The concept of a hybrid-genre game is interesting. By combining the best traits of two genres that don’t share much in common, it’s possible to create a unique product that greatly differs from its competitors. This is exactly what developer Ammobox Studios is attempting to achieve with its latest title, Eximius: Seize the Frontline.
Eximius is a self-proclaimed FPS/RTS hybrid. It demands the player to use both their first-person shooter mechanical skills and real-time strategy game sense at the same time. It isn’t the first game to attempt this genre combination, but it is still rare to see. The most popular example of this sub-genre in action is Natural Selection 2. However, with that being over eight years old, there is certainly a vacancy for a new FPS/RTS hybrid to enter the market.
In the action
Given the nature of Eximius: Seize the Frontline, I think it’s best to review both its FPS and RTS mechanics separately. After all, it doesn’t matter how well these work together unless each are designed well in the first place.
The first-person shooter side of Eximius feels outdated at the best of times. More specifically, it plays a lot like a mid-2000s shooter. The biggest contribution to this feel is the gunplay which lacks complexity as well as those finer details that define a great FPS.
Perhaps AAA shooters like Modern Warfare have spoiled me, but Eximius: Seize the Frontline’s gunplay is bland in comparison. None of the weapons have any serious weight or kick to them. The lack of an aim-down sights animation is particularly unsettling in a modern FPS game. The instant transition between hip fire and aimdown sights doesn’t feel natural. To add to that, many weapons have random spray patterns and the gun audio is lackluster.
This is the reason why Eximius‘ weapons fail to differentiate themselves. If the rifle and a sub-machine gun both aim instantly, why bother using the harder-to-control, short-range SMG? In addition, the inconsistency of spray patterns is truly bizarre. Some guns have an easy-to-use, vertical-only recoil pattern. Others are completely random and bounce left to right so much that it’s hard to land shots with them beyond a few meters. It’s difficult to tell if the developers were trying to create a casual shooter or a competitive one.
To Eximius‘ credit, it does get some things right. In many large-scale warfare games, it’s common for vehicles to be overwhelmingly strong. Thankfully, the anti-tank weapons in Eximius are well-balanced and can easily punish any overly aggressive drivers. Furthermore, there are some genuinely interesting weapons that I’ve not seen elsewhere. For example, the Shockwave is a pulse shotgun that can kill targets through walls. With good map knowledge and prediction, using this can be serious fun.
But the few positive design decisions are outweighed by the many cons. Four of your five squad members are playing purely the FPS half of Eximius: Seize the Frontline. Given this, it’s disappointing how raw it feels right now. Developer Ammobox Studios has put a lot of time into advertising new content for Eximius‘ full release, but none of that matters when such fundamental gameplay issues exist. Frankly, from an FPS player’s perspective, Eximius does not feel ready to leave Early Access.
Thankfully, the real-time strategy half of Eximius holds up better. Each team has one assigned commander who is responsible for the strategy aspects of each game. This includes ordering A.I troops around, calling in new units, and managing resources.
The commander can still partake in the FPS half of Eximius. However, when managing their team from the overworld map, their character will stand still completely undefended. You’ll need to either only use this screen when in your own base or get your teammates to cover you. The commander has by far the most impact on a game of any player. The victor of a game is usually determined by whatever team has the better commander.
My favorite aspect of Eximius: Seize the Frontline is its sheer diversity of units. From flamethrower tanks to large-scale artillery, the commander has access to all kinds of fun units. Each unit excels in a certain role and needs to be utilized appropriately. To call units in, you need to build specific structures. These structures require resources that are passively gathered. Capturing resource points around the map speeds up how fast you can gather resources. Each team contests one another for resources, so it’s important to defend these points while also pushing the enemy objective.
The aim of the commander is to accumulate resources, build units, and take objectives. The other four non-commanders are effectively treated as super units that can customize their loadouts to suit their team’s needs. If the opponent has a lot of tanks, a commander could get his teammates to buy launchers in order to avoid spending resources on anti-tank units. I can’t think of any other RTS games that require that level of communication and coordination between players. It’s an interesting mechanic that might even be a solid basis for Eximius to become a viable competitive game in the future.
Ordering around A.I soldiers works fine. Tasking them to capture objectives or resource points is easy to do. You can also make limited orders whilst in the FPS perspective just in case you want to switch up your gameplan mid-fight. This is mostly done with the ping tool but there some separate key binds for specific orders.
The A.I itself is hopeless without your commander’s instructions. They will often walk straight into their death for no reason. The same applies to A.I teammates who take the place of real players during the offline skirmish mode. The servers are currently offline. I only had access to Eximius: Seize the Frontline‘s offline modes for this review. I imagine Eximius would be far more fun online with a coordinated team. Although you could make that same argument for every team-based game on the market.
An unsteady ride
Regrettably, Eximius: Seize the Frontline is a poorly optimized product. This was a problem in several of its Early Access builds, but there was a certain expectation that this would be addressed for its full release. However, playing Eximius for this review has proven to me that its performance is still a huge problem.
Regardless of if I was playing at Ultra 1440p or Low 1080p, Eximius suffered from regular stuttering and frame drops. Given that it only recommends a GTX 1060, I was confused why my RTX 2060 couldn’t handle it. But a quick observation of the Task Manager answered my question.
For some reason, Eximius: Seize the Frontline throttles my GPU up to 99% usage. I have never seen any other game come close to doing this. It’s unclear what is causing this problem, but it had a seriously negative effect on my ability to enjoy Eximius.
Even if this problem gets fixed, there are other issues to be aware of. Even at 1080p Low settings, I could only get Eximius: Seize the Frontline to run at a mostly consistent 60 frames per second. At Low 1080p, Eximius looks several years old, making such a mediocre frame rate unacceptable. Once you crank up the settings it does begin to look sharp, but that comes at the cost of unbearable performance issues.
It’s not ready yet
Thanks to the superior complexity and polish, the strategy half of Eximius is better than its FPS counterpart. In many ways, Eximius plays like a real-time strategy game with an FPS minigame tacked-on to it. Playing as the commander is fun enough, but only two of ten players in a game fill that role. The other eight are stuck playing a mediocre FPS that feels like it was made well over a decade ago.
The aesthetic and creative decisions made are praiseworthy. When you consider the turmoil the developers have been through to get here, that alone is impressive. And yet it’s difficult to recommend Eximius: Seize the Frontline, as it doesn’t currently feel like a finished product. Unfortunately, a lot of polish is still required in order for this to fulfill its potential. Although make no mistake, that potential is very real.
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