Review by Jipster

"The Ultimate in Space Exploration Simulation"

Ambrosia Software.

I can't say enough nice things about these guys. They really put the Mac in Macintosh, y'know? Through thick and thin, Mac Users have always had a few people we can depend on. One of those companies is Bungie. Another one is Ambrosia. Ambrosia doens't make long, involved commercial games like Bungie does.. they make addictive shareware games that you can play for hours on end. And, truth be told, they're better than just about any little shareware games you can find on a PC.

Escape Velocity is one of Ambrosia's most recent ventures.. and definitely one of their most ambitious ventures. The game is a cleverly designed and very expansive space game, which combines elements of exploration and trade games like the classic computer game PIRATES! with space combat that can only be described as "Asteroid" like.

The game plot is simple at first. You are in a system at war. You saved up enough money to get a small ship, and now you're out to do what you can in this galaxy. Not much to start with, huh? Sure ain't. Your ship has a dinky little laser for a weapon, and can only warp about four times before it needs to refuel. And you want to make a name for yourself? In a galaxy that spans over forty planets? What are you, nuts?

Or at least patient. You'll have to be to get too far in this game. Who are your friends and who are your enemies? It's all dependent on what you do and who you know. This game is so open-ended that, within fifteen minutes of playing, there's no way you could have done the same things twice. Events happen at random. You may enter one system and immediately be attacked by space pirates. You may make a landing at another station, and stop by the bar.. and be given an interesting proposition from a total stranger that could lead to you being a commercial business man or a dangerous outlaw... if you take up the job. You could become renowned for your fighting skills, and drafted into the army on either opposing side of the war.. or issued by the government to lead a raid on the space pirates on the outskirts of the galaxy. Or you could become a space pirate yourself. It really could be anything.. and you control it all. Where you go, what you do, what jobs you take, and what you become in the end. It's the most open ended a game has been since paper and dice first came around.

And there's lots to do, too. The game has dozens of commodities you can trade to start with, to get yourself some cash right away. You can transport passengers, too. After you get some cash, you can stop by shipyards on any planet and take a look what they have to offer. Some planets can sell you new ships.. but they'll cost you. Ships vary in size, how many smaller ships can be carried in them, how much cargo they can hold, what weapons they can be equipped with, and of course, their affiliation. It doesn't look well to fly a notorious pirate vessel into empirial space.. right? You can also buy a variety of weapons. Lasers of all different strengths, space mines, torpedoes and missiles. And then there are support items. You can buy maps, fuel tanks, extra cargo expansions, afterburners, enhanced radar... if you go into the shadier parts of the system, you might be able to find scrambler devices or devices that screw up missile radar. Of course, get on a system's badside or become known as a criminal, and you'll never get into some spaceports.. unless you threaten them.

You can start complete military operations. You can hire mercenaries to fly with you for so many bucks a day. You can buy extra ships and carry them with you, dispatching them whenever you get into battle. You can build a fleet to take down the Pirates, or stay a loner. Ships you have defeated in battle can be looted and even captured to be added to your own arsenal.. nothing like taking down a 120,000,000 credit ship with a 4,500 credit ship.. and then taking control of it! (Of course, that might get you on the wrong side of the law.. so do be careful.)

Well, all this talk about the game options.. how does the game itself play? Well, if you've played Ambrosia's Maelstrom, it's alot like that in basics. You get a lot more weapons and such, and you fight a MUCH larger variety of weapons, but that same control scheme is used, including the inertia. Each planet is accompanied by a rather large area of space that you can fly in -- the screen scrolls, so no, you are NOT limited to your primary vision. Controls are fully customizable and responsive, though the inertia of space takes some getting used to. The speed of the game can be increased just by pressing the Caps Lock key.

Graphics are good but not great. All the ships and planets are prerendered by a computer so they have a smooth 3D look, and they are all well animated, but most ships and such are small and all the action takes place on one space screen without a whole lot of variety. Even when action starts up, projectiles are standard fare.. missles and lasers. The ships blow up pretty extravagently, but reasonably -- the screen won't flash and shake just because you took down that Argivian Fighter.

Sound effects are good but sparse. You'll know what you're doing, at least. When you hit your thrusts, you hear the "burning" thrust sound. Lasers and missiles all have correct accompanying sounds, as do hails, warps, and other such things. It's a game in space, where sound can't be heard.. so it makes sense that you're not getting ambient sounds of any type. There's no music, except a drum roll during the beginning.

If you are a Mac user with a computer that can display at least 256 colors, you have yourself here a game that's not too big, but that will keep you involved for thousand and thousand of hours. If a simulation of this type sounds like something you'd like to play, then by all means, go for it. Escape Velocity is the best game of its kind. If you have aspirations of being a great Space Hero.. or villian.. there is no better game to test your might.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 11/01/99

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