Dark Colony represents SSI's latest diversion from wargames since the success of its real-time strategy title War Wind. The story revolves around a classic human vs. alien conflict: The humans have terraformed Mars and are mining it for Petra-7, a newly discovered resource. The aliens or "grays" - bug-eyed villains who fit the classic Roswell description - just want the humans to take their guns and air-purifiers and buzz off.
The game's futuristic theme is inventive and well executed, but in the end it is only this sci-fi aesthetic and the over-the-top gore that distinguishes Dark Colony from most real-time strategy games.
Following the precedent set by Command & Conquer and Warcraft II, Dark Colony allows you to build a base and proceed to construct technology buildings around it radially. On the human side, these buildings yield anything from space-suited troopers to scampering mini-mechs to a cyborg Special Forces unit simply dubbed "S.A.R.G.E." The grays prefer to breed their weapons in the form of artillery-packing creatures, such as the Atril, which hurl a fleshy sac of explosive mucus at the humans with intent to kill. During a game, both sides can uncover Martian ancient artifacts that award the finder with destructive abilities.
Besides a strangely compelling soundtrack that echoes of sci-fi classics like Star Wars and Dr. Who, graphics are Dark Colony's strong point. Character-rendering is sharp, napalm explosions are luminescent, and character deaths are violent as ever. When a human unit gets hit, arcs of blood might spew forth from his uniform or his head might erupt into a gory geyser. Add a few dozen units spraying bullets at one another and the ensuing gore fest begins to look more like a Mortal Kombat in space than Command & Conquer.
But if you look beyond the inventiveness of its theme, past its blood-drenched battlefield, the game begins to falter. Dark Colony ends up rehashing bothersome real-time strategy cliches. Any premeditated plan of action in the game soon gives way to those familiar desultory build-and-charge tactics. After strategically planning troop placement and development, you would hope your battle formation would resemble something more than a pee-wee soccer team with troops hacking it out in one big tempestuous cluster. Unfortunately, Dark Colony tends to suffer this fate more often than not.
This limited method of play is similar to first-generation real-time strategy games. Fans of Warcraft II who were sucked in by the game's comical motifs should find something engaging about Dark Colony's droll characters, hi-res art, and futuristic themes, but nothing really new is offered under the surface.