Jarhead0331 from Wargamer wrote this:
Now that Gamestop has prematurely let the cat out of the bag, the NDA has been officially lifted. I guess you can thank Gamestop for the feedback you are about to witness.
I'd first like to thank Bob Smith for giving some of us the opportunity to beta test Armada. I've tested a lot of games, and although I only joined the beta crew in the third round of testing (there were 4 rounds total), it has been a rewarding experience for me. It was great interacting with Bob and the crew, tossing around ideas, discussing the game and playing my little part in bringing the final product to all of you.
Anyway, this game is good. At times it is even great. Its the first 4x game to grab me and not let go in a long time. Recently, I started an innocent game with the retail code beta and before I knew it, hours had gone by and I was passing the 700th turn mark. My empire spanned across the galaxy and my enemies trembled when my fleets drew into orbit. This game is highly addictive, somewhat like crystal meth, and if you're not careful, it will destroy your life.
Like any other good 4x game, you are the leader of your "tribe", any one of 12 unique races, and you control finance, diplomacy, research, colonial administration/construction and of course war. The UI is simple, and although your options can be quite numerous, this is an intuitive easy game to learn. Anyone familiar with 4x games will have no trouble diving head first into this one.
You spread your people by colonizing other planets with Arc vessels. As you research new technology, your Arc vessels will become more advanced and capable of colonizing different kinds of worlds, ie. barren, tundra, irradiated, etc. Eventually, you will be able to colonize systems containing no planetoid at all. Once a colony is established, you will begin construction. There are a wide range of structures available. From your standard mining operations, to research installations, orbital ship yards of various size, industrial centers, security buildings, recreational facilities, and defensive installations such as missile bases and orbital laser arrays. As you increase the size of your industrial base and develop more advanced technology, you will be able to construct larger, more complex building types. Of course, your options may be limited by population size and available planetary space.
Meanwhile, the same holds true for construction of space craft and ground troops. Ships come in various classes, I'm sorry to advise that there is no ship design component here, but there are numerous classes of vessel ranging from scout, cutter, corvette, transports, destroyer, cruiser, escort carrier, fleet carrier, dreadnaught, battle cruiser, etc. etc. There are also various classes of special space craft that you can build once you obtain certain rare resources and/or certain levels of technology. Ships are moved from system to system through standard real space, or through worm holes. The time it takes to reach a system obviously depends on the distance to be traveled. One minor quible is that there is no fleet formation mechanic. Ships are essentially moved individually in groups. You can not combine them into one organized unit and name it, say the 1st Terran Fleet. This will hopefully be addressed in a future update. Anyway, when you reach a system, you may colonize if its uninhabbited, do nothing if its held by a neutral or friendly species, or attack if its held by hostiles.
The combat is real time. You may position your ships which appear in orbit over the hostile world. Enemy ships will aggressively attack you. If they cannot win, they may try to retreat. If your fleet contains assault transports carrying troops, you may bring them over the planet in real time and deploy your troops. The planet is a barren field, you wont fight over cities and terrain is very indistinct. Your troops will engage any enemy defensive installations as well as any enemy troops still left to oppose. Your ships which carry ground attack weaponry may provide combat support from space. I have found that it is usually unnecessary to land troops on the planet as ships with ground weapons are typically very powerful and more than capable of destroying the enemy ground forces. Battles are timed to last only three minutes...I'm not sure if this can be modified, but the battles are typically short, nasty brutish affairs. If they last longer than the 3 minute limit, the battle may continue in the following turn.
Once you destroy all of the enemy defensive troops, ships and facilities, you can decide amongst a number of options including to exterminate, devastate or subjugate. If you subjugate, you will take the colony and have to manage the alien population. Make sure you garrison it properly, or else you will deal with unrest, turmoil and eventually open rioting. I would subjugate, and then transport my own population of the planet to balance out the alien population and take control of the new world. If you're a particularly sadistic kind of bastage, you can use biological weapons to exterminate the population but preserve the industrial building for your use.
When not killing your enemies, or being killed by them, you can interact with them in a number of different ways. The diplomacy suite is fairly flexible and your AI opponents are not shy when it comes to requesting agreements and making offers of trade. They will ask for technology, for map information, for assistance in dealing with enemies and ultimately for defensive alliances. Trade ships, colonies, money, open relay stations so that your ships can refuel, open trade delegations (so that you can spy) etc. There are a lot of options here.
Research...there are hundreds of technologies broken down amongst a number of research fields. You can resrach multiple technologies at once, placing emphasis on any one over the others...its up to you how you divide your research points (which are generated by constructing research facilties). There are pretty much all the techs you'd expect and even a bunch of unique ones in fields such as psychic and biological...there ar even special research options if you construct a skunkworks lab.
AI...its aggressive and it plays an enjoyable game. It usually makes logical decisions, but of course there are times where it offers a trade that seems illogical. What is most important to me is they will attack your undefended colonies, ask for peace when they cannot win and HONOR their military alliances and demand that you honor yours. In battle, the AI constructs a fleets utilizing a wide range of vessels. Long range missile ships, fleet carriers, large class dreadnaughts and escort class destroyers. The AI will construct defensive military installations and attempt to hold onto its colonies while spreading to yours. Races that are peaceful in nature will attempt to befriend you, while those that are hostile will try to destroy you. I am overall pleased with the AI in this game. Of course, I know the career complainers around here will find faults, but I can't make that my problem, I'll be too busy enjoying the game.
I don't want to turn this into a review, at this stage, but I have really enjoyed this game. Bob Smith has focused the development of this title on gameplay, AI and elements that make a fun game. The graphics and sounds are pleasing, but clearly not the developmental priority here. Although I enjoy the Total War games, those of you who have an ax to grind with CA and/or TW, should not confuse Armada with TW...the similarities are only in the broadest of terms...Armada is in essence a completely different game.
In my opinion, if you are a fan of 4x games you need to put this one on the top of your list. If you sit on the fence and refuse to get it, its at your loss...