Review by Krishh
"Almost lives up to the subtitle: Real time strategy reborn."
The RTS genre has long been lacking in innovation, but even those that won't like this game will have to agree that it is highly innovative. Starting from the basic resource gathering. The only resource - energy - comes from the soil itself, with the help of structures- energy cores. Which means that you have to expand your base to gain energy, leading us to another innovative gameplay feature: terraforming. You need to level the ground to build structures on and expand your base. Just as well, there are weapons to break up the ground, making it unsuitable for buildings, and even wrecking buildings already built. The energy cores do more then collect it, the transfer it to the structures of your base and to other cores. This makes you think about expanding your base, because if a building has no power, it is useless. Even worse, if the enemy breaks some of your power cores from your power network, he can add them to his own network. This can lead to some very interesting tactics. The last purpose of the energy cores is the perimeter shield, which raises an almost impenetrable shield around the core and its surrounding buildings. However, this comes at a great energy cost, so you can turn it on only in emergencies. You can make only 3 different types of soldiers, and command only 5 squads of them, however this leads us to another innovation. If you have developed the correct technologies you can nanomorph these units into more advanced ones on the go, making each squad suitable for a lot( or even all) of combat situations, provided it as enough of the basic units. An interesting feature is that you have five "workers", which can switch between terraforming and building structures, but not both, forcing you to carefully mange the expansion of your base. A bit of a letdown is that there is only the single human race, with 3 different factions, however each does have a handful of unique units. The game has quite a steep learning curve, and the lackluster tutorial doesn't help much either. The single player campaign is quite long an interesting, however also quite difficult and confusing, before you learn the game better. The interface is very good, with every command in the game being easily available with a couple of mouse clicks.
Nothing too spectacular, but quite interesting nevertheless, with some interesting points. It is presented in an innovative way, that is fun to watch- the chain of worlds. It is very sci-fi though, so those that dislike this genre should beware. It tells of the exodus of humans, but it is quite confusing at first, and only later you even find out why there even is an exodus.
The graphics are very beautiful on their own merits, but are simply superb for a RTS. It looks beautiful even on my low-end system, and runs very well too, contrary to the fears of many. Especially beautiful is the terrain, which is made even better by the terraforming. The perimeter shield also is awe-inspiring, especially when covering a large area. Units are also quite good looking, but nothing spectacular. The process of nanomorphing is also quite interesting to watch.
The music is quite good, although it may not appeal to some. The unit sounds are quite good, but nothing that stands out. What brings this score down is the number of announcements you hear during the game, way too often. They are almost nonstop, drowning out the music and unit sounds.
I haven't played much multiplayer, however the tactical possibilities of this game could offer a lot of fun multiplayer. A big letdown is the lack of an in-game server browser, forcing you to use Gamespy Arcade, which is both unwieldy, and lengthens loading times on slower computers.
The campaign is quite good and long, with multiple difficulty levels, and multiplayer has the possibility to be a blast. Unfortunately there is no map editor, so you are stuck with the default maps, unless the developer releases more maps or a map editor. There are quite a lot of maps, and with the games graphics and terraforming, I can see that it would be hard to create a map editor.
It might not be real time strategy reborn, but it is quite close, and it did breathe fresh air into a genre long stale. Definitely worth checking out for RTS fans, but newcomers to the genre should be wary of the difficulty and the step learning curve. If they brave it, though, a great game lies ahead.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/29/04
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