E3 2001 Hands-on: Sigma: The Adventures of Rex Chance

We get a fresh look at Relic Entertainment's upcoming 3D strategy game and report back with an update on its development.

While Sigma: The Adventures of Rex Chance has been shown to the press in the past, these demonstrations consisted largely of technology demos. The game is at least a year away from completion, so it isn't fully playable yet, but we can say that it's progressing nicely. Sigma is Relic Entertainment's follow-up to Homeworld, so naturally, there are going to be comparisons made. But in truth, the two games are worlds apart.

At its core, Sigma is a real-time strategy game, but it actually resembles Warcraft more than Homeworld. The game takes place in a handful of different environments, which range from a tropical island to an arctic wasteland, and the action unfolds much like in other RTS games, in that you begin by sending out units (in this case, henchmen) to gather resources and build your initial structures, eventually building up an army to attack your opponent. What makes Sigma unique is that instead of using precanned units, you have the ability to customize your army.

During the single-player campaign, you'll have to capture animals before you can create new units, but in skirmish games, customization is primarily done before the game begins. Units are made by crossbreeding any of the 50 different animals, and the various combinations have their own advantages and disadvantages, which correspond to the different environments. For example, if you're playing on a savanna level, using the body of a camel gives you a unit with high endurance, which can be combined with the head of a bull for a more aggressive attack. Because both you and your opponent (or the CPU, as the case may be) can create endless different combinations, battles will almost always be unique.

What we were shown was a fully functional level, although none of the single-player campaign was actually available for us to take a look at. We were told that Relic is creating a single-player experience that is as story-driven as Homeworld was and that consists of approximately 15 missions. Those who were intimidated by Homeworld's somewhat extreme difficulty level will be pleased to know that Relic plans to make this a much more accessible game. Plus, even though the camera is free roaming, there will be an option to have a fixed view. Relic also plans on having some interesting multiplayer modes, including its own take on capture the flag. Since Sigma won't be out until spring of 2002, there clearly is a lot of work to be done; however, it's shaping up to be a unique take on the real-time strategy experience.

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