Farscape Preview

We take a look at the upcoming game based on a popular sci-fi TV show.

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Farscape: The Game
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The Jim Henson Company has given Red Lemon some freedom in developing Farscape.
The Jim Henson Company has given Red Lemon some freedom in developing Farscape.

A common problem for developers trying to adapt a well-known property into a game is that the company holding property isn't very flexible and won't let the development team expand on the license. Interestingly, that hasn't been the case for Red Lemon, the team currently working on the upcoming Diablo-like RPG based on Farscape, a popular sci-fi show in which an astronaut named John Crichton is caught in a wormhole during an experiment on his ship and is sent off to another galaxy. Red Lemon has not only been able to create a story by piecing elements of different Farscape episodes together, but it has also added 16 new alien races and around 40 new creatures that have never been seen in the Farscape universe. Of course, Farscape fans can also expect to see some familiar faces and locations. The storyline in Farscape takes place around the end of season one. Moya--an enormous organic ship where all of the main characters reside--has been attacked by a squad of peacekeepers, scattering its crew. As John Crichton, you have to find five other members of the crew and try to get back to Moya.

Red Lemon wanted to make Farscape as simple and accessible as possible so that both fans and newcomers to the Farscape universe wouldn't be intimidated. With that in mind, the game has been structured as an action RPG similar to Diablo--only now you can actually move while your characters are firing weapons. This is quite important because battles can become so hectic that you almost have to strafe and constantly move around to survive. An auto-lock on system has been incorporated as well, making it even easier to take advantage of a character's ability to avoid an enemy attack.

At the bottom of the screen, you'll find individual portraits of characters currently in your team, which can support up to three characters at once. Whenever you want to give orders or get basic information on a specific character, you simply click on that character's portrait. It's important to keep in mind that the characters can be told to stay behind, which is an incredibly helpful option for characters that can't really defend themselves, like Rygel--a self-centered alien character--who doesn't have access to any weapons.

You'll be able to strafe while firing your weapon.
You'll be able to strafe while firing your weapon.

The portrait area also lets you access the inventory where weapons and other items are located. Each weapon has been color-coded to indicate the type of damage that it can deliver to an enemy. Farscape's gameplay also involves the search for weapons that are more effective against certain species of enemies. Generally, you'll be able to secure such weapons and additional items by trading with NPCs scattered throughout the game--enemies will leave only shells, furs, and similar types of items behind.

While there's plenty of run-and-gun-style action in Farscape, a large portion of the game revolves around puzzles and your ability to recognize the special abilities of each character--abilities that could possibly be used to solve them.

Teamwork

John Crichton, Rygel, and other characters have some special skills.
John Crichton, Rygel, and other characters have some special skills.

There are a variety of puzzles in Farscape, some of which coincide with a character's special skills or abilities. For example, John Crichton is essentially the technical wizard of the characters that are playable, so if you happen to come across a puzzle that requires technical knowledge (like hacking), then you have to use John. Likewise, if you come across what appears to be a dead end, then you should take the time to look around for small tunnels. Since he doesn't carry any weapons, Rygel is the only character that can pass through these tunnels and open up new paths for the two other party members. Rygel can also get cheaper prices on most items in the game, so it's beneficial to have him in your party even though he can't help you out in a fight. As noted before, you'll be able to give a basic set of orders to other characters in your party, which becomes useful in solving other types of puzzles. In one particular stage, you must tell one of your party members to hold the door open while the others walk through.

You can have a party of up to three people, but sometimes, only one character is needed.
You can have a party of up to three people, but sometimes, only one character is needed.

One of the attractions of the Farscape TV show is the interaction between characters, and Red Lemon is attempting to capitalize on this not only through the storyline of the game, but also through the gameplay itself. When all of the six playable characters in Farscape are finally unlocked, you'll find that certain character combinations work better than others. In one mission, there is a large group of raiders located just outside of a small town, and naturally, you have to confront them before the townspeople give you a helping hand in accomplishing your goal. Assuming that he's available for this mission, Rygel would obviously not be the best character to have in this situation. It would be much better to have some of the tougher characters, such as John Crichton, D'Argo (unquestionably the strongest of all the characters), and Sun (a former peacekeeper soldier). Ultimately, your character selection should simply depend on the circumstances of the mission and the relationship between individual characters.

Farscape will feature 30 missions spread out over 25 environments that become progressively stranger, though some--like the decks of Moya--should look immediately familiar to fans of the show. Each area has been modeled in full 3D, and Red Lemon has made a strong effort to include a mix of wide-open outdoor spaces and smaller mazes. Unfortunately, Farscape will not ship with any multiplayer modes, but Simon & Schuster and Red Lemon are still taking a possible future multiplayer feature into consideration. Farscape is currently scheduled for release in May.

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