Review by SmackJack
"This game is a SHAM"
Okay, I don't normally write reviews on games, and I certainly don't usually complain about them, but in all the years I have been playing computer games (and I've been playing them since they started) I've never been more disappointed. This game has so much potential to be great but in the end it just did not deliver, at least not in the way it claims it does on the box itself.
Its certainly not all bad, however. The game LOOKS and SOUNDS great, and certainly a lot of time and effort went into its creation. Its very easy to learn how to play, and has a decent, albeit very redundant, story line to follow. Also, the environment you become involved in, the Sirrius System, is MASSIVE, and there are many places to check out, many ships you can buy, and lots of people you can blow up. All of this just makes the game all the more disappointing to me because, in my opinion, they totally botched it.
Before I explain, I must confess that although I've been an avid gamer for years I'm not overly familiar with this genre. I never player Privateer or WingCommander or any other like it. If linearity of gameplay is 'normal' for this genre, I don't know; but the box on this game touts the fact that you can at any time leave off the main plot and ''pursue your own adventure!'' I am a sucker for lines like this. I love non-linear games, the less linear the more I like it, even if it means sacrificing other areas of the game like graphics.
At first, with its massive environment, thousands of NPCS, and dozens of 'factions' that you can interact with (sort of) this game does give the impression of a non-linear game. Indeed, with all these things how can a game be too linear?? The kicker is, you can explore all you want, or ally with whoever you want, but it doesn't make any difference what-so-ever; the only way you can really progress is by playing the story line, which is TOTALLY linear, and automatically decides for you who the enemy is (ie; all previous alliances you may have had eventually go bad the moment you go with the plot). Sure, you CAN break off from the story line whenever, and you CAN go make as much money as you want flying missions or engaging in the static yet very intricate trade system, but (I HAVE NO IDEA WHY) you can't raise any more levels until you resume the plot. And (I HAVE NO IDEA WHY) they decided to prevent you from being able to buy better ships and EQ until you get to higher levels. So, effectively, you cannot buy better ships and EQ (which makes making lots of money pointless) unless you play the linear plot.
For me, this was frustrating enough to ruin it entirely. I had to put this one away, and I've never done that before with a game (that is, without fully playing the game through and getting my money's worth first). If I could I'd get my money back. I played for a while hoping that maybe at some point you can REALLY break off and do your own thing and actually be able to advance levels and get better stuff, but I played for perhaps 15 hours and I saw no sign of such a thing coming. In fact, the game starts to get more linear as it goes-> at a certain point you can't even decline to do the plot based missions, or occasionally you can but it would be ridiculous to.
Now, if you don't mind linearity, if you like this kind of game (space sim) and don't mind just going along with the ride you'll likely really love this game. It does offer a pretty engaging 'ride'; even though there is apparently NO AI or hardly ANY variability to the missions, it is admittedly pretty fun blowing stuff up with the easy to use interface. For me, however, I can't stand just going along with the ride. Especially when there is such a massive and beautiful galaxy to explore, and so much potential for side plots and alternative story lines. But, alas, it is all for naught because you virtually STAGNATE the moment you veer from the storyline, and there are no alternate storylines that would allow you to advance again other than the main one (as far as I know).
All in all, not a complete waste of money, though I seriously regret buying it. I almost feel deceived by the way they openly brag about it's non-linearity on the box, and then for some crazy reason decide to muscle you into a completely linear and redundant plot by making it pointless to do anything else. For that reason I say this game is a SHAM (not shame, SHAM). This is the last time I buy a game just based on the impression I get from the box (I've told myself this before, but this one really looked promising... DANG! I'm such a sucker!).
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 04/30/03, Updated 04/30/03
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