ParaWorld is one of those games that tries a new concept or idea, but concentrates so much on that idea that it fails to bring anything terribly interesting in other areas to the table. Whenever someone asks me to describe the game to them quickly, I generally end up saying something like "It's a real-time strategy game…with dinosaurs" because really, that's all that it feels like. There's nothing new, nothing intriguing, and nothing that really makes it feel worth playing in the long run.

As was the big promotional push, ParaWorld has dinosaurs. The oddly-named title comes from the idea that there are parallel worlds next to ours that are similar, yet still different in fundamental ways. In the single-player campaign, you'll follow the trails of three scientists who have been thrown into one of these worlds, and track their attempt to escape. The setting is a place where ancient creatures and landscapes meet the human race with some technology ranging from spears to steam engines to machine guns. The story is fairly flat and doesn't really draw you in. The dialogue is pretty bland as well, and the characters aren't the sharpest tools in the box, despite being scientists.

But if you're playing an RTS, you probably aren't playing it for the story. Unfortunately, the gameplay that ParaWorld is filled with isn't really compelling either. You've basically got your standard RTS formula: builder units, made from a 'main' building, construct buildings. From these buildings you can make units and upgrades to units. When you've amassed enough resources, you can raise your tribe to the next 'epoch', which means more buildings, upgrades, and units. Sound a little familiar?

There are three tribes for you to control, and though they have some small differences, in the big picture they're really all the same. The Norsemen, a Nordic-style tribe, the Dustriders, a nomadic tribal group, and the Dragon Clan, a tribe with advanced technology make up the races on ParaWorld, but there's no real difference between them. Sure, the Dustriders can dismantle buildings to return resources spent while the other races can't, for example, but superficial differences like this don't mean a whole lot to the gameplay. Everyone has the same functionality in their units, and so there's no real difference between the tribes. Speaking of balance, I don't quite understand why a couple of axe-wielding warriors can take out a unit with a machinegun.

You also have control of a number of 'heroes', story-specific characters in the single-player campaign that can also be used in skirmishes and multiplayer matches. These heroes are much more powerful than your average unit as well as having various abilities that increase as the level of the hero increases, such as increasing the attack power of melee attackers around the hero, or the ability to automatically heal those in the vicinity of the hero. These heroes are a nice touch, but are a little overpowered. Sending in a few of them to a base can result in devastation for the other guy.

The most interesting thing about ParaWorld is a little device called the 'army controller', but this is quite possibly the most irritating thing about the game as well. On the army controller, there are five different tiers, with a number of slots in each. The number of slots decreases as you go up in tier, so that while you may have twenty-five in the first tier, there's only three in the fourth tier and only one in the fifth and highest tier. Units are assigned to a specific tier when they're constructed (for example, a spearman would be a level one unit, while a siege machine would be a level three unit), but it's possible to raise the level of the unit, brining them up a tier and adding attack and defense bonuses. This costs skulls, which you obtain by killing your opponents' units.

It's an interesting way to manage your units, but the limitations on leveling up make it extremely frustrating. Since your standard units only get normal bonuses going up tiers, but your heroes get extra abilities, there's no real reason to upgrade your normal units. Additionally, the number of slots makes it very frustrating when you want to build a high-level unit but the slots are already full. There's no way to bring units down the tiers, so you're up creek without a paddle: either you kill one of the units that you've spent skulls to level up, or you go without building another good unit. Some may call it a tactical choice; I call it a frustrating limit. The controller interface also takes up a huge portion of the screen, obscuring much of the battlefield, and while it's possible to minimize it, this defeats the entire purpose of the device. Also, while using a resource such as skulls may sound like an interesting way to manage how powerful your units get, a few battles into any match nets you so many of this resource that you really don't have to worry about running out, and it eliminates the strategic element of the skulls entirely.

The AI in the game isn't very good. There's no satisfaction to be gained by beating a computer opponent when all the opponent does is send a pack of units every now and then against your base. There's no variation to the pattern, no challenge at all. Putting a rudimentary guard with a healer or two at your entrance means never having to check your defenses again.

The multiplayer mode barely warrants mentioning save for its existence, except for the inclusion of a type of game I've yet to see anywhere else: Defender. In this mode, there's a single player that's chosen to be the big force holed up behind a large army of units and buildings with lots of resources and strength, while the other players are those set against him or her to bring down the built-up army. It's a pretty interesting mode of play. The others are the standard free-for-all and Domination, where you need to capture and hold certain points throughout the level for a set amount of time.

There's nothing seriously wrong with ParaWorld in particular, it's just that there's little right either. It's a pretty average real-time strategy game, but the problem is that it's just too average, as well as very slow-paced. Once the novelty of sending units mounted on dinosaurs wears off, you find that you're playing a game that you've already played before. Only, you know, with dinosaurs.