and abilities as he goes.
The different abilities play into the real-time strategy combat; Baal can call down lightning bolts or do a spinning whirl wind to strike everyone around him depending on how he's spec'd. The problem is there's no real targeting system; to execute one of these special powers you will have to manually click and hold on your target to choose who you want Baal to hit with what. Good luck with that in the chaos of battle or finding the commands you need to execute when it's needed most. Every so often you might squeeze-in an attack if you find the right camera angle during battle, but due to the crappy interfacing what combat ultimately boils down to is selecting your squads and pointing them in the right direction; they fight, you wait and then it's over.
The sad part is that Impire is at its best when Baal and his minions are out and about fighting and searching underground lairs, dungeons and sewers; the combat looks good, the environments have a nice theme and touch to them, and digging through the dungeons to new chambers or uncovering the fog of war is enjoyable. But the continuous backtracking to thwart invading heroes breaks up the pace and as soon as any sort of good exploration rhythm is gained, Baal and his forces must go back to the base to either feed the troops or kill invaders from trashing the place.
The constant back-n-forth isn't the end of the problems. I seldom ran into a mission-breaking glitch while building the dungeons; I would plant a room to be built but the workers never carried out the task and the construction plans were unable to canceled as well; essentially blocking a vital room of the mission, which might not be that big of a deal if the stages weren't two hours in length on average. So it's obviously a huge pain in the ass when you're an hour into a mission and then you're forced to reload to start over because of a glitch.
So, the long-winded and repetitive scenarios lead to a slog through what is an otherwise uninteresting story. Upgrades and new units along the way do somewhat alleviate the tedium, but ultimately a lousy interface makes interactivity a chore and glitches break what could've been a good experience. Impire is simply a game that works against itself; for every feature it has working in its favor, it has one or more features that don't. It may feel good to be bad sometimes, but Impire's bad definitely out weights the good. I think I'll stick to Dungeon Keeper.