Theta Warriors Brings Innovative, But Ultimately Flawed Mech Combat to Facebook

We’ve been hearing from Enigma Games, for some time now, about a Facebook title called Theta Warriors Online. Developed across the three platforms of Facebook, MySpace, and the Enigma platform itself, it’s a science fiction app that tailors itself to a more core gamer demographic.

Theta Warriors presents some interesting ideas, complete with meaningful customization and “global” conflict between players. Nevertheless, as unique as some of the game’s mechanics are, the overall presentation feels cumbersome and clunky. Combined with a vast volume of features and zero instruction, Theta Warriors requires a rather steadfast determination to see the potential and even begin to understand what is going on.

The plot follows a futuristic war over a form of technology called “Theta.” Once in the game, players choose from a handful of mechs, with each sporting a different arsenal (e.g. lasers, ballistics, etc.). The game doesn’t explain any differences between them, so we just chose the one that looked coolest.

This is where the basic mafia-style RPG element comes into play, as users find themselves repeating basic quests in order to earn experience and level up. Each mission comes with a very brief blurb of story, and players are transported to a battlefield where they take turns attacking whatever enemy is involved.

So where do things start getting interesting? Well, upon leveling, players begin acquiring skill points and upgrade points. With these, they can upgrade basic attack and defense-based statistics as well as, by a percentage, overall damage, critical strike rating, and resistances to the various forms of weaponry in the game. Basic though these might seem, the real gem is a mechanic called the “Power Matrix.”

Players have a total of 100 percent power for their mech and with it, they can adjust their weapons, armor, and extra systems. The last is what is most interesting, as once users reach level five, they can begin purchasing items that will augment certain aspects of their vehicle, like weapon resistances, damage, healing bonuses and so on. The catch is that these different components require the mech to have enough power available, forcing the player to make decisions on what they equip and what they boost.

Once the player is ready to go, they can begin entering into Theta Warriors’ core social element, the wars themselves. Yes, there’s a typical battle system where users attack one another individually, but the really interesting concept, called the “Empire War”, pits Facebook, MySpace, and Enigma users all against one another in a World War style.

The world is based on a pyramid with each platform controlling a particular section. Within it are hexagonal grid spaces that contain both players and defensive structures. As with the rest of the game, the nuances of the Empire War are unclear, but it appears that players are able to move to adjacent grid spaces (which takes an obnoxious amount of time) and attack or defend them; working the same as the already noted, single-player battle mode.

It also appears possible to construct defensive structures (such as turrets) and even launch nuclear assaults. And the developers tell us that at midnight each day, players are given specific roles to fulfill within the Empire War to keep the play a bit more fresh.

All of these concepts sound great on paper. Unfortunately, it is a painstaking process to learn even this much, with the clunky feeling and bland user interface offering no help.

In the end, Theta Warriors is an example of how high concept can outrun usability and design. If Enigma can improve the game’s play, it may have a title that can go somewhere. In the meantime, most players are likely to end up moving on.