Robot Wars Arenas of Destruction is an 'interesting' game to say the least. The first thing to know is that this is a game which came out in 2001. As one might reasonably expect, this means the graphics are very dated and the damage system is questionable. The robot builder is also simplistic, it was definitely aimed at kids in 2001 so its target audience really does not exist any more, beyond people with nostalgia for early 00s Robot Wars.
Fortunately for me, I am sombody who very much did enjoy that era of Robot Wars so this game does have something for me. You start off with a limited budget and a terrible starting robot (aptly named My FIrst Bot) which you can either compete with, upgrade or sell. The robot building has not aged at all well compared to say Robot Arena 2. When you build a robot you can buy parts either in the shop or the scrapyard in the following categories:
Chassis, Locomotion, Drive, Power, Weapons, Armour, Extras.
The nice thing here is that your choices do affect each other - a flipper works best on a wedge shaped robot, for example, and a powerful drive system or weapon might come at the expense of armour (the tournaments you can initially enter have a strict 74kg weight limit).
One interesting quirk is that if you use a domed disc chassis and titanium armour, your robot is completely indestructible. You could go through an entier tournament of facing destructive weapons and your chassis and armour are guaranteed to remain at 100%. Having said that, your robot could easily end up getting flipped and unable to self-right, so there is no perfect design. Another problem with an indestructible robot - your opponents will still score damage points with the judges, even if they do not actually damage your robot.
In fact, the judging overall in Arenas of Destruction is highly varied - I have no idea ho the game calculates scores for the four criteria (damage, aggression, style, control) but it has never felt to me that it reflects well the battle that just took place. This means that you never want a battle to go the full three minutes, especially a fight with several competitors.
This leads me to another feature of the game - it rewards pushbots and flippers. Many of your opponents struggle to self-right, either through design or because their weapon/srimech flew off. Almost all arenas have a pit type area and the AI is pretty bad at not driving into it (seriously - drive around the pit and the computer will just drive in and lose). Of course, in the instances where the computer does not drive in, you can always just push/flip them in. If, however, you try to win by causing damage with a spinner, axe or crusher, you will often not KO the opponents within 3 minutes and then be at the mercy of the judges. If you want a challenge, try winning tournaments this way.
As the name suggests, the tournaments in RWAOD take place in several arenas - there is the standard RW arena (S4 version) in London, an oil rig in the North Sea, a rooftop in Tokyo, a dockyard in Hamburg, a factory in New York, a scrapyard in Sao Paulo, a military base in Siberia and a volcano in Tanzania. These do have their own hazards, but these do not especially change the fact that pushers and flippers tend to do best.
Apart from the arenas (which I do like), another nice feature is that the game does feature some real robots. It has five house robots (Dead Metal, Matilda, Sgt Bash, Shunt and Sir Killaliot). Apart from Dead Metal, each of these automatically rolls back over when flipped, which is a feature I'm not too fond of if I am honest. One of the iconic things in Robot Wars was that an inability to self-right was a common weakness for all house robots. There is a game mode in which you fight a house robot. To win this there are two easy routes:
- Go for the domed disc/titanium/torch cutter combination and destroy the house robot's chassis
- Run away until the pit opens and win by pitting.
As well as the five house robots there are ten real competitors: Behemoth, Chaos 2, Diotoir, Firestorm 2, Hypno-Disc, Mortis, Panic Attack, Pussycat, Razer and Terrorhurtz. I am actually really happy with this selection of robots, these are definitely among the most iconic competitors in classic Robot Wars (alongside maybe Roadblock, Cassius, Dominator 2 and Tornado). You can unlock these ten robots (and a RW Magazine competition-winning design, Thor) by winning various competitions.
One snag in the game is that you can only select your opponent in 1v1 fights - you cannot (in-game at least) select who you face in an annihilator so you will most of the time face fictional robots (which are easy to defeat) rather than your favourite Robot Wars legends. This is where there is some good news.
I certainly do not make any claim to be an expert (or good) modder, but I have enjoyed making some minor changes to the game. QuickBMS, developed by Luigi Aureiemma, is a program which you can use to extract files from Lumpy.DAT and then reimport once you have made the modifications you like. The easiest changes are to tournament files, where you can change the competition format, entry conditions, prize money and list of possible opponents. I am sure you many more changes are possible (e.g. to buff certain weapons/robots) but my main successful change was creating some challenge tournaments, which consist of fights against real competitors and house robots.
You can find QuickBMS, and the relavant script (rwarsed) on the following page.