Impossible Creatures Review: An OG Real-Time Strategy Game

Paying homage to the games of yesterday has fallen out of practice. Impossible Creatures is a hidden gem from the early 2000’s worthy of a full game review!

ESG Quick Review:

Real-time strategy games have been around since the early 1980’s starting out with either Utopia or Cytron Masters depending on how specific you want to get. Since then, the RTS genre has blown up in popularity with massive titles like Age of Empires or Starcraft II. For those who have never heard of an RTS game, here are some essentials included in the majority of the games within the genre: isometric viewpoint (angled above/looking down), units/building production and management, resource control, some sort of base to defend/upgrade/attack, a minimap, and an overlay for unit production. For competitive RTS games, competition usually depends on efficiency of clicks, time management, and utilization of keyboard shortcuts.

Impossible Creatures came out back in January of 2003 putting the game at the halfway point between RTS’s inception and the modern day. From this, there are qualities of the game that are obviously quite dated such as the graphics. However, this review will mainly focus on the mechanics and design of the game rather than faulting it for the era it was created in. With that out of the way, let’s get to the full Impossible Creatures review organized by the following topics:

  • Development Team
  • Gameplay/Plot
  • Addressing Criticisms
  • Should You Buy It?

Development Team

canadian-based game development studio Relic Entertainment
Relic Entertainment has created some of the top RTS games in the genre. Boasting monumental RTS titles like Homeworld, Warhammer and Age of Empires IV, Impossible Creatures could not have had a better development studio! Image courtesy of

Relic Entertainment is a Canadian-based game development studio founded back in 1997. Both historically and in modern times, the studio focuses on the creation of real-time strategy games. Through their years of practice within the genre, they have accumulated an impressive number of polished games. As of today, this list stands at 12 separate titles (one to be released next year) all within the RTS genre.

Their first game titled Homeworld came out in 1999. It was a major success winning multiple awards and selling hundreds of thousands of copies in their first couple of months. The game was an RTS style sci-fi game that took place in space. It had another installment in the series a couple of years later that was equally adored by fans and game reviewing sites alike. With such a promising first release, Impossible Creatures (which came out four years after the first Homeworld game) seemed destined for success.

Unfortunately, Impossible Creatures never quite lived up to the reputation of the Homeworld series in terms of games sold. That being said, the core community who fell in love with the game is one of the most tight-knit, passionate, and helpful fanbases I have ever seen. Even today, there are Discord servers full of admirers of the game who create mods, host tournaments to play together, or just run casual games to enjoy with their friends. Even game reviewing sites held Impossible Creatures in high-esteem, with the average rating falling somewhere between seven to eight out of ten. The game’s unique gameplay mechanisms and overall core concept requires a specific gamer to enjoy, a possible reason for the game's mediocre reception in terms of player base size.


Impossible Creatures menu screen
“Impossible Creatures is a 3D RTS game that pits the player against an evil villain. Using Earth’s most formidable animals as building blocks, the player must create an army of genetically-altered mutant monsters in a titanic struggle to protect an unsuspecting world.” Image courtesy of

Gameplay for Impossible Creatures is like many other RTS games. Players have a home base in which they must command henchmen to gather resources in order to create more buildings and units for the army. Once an army has been amassed, there are a number of different objectives depending on what mission the player is on. Usually, the mission is to simply make your way through the island and destroy the enemy’s base. Other times, there are side missions needed to be completed to further the plot and reveal more backstory pertaining to the game’s lore.

Impossible Creatures is not known for its gameplay, however. The real uniqueness comes in the game's vast possibility of unit creation as seen above. Players are able to combine two separate animals into a singular unit utilizing the unit combiner. They can pick which attributes of the two animals to use such as legs, body, tail, head, or arms. Depending on which animal you pick and the body parts utilized, the new unit will have unique strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you were to combine a cheetah’s body and legs with a great white shark’s head, the unit produced will be extremely fast with a powerful bite attack. There are flying, swimming, land, amphibious, and even ranged creatures to pick from, giving the player a ton of freedom in the creatures they create.

While playing through the story, players will have to collect samples of animals found on each island using the main character’s (Rex) rifle to collect DNA samples in order to use that animal in the unit combiner. This allowed the development team to pace out which animals are able to be used at certain parts of the game. This did wonders for the game in terms of balance, ensuring that players cannot utilize overpowered animals too early in the game.

