Oh, certainly. I'm not criticizing the art for unrealism, because they just don't look at all unrealistic to me. My suspension of disbelief would actually suffer a lot more if they were exact scale models of iridomyrmex purpureus. My beef is just that the art doesn't provide any sense of atmosphere; it's just "oh, hey, yellow ants. There's a skull in that one's mandibles, so... I guess they're sort of big." A screenshot of any Half-Life game's antlion territories, run through any two Photoshop filters of your choice, would significantly improve this section.While the art doesn't look like traditional tiny ants, it does look alot like Bullet Ants to me. They have the same skinny sections with longer connective pieces and big bulbous head look. Which does make some sense, in that gigantic ants would look something more like the huge ants we already have rather than the small ones.
Coming to the last of the regular giant ants, we have the winged drone, a level 4 skirmisher which adds “fly 8” to the list of movement options a giant ant swarm will use to drive you insane. Its acid sting attack deals tiny damage if you’ve already got ongoing acid 5, but its Hive Drone Frenzy allows it to shift and then use this power as a free action; so, in encounters with a huge amount of ants and a good controller amongst the opposition, I could see this power being used four times per round per winged drone until your players wise up. Also: flyby attack as an at-will power. Lots of mobility here. As for Shredding Wings, I see it as less a matter of actual razor edges or anything, and more a “wing buffet” attack used with such force that it snaps the wings off. Rather like how a zombie’s slam attack can be so destructive; the zed simply hits as hard as its muscles can possibly allow, and be damned if it rips every single tendon in its arm while doing so°. That’s my rationalization, anyway.
Historic moment of the day: as a close blast 2, I believe Shredding Wings is the first even-numbered blast attack ever printed. As we’ll see in a couple of days, it isn’t the last.
And of course we have the obligatory hive queen. As per standard, she is a level 5 Elite Controller (Leader); size Large; with an aura 10 that empowers her giant ant allies, a panoply of burst effects, and an encounter power that calls forth a handful of minions. I could write that much without even having this book. Although, with the emphasis on pheromones in this matriarch’s fluff, I have to give the designers credit for not including any nonsensical charm effects. Anyway: another minor action attack! Yay! In this case, “Kick”, a reach attack which deals very minor damage but pushes the target 3 squares (great for kicking fighters off of a beloved skirmisher, for example). Her pheromone effects, which in a shining example of realism deal acid damage due to the massive chemical doses involved, really are nice; one power essentially creates a permanent aura 4 of acidic fog, whose damage is multiplied by the number of ants in the aura (preferably lots). The summoning power introduces four hive workers, which would be utterly useless were it not for the synergy inherent in the ubiquitous Hive *caste* Frenzy abilities—but with them, it’s actually pretty cool.
So, giant ants? I like them a lot in theory. Their stat blocks paint a pretty picture, but they seem almost too slick; in melee, I know you can’t count on getting all of the factors you want. I think they would be an enjoyable diversion, at least, with their obvious slant toward “massive horde” encounters. If your controller is feeling particularly unimportant one day, it might be time to break out the giant ants!
° It occurs to me that, were I not a massive nerd, I would have used drug addicts as an example instead of zombies.
Next up: archons!