Jupiter isn't big enough. At least that's the opinion held by the land-stingy Jovians, who are trying to grab our beloved third stone in Eidos' upcoming strategy title Conquest Earth. The game, which should be ready for release around March '97, will add innovative elements to the already established real-time formula, making it a viable competitor with Activision's forthcoming Dark Reign and 7th Level's much anticipated, mech-battlin' Dominion.
So what's going to set this one apart from the rest of the real-time gang? Well, for one thing, the graphics. Conquest Earth will end up beating the current competition by 65,280 colors. That's right - supporting a whopping 65,536 hues, the graphical possibilities are breathtaking: skidding vehicles kick up cloudy trails of dust and dramatic vaporous explosions. On top of this, terrain damage is additive, allowing for destructive deforesting and earth-scorching that leaves the battleground charred and scarred after a melee.
The Jovians have a whole bunch of strange tactical maneuvers that they can employ to wipe out the opposition. As gaseous creatures, they have to form their own outer structures, as well as the outer structures of their war machines, out of mined silicon. Combine, let's say, five silicon-encrusted Jovians and presto, you've got a laser tank. This malleability leads to other possibilities: some units can morph into objects - jeeps, rocks, trees, etc. - for surprise attacks; others can transform into "invisible" predator guys whose shimmering, translucent bodies slinking over the ground can only be detected with considerable scrutiny. (A Human "spy" unit can be deployed to detect exactly what these stealthy creatures are up to.) In their attempt to make Earth a little more habitable for themselves, the Jovians produce noxious-gas emitting factories. To combat this, the Human side has to construct air purifiers to clean up the atmosphere. Like Command & Conquer, each side has its own maneuvers and counter-maneuvers.
Other innovations found in Conquest Earth include alternative control and viewing options. For any particular unit, you can select a direct control option, which allows you to manually drive around and fire a single vehicle arcade-style while other vehicles carry out your previous select-and-click instructions. If you decide to use this type of control, you may also want to take advantage of a handy zooming feature, which zooms in on any part of a map for more immediate action. In addition, there are three selectable combat modes - seek and destroy, hunt, and rampage - which determine to what extent your troops are willing to risk their lives when sent in for a kill. Unlike Command & Conquer, where you send troops off to kill your neighbors and just resolve to enter them into the "missing in action" list, the Conquest Earth interface will include a miniature FMV that switches on whenever one of your tanks, aircraft, or buildings bites the dust.
Whew! It's a lot of new info to soak up, and we didn't even mention the fact that the game will include sound proximity and night missions. Conquest Earth should be well worth the wait for those who want to try a strategy title that strays from the beaten path. Eidos may well have another hit on their hands (following closely in the wake of Tomb Raider), and time will tell whether or not Conquest Earth will rise above its real-time cousins.