The Mighty Singing Frog Empire
RTS games are an interesting genre for me. They’re a type of game I always watch with awe when I see players balance the macro and micro management of any scenario, but it is a genre that I lack the mechanical finesse to play at a high level. In comes Lost Technology, a title that plays more like games up to my speed such as Total War and Civilization. The game is an interesting beast, being an RTS game with visual novel-esque story elements. It is a game that should’ve been on my radar, but for some reason or another just completely went over my head. I’ve played Lost Technology for several hours, and while it lacks in certain areas, it’s well worth the inexpensive price tag. So let’s unify the land – by suppressing and destroying everything and everyone!
Now I want to start off by saying that Lost Technology is not a big game. There aren’t numerous game modes, there isn’t multiplayer, and the game’s native resolution is akin to playing on a 3:4 CRT monitor. While the actual in-game graphics leave a lot to be desired, the artwork is gorgeous. It has a style reminiscent of older manga from the period of Sailor Moon and The Rose of Versailles, which is a personal preference for me. The lack of content and visual fidelity is made up for by being a title you can play in short, intense bursts.
Factions, Factions, and More Factions
Now when I said this title didn’t have many game modes, what I should have said is that has two real modes. There’s free play mode and a scenario mode where you pick a scenario chapter and complete the given tasks within the story. Before going into a scenario you can pick one of the many factions and play through their specific story. Lost Technology has many different factions, most with a unique story and lore – most of them.
The problem with the game’s factions is that while there are many of them, the level of quality in storytelling isn’t high for all of them. For example there is a faction of frog people – yes, frog people! There is a race of frog people who use the power of song to combat their enemies – how can you not love that? The integral froggy characters have good art and interesting backstories, but they have no story scenes. Unfortunately, this is because not all the factions have had their story scenes translated from the Japanese version. So while yes I can play as the frog people (technically called the Kingdom of Gug) I can’t enjoy dialogue scenes of singing frog mages ribbiting out their beautiful ballads. This isn’t a big issue because a majority of the factions do have story cutscenes and dialogue, but only half of the factions are interesting enough to warrant having to play through their story. Some are very interesting such as The Reinald Empire and the Makan, but a decent amount of the factions are very tropey and uninspired fantasy cliches.
Phase 1: Buy Stuff
The meat and bones of Lost Technology is what the devs call the three major phases of the game. Let’s start with the first phase, which is the turn-based overworld map. This is where non-combat actions take place, such as recruiting, moving units, and committing acts of diplomacy. All the macro decisions involved in raising your forces for combat take place here and I would argue that this might be the most important phase of the game. Mostly because of the universal currency used for building your forces. The currency used to recruit basic units are gained by controlling territory, which you gain by fighting for them with your own units. There are many types of units to recruit unique to your faction, which does make playing through different factions interesting.
However, recruiting units is interesting in its own right because you must use another pre-existing units to recruit additional units. This doesn’t sound too hard but when you use a unit to recruit another, it cannot move. So it becomes this balancing act of wanting to recruit more units, but making sure you can move enough of your pre-existing units to exert pressure onto territories. Even then, choosing what territories to invade is important because of how many units that are in the territory, whether it needs to be seized, and how close is it to other factions. These decisions have huge repercussions on what you can do mid-game and future success. This is not unlike other strategy games, but it is more important in this title because the second phase doesn’t have too much finesse to it.
Phase 2&3: Bad AI and Anime
The second phase, the real-time combat – while not as strategic as I’d hope – still has a decent amount going for it. The basic gist of this phase is to wipe out enemy forces from the map, and how you do so is dependent on your army composition from the earlier phase. The most important aspect that must be learned quickly if you want to succeed, is unit positioning. It is absolutely integral to make sure ranged units are in the back, and your bulkier melee units in the front. When you get the hang of doing that the game becomes significantly easier, mostly because the AI is pretty bad at all difficulties. It’s not that the enemies are easy to beat, it’s more that they do wonky things at times and are pretty easily abusable. For example, most encounters enemies will just ram charge in straight.
Because of the predictability of the AI, it makes it pretty easy for you to set up flanks and make sure you’re ranged units are never in danger. There are movement options. as well as the ability to speed game pace so you’re not stuck looking at slow moving units for too long, but it is still a slog a lot of the time. There are some unique aspects, such as specific units having unique abilities along with the commanders, but that’s kind of it. Now I think it is more beneficial than not to make the combat not too complicated, because this is overall a game better played in short bursts. However, I cannot deny that the AI is lacking and the battles can feel like a war of attrition at times.
Story Events, which is the third phase, are some of my favorite moments in this game. These moments can be triggered after the second phase by meeting various factors. These include, but are not limited to, befriending a specific comrade, expanding territory, destroying another country, and taking territory bordering another country. These events are fun because not only do they allow more character to enter the fray, they also at times allow you to make choices. These choices aren’t the most game changing but they do provide benefits depending on what you choose. What I enjoyed most, is that some of the scenes play out with the most wonderful anime melodrama. I just love seeing the theatrics played straight, that it made whatever I did to make it happen worth it.
Lost Technology is a good title for how inexpensive it is. Despite my gripes, I’d have a hard time saying I didn’t enjoy my time – despite no frog people storyline. There are issues with AI, and lack of story content for some factions. However, the game has enough depth in the macro management, and just barely enough in the combat that I would recommend this to RTS fans who want a game they can play in quick sessions. If you are not a fan of this type of game, I would not recommend it, even at $2.99. Lost Technology is neither great nor groundbreaking – but it has singing frog mages!
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: AGM PLAYISM; Developer: Studio 4D ; Players: 1 ; Released: August 9th, 2017.
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PC (Steam) review copy of Lost Technology given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.