Unholy War – An underrated PS1 Classic
By Ryan Hill
When I say “The Unholy War”, it probably won’t mean much to a lot of people. That is a travesty! The game is pure, cathartic fun with a dash of strategy and just enough attitude to keep me moist.
The Unholy War was released in 1998 for the original Playstation and was even met with fairly decent reviews. The combat was solid and it had enough going on to score some much deserved praise. The fact that the game reviewed well makes it even more astonishing that so few people remember it (or at least they have forgotten it until I bring it up)! I can’t have this, so today I’m going to force-feed you some of my unholy love.
The Unholy War may sound like a game based around lynching priests for forcing choir boys to stay late after practice. Even though that would make an amazingly controversial video game, that is not what this one is about. It is about two races of freaks battling it out for all the precious resources (AUR) of an alien planet (Xarra), so more like the American government than men of the cloth.
“The Unholy War may sound like a game based round lynching priests”
The two races featured in this game are the ‘Arcanes’, a race of monsters who already inhabit the planet Xarra, and the ‘Technos’, a race of weird robot-monster hybrids who crash landed on Xarra and consequently discovered the valuable AUR. To enjoy the game that is pretty much all you need to know as far as story goes, although there is plenty more lore to be discovered as you play through it.
The characters really are the main attraction. They are all so different and have their own move set consisting of three totally unique moves. The moves usually fall into three categories; melee, projectile and trap, but there are more that fall into neither of these categories such as healing runes, grapple attacks and teleports. The combat really is mayhem, like throwing a kebab into the middle of a Newcastle dance floor and watching them fight to the death for it.
There are two main ways to play The Unholy War, ‘Mayhem’ and ‘Strategy’. Mayhem covers your basic fighting game assortment of group battles to the death. It’s good, quick fun and gets you right into the action which is where you want to be! The strategy mode switches up the formula a bit by giving you 12 missions to complete, each one on it’s very own grid-based map (Calm down nerds).
On the map you take turns moving your players around and using actions. Once you close in on an enemy player you are switched back to the combat mode to sort out your differences. The ultimate goal is to either obliterate the opposing team or destroy their base. There are more nuanced aspects to this mode but you should really play it to discover them for yourself.
“The ultimate goal is either obliterate the opposing team or destroy their base”
Now onto the combat itself, because this ain’t no 2D fighting game, oh hell no. In this game each fight takes place in a fleshed out, interactive 3D arena! There are about a dozen different battle arenas and they are all truly unique. A lot of the characters also have the ability to hover or fly, meaning there is some serious vertically to battles too. Eventually after fire is thrown, magic is conjured and blood is spilled, only one will walk away the victor!
On a personal note I discovered this game when I was very young, I enjoyed it immensely then moved onto other games and it slipped from my memory. I discovered it again a year or two ago and immediately needed to play it again to see how it had aged. Honestly, it’s as good now as it was fifteen years ago. The concept of the game was simple enough and the gameplay was so tuned that even playing this today is not a challenge, it flows so nicely and is super satisfying.
It really feels just as good to play now as it did when it was released. The music and the characters are still brilliant, I guess over time the graphics have aged a little, but not enough to affect the game at all. Even though Unholy War has two game modes and something of a campaign, it feels a waste that more story missions were never made considering all the awesome characters involved in the game. My biggest problem is I wish there was more!
Even though it can be tough, especially on the higher difficulties, it never feels unfair to the point of frustration, plus each battle isn’t always worth getting upset about because you have more fighters to follow up. I never really played it with friends so my memories of it are my own but I still feel a warm sense of nostalgia when I think about (or play) Unholy War.
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