There are also power levels (ranging from one to five) to the units which have an impact on how much they cost to create and the space they take up. Typically, more powerful creatures will cost more and take up more space in the unit cap. This is not always the case, however, as some creatures may have unique abilities that cause them to be more expensive rather than sheer power. For example, a creature that is able to swim (a necessary component for getting through some missions) may cost more than another creature of similar strength solely because of the swimming ability.

The story of the game follows Rex Chance and his father’s assistant Dr. Lucy Willing. Following the creation of Sigma technology (the tech that allows the ‘Impossible Creatures’ to be made), the protagonists must face off against many enemies who are assisting Upton Julius, the game’s main antagonist. Julius’s main ambition is to utilize Sigma technology and his ex-militant experience to take over the world. It is, quite literally, up to the player to save the world.

“Embrace your inner mad scientist, create abominations that defy the order of creation. Massacre your enemies and have your lobster/vulture hybrids feast on their entrails. 11/10, would commit crimes against nature again.” - Xaytan on Steam

Addressing Criticisms

game still from Impossible Creatures featuring a fish with leopard legs
Every game, no matter how well recepted, comes with some community criticisms. Thankfully, Impossible Creature’s robust fanbase and development team have created solutions to much of the negative feedback they received! Image courtesy of

The biggest criticism the game received, despite having 51 animals within the base game to choose from, was a lack of content in regards to the main story and animals to choose from. After all, in a game all about customization there can never be too many options. The fix for this criticism was quite simple, DLC! Relic Entertainment released an official DLC titled Insect Invasion which added, as you can probably guess, a ton of insects. This allowed people to create new creatures that were even crazier than in the base game. I mean, can you imagine what a hippopotamus and an insect combined would look like?

That is not the end of additional content, however, as the community also created multiple mods for adding new animals. This came in the form of the Creature Chaos and Tellurian mod, both of which added new maps and creatures to the game. Mod support for the Steam version of Impossible Creatures was fully integrated a couple of years back, a useful quality of life change that meant players no longer had to manually input the mod into the game files. In fact, the Insect Invasion (official DLC) is even included with the download of the base game through Steam. In total, these DLCs will nearly double the amount of combinable creatures which works exponentially to create a much larger number of total possible creatures to create within the game.

The other major criticism the game received was a lack of multiplayer support. In the past, players had to create custom mods that allowed for multiplayer and then directly connect to a friend's IP address to play along. This was a convoluted solution that cut off a huge portion of the playerbase who did not have the technological prowess to implement the mod or connect with other players. With the Steam release, however, multiplayer has been fully integrated into the game. This was a wonderful surprise for fans of the series to see their beloved game, despite being released over ten years prior to the Steam release, still receive updates and support from the development team. It also opened up possibilities for people to play the game competitively. While there certainly is a market for the competitive side to Impossible Creatures, the majority of the playerbase play the game for its storyline and for casual multiplayer games.

Relic Entertainment was smart to encourage modding of the game by the community. In fact, the new Steam implementation makes it even easier for the community to create additional content by including the Mod SDK (software development toolkit) in the Steam download. They even encourage players to mod the game by saying “we hope to soon see some more great creations from the IC mod community” on the game’s Steam page. This allows those who have a passion for the game to continue to improve it without the development team having to continue to invest resources for a game they created nearly twenty years ago. It makes me wonder why more developers are not as open to the modding community as Relic is as it clearly can help out a game suffering from lack of content or any other integral game function.

Should You Buy It?

impossible creatures game on steam
With so many possibilities, Impossible Creatures is perfect for the creative type. It allows for limitless imagination and requires genuine strategy, a combination few other games can boast! Image courtesy of

Impossible Creatures is listed on Steam for ten dollars as of the creation of this article. Compare that with a modern title’s price tag of sixty dollars and you are looking at a sixth of the cost. There is a ton of gameplay to get through and a nearly unlimited amount of creatures to create. If you are anything like myself, you will find yourself getting attached to the abominations you create which brings in another level of player satisfaction.

The game also has so much free downloadable content available that you can basically get an entire sequel to the game at no cost! I would, however, recommend playing through the base game first to get used to the mechanics and experience the game how it was meant to be played during its release all the way back in 2003. After that, feel free to dive into all of the additional content made by wonderful members of the community!

If you still are not convinced, there is a free trial version of the game available to download that includes the first three missions and about 20% of the base game creatures. This can give you valuable insight as to how the game works and what is theoretically possible with the unit combiner. It is a great solution for those on the fence about buying the game!

Ultimately, does ESG recommend Impossible Creatures as the next addition to your steam library? Yes, yes we do.

Image courtesy of

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