What should have been a revision of last year's superb simulation instead comes across as a half-baked rehash.
Independence War Deluxe Edition's greatest flaw is that it's mislabeled - it is merely a compilation of the original 1998 spaceflight simulation and an additional short campaign, with no other improvements at all. What should have been a revision of last year's superb simulation that takes advantage of contemporary hardware instead comes across as a half-baked rehash that cannot conceivably win the game any new admirers - which is a crying shame since the original Independence War was so excellent.
In early 1998, you'd have called a company visionary for supporting 3dfx graphics accelerators natively. Developer Particle Systems did just that with the American release of Independence War last year back when 3dfx cards were ubiquitous, and the game's graphics looked amazing. However, a year later, exclusive 3dfx support doesn't seem so wise since there are better cards out there. The game won't even take advantage of twin Voodoo2 cards in SLI mode, while owners of newer, better accelerators like the TNT2 will be insulted to find themselves relegated to playing in the comparatively awful-looking software rendering mode.
Nevertheless, if you never played the original Independence War and you decide not to bother with the deluxe edition, then you'll be missing out on what's easily one of the finest, most original spaceflight simulations ever. Independence War puts you at the helm of a bulky capital ship rather than a nimble starfighter as in most games of this sort, and it simulates the experience seriously and plausibly, yet without sacrificing action for the sake of complexity and depth. No other spaceflight simulation has ever pulled this off. Miraculously, Independence War also weaves an intricate and memorable story through the whole experience, which is a feat that's just as rare for space sims as it is for first-person shooters.
The prospect of a continuation to the story makes the deluxe edition's new campaign, Defiance, very tempting. It depicts the flip side of the independence war, this time from the Indie rebels' perspective, and their graffiti-covered starships make these underdogs immediately likeable. But the Defiance campaign is much shorter and consequently less involving than the original, and it isn't even as challenging. Ironically, this is partially because you can now save your progress at particular points within particular missions, a feature implemented to address a common gripe with space sims. Yet all of a sudden you'll find yourself getting through the missions much faster than you used to, and since there are fewer than 20 of them, you'll be done with Defiance quickly. A few new weapons and ship configuration features and an instant-action mode that immediately throws you into a combat situation won't help hold your interest for too much longer.
It may not be an exaggeration to call Independence War Deluxe Edition a missed opportunity of tragic proportions. Independence War remains one of the finest spaceflight simulations ever created, but now that its technology is obsolete, it's practically unplayable for the vast majority of its prospective audience. Even those players whose computers are retrofitted to play the game properly will find that the new campaign (which is not available separately) isn't worth the price of buying the old game a second time. However, if by some minuscule chance you are interested in space sims, you never had a chance to play the original Independence War, and your computer was state of the art last year, then you've found yourself the perfect game.