Played for 60 Hours; Trust this review to be most accurate.
The games story is somewhat generic at first but becomes indefinitely more interesting as you progress throughout. It begins simply as one race begins to touch the stars beyond the immediate orbit of their homeworld. Hunt some rebels, blow up some ships of your own races design, nothing special until your first encounter with a ship from another race. stuff happens and the two fledgling empires end up at war. Simple enough, right?
As you move through the first campaign of the two, the Malus campaign, you will encounter evidence of an ancient alien race which honestly does capture your imagination early on. You bring this campaign to a conclusion when you beat the Alyssians, your enemy back to their homeworld and destroy their main fleet. In all honestly the Malus campaign is a simple, not too imaginative battle to control the system, consisting of beautiful planets, asteroids and distant nebula renditions. The problem with many reviews and opinions of this game is that they did not play the second, 'Alyssian' campaign. This set of missions is far more interesting and begins to unravel the secrets of the two warring races and the ancient alien race plus "The Great betrayer" Which is something I will not reveal too much about due to spoilers. This campaign is one of the best single player adventures of my life in any game, not just a space RTS. Expect to see beautiful scenes, epic plot developments and a sense of mystery's revealed.
The game also has significant effort placed into a historical record as such. From historical texts and tomes to video cut-scenes of historical events. It also has some cool made up quotes of ancient religious texts which just sound epic. I've stolen quite a few of them for various forum signatures. :-)
The game is simple enough to play, it is a full 3D 'world' of the expected stellar bodies such as asteroids and distant stars. Controlling your units uses a simple click to click inter-phase with a simple behavioral AI which can be customized. You have multiple formations, ship sizes and a true seller for me, the ability to capture ships. (Something I love to do) Instead of a boring, stand and shoot or flyby battle AI, the ships will move and fight in the proper formation and is greatly affected by the aggressiveness AI. Ships will sweep through and assault then retreat round and hit the flank from several angles. It's actually one of the most realistic behavioral aspect I've seen in any game of it's type. Superior to that of Homeworld.
The game is not hard, however you still have to use your nugget somewhat, It is not like Command & Conquer with a simple build and spam aspect./ You have limited resources and must move carefully in order to not waste them. You will need to take your time and will find the later missions of both campaigns can occupy a few hours of your time, but this is not to say you will be sat bored with nothing to do very often.
For the time and still today, the level of detail of the word is deep, beautiful and largely impressive. The ships them selves are a little dull in design, however I believe this to be deliberate to represent the gritty reality of the story. The ships are clunky, dull of color and features and have no real signs of artistic flare. (with the exception of the alien race objects, the're just weird, but good weird) If I'm honest they designed the ships correctly, shiny or oddly designed ships would not suit the games atmosphere. The only negative graphical aspects I can think of is 1; The engine ion trails which looks too sharp and square and 2; The effect which resembles a disabled ship, which is a sort of blue swirly thing. Just looks bad to be honest.
Great music, which is easy to rip from the games directory to play outside the game. Battle sounds are decent, such as weapons fire and explosions. Battle chatter is accurate and not random or miss-placed. The sound overall deserves a very high score.
Game Engine, Lag and physics.
This game, although stunning does not require a super spec PC to run. The game play is smooth even on dated machines with no visual lag on anything, not even the engine trails. The ships move as you would expect them too in space, they turn with appropriate drift and slow down before coming to an eventual stop. This makes the physics realistic and improve game quality.
Unfortunately, few if any people play this online. It's essentially skirmish online. Nothing else is note worthy.
Special features include a top down 2D map to more easily issue orders over long distances and review the overall position of yours and visible enemies. A detailed and unique to each race technology tree consisting of several classes of ships with differential sub abilities such as cloaking devices and torpedoes. Both races have compliantly unique ships visual designs although both have equal counterparts. Both have destroyers, carriers etc which are near enough the same in specs, just look and maneuver differently.
The GameSpot official review states the game as lacking in imagination. This is somewhat true in that it's been done before. However I believe this game captures it better than any other game and that in it's self makes the game worth playing. I have marked this game slightly above the Game Spot review score at 8.0 as I believe the game deserves more credit than given. Ihighly recommend the game to any space RTS buffs. If you like this game then another game worthy of a look is "Haegemonia: Legions Of Iron"
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