Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 05/14/01 | Genre: Strategy
If you are a fan of the robot fighting television shows like Robot Arena, then you'll probably enjoy trying your hand at RoboForge. Just like the shows you try to build the granddaddy of all bots and battle it against all takers to prove who has the biggest set of servos on the block--well, on the net. Instead of controlling your bot remotely, you have to preprogram it with an artificial intelligence (AI) to govern how it will break bad on your competition.
Unlike the bot shows, construction is limited to a number of pre-made parts, although there are going to be unique components that can be won and then lost on online tournaments. Since everyone has access to the same spare parts, construction, creativity, and AI play a huge part in winning and losing. The parts are broken down into categories like weapons, shields, power packs, controllers, joints, and sensors. Only melee type weapons exist in the game, so there are no rockets to dodge. The game makers had the theory that projectile weapons would make most fights boil down to shoot and dodge scenarios; as a FPS player, I'm not going to argue that.
Components have a number of connection points where they can be joined to other pieces making construction relatively painless (once you get your bearings), so you can have a custom bot rolling off the assembly line in short order. Creating attack moves also proves to be somewhat easy. You take a snapshot of the beginning of the attack and the end of the attack, and the game fills in all the motion in between. If you wanted your bot to hack down on the opponent with the axe weapon, you might take a shot of the bladed arm raised and another of it in its striking position. Once you get to that point, you have your bot but making it act intelligently is another matter.
The AI can make or break your bot, but creating commands for it to follow isn't as complicated as it might seem. In other words you don't need to be a professional programmer; you just need a little persistence and determination. Most of the AI will be things like: "If the enemy is within a certain distance, then do this. If you are getting your butt whipped, back up." Since most of the fighting will be in online tournaments or online challenge rooms and looking like an idiot sucks, the game provides you with a few bots to hone your homemade Frankenstein. It seemed like a lot of the programming was trial and error and trying to learn what worked and what didn't.
Let's talk turkey. Competing in online tournaments usually involves an entry fee that goes into a pot to pay the champion, so you'll probably take a beating with your first few bots. To become good at the game it almost has to be treated as a hobby. I'm not saying that the game isn't worth the effort, but it might be more entailed than what a casual gamer would find interesting. There's definitely a learning curve to consider. Luckily there are a number of websites created by other players to help newcomers get their feet wet (or joints oiled in robot terms). Overall, RoboForge is worth a look... just don't expect to master it overnight.