When this little beauty fell onto my doorstep I had no idea that this game was even in development. How I missed this is beyond me so I decided that having not played a good strategy game in ages and that the Metal Fatigue review was safe in the hands of someone else, I took it upon myself to have a go at this.
The general gist of the story is that after the devastating 3rd world war on earth humans once again took to the stars lead primarily by 2 groups, The order of the new dawn, earth's largest religious faith and the Crayven corporation, earth's largest company. Treaties on earth were signed to stop conflicts and are held in place with nuclear fail-safes, however in the far reaches of the galaxy battles are rife for supplies, land and anything else of value. You take the position of Major Parker, the commander of a special operations task force used to attack enemy military installations and to protect your own land and bases.
The game starts you off with a few tutorial missions, its best to go through these as in every game, just to get the hang of the controls and everything. The tutorials are really good they take you through moving the camera, selecting units, moving them and attacking with them, you also get to learn things like following movements, tagging one unit to another and the different formations and modes you can set on your troops.
The games learning curve is really low, you start off with a few troops and as you progress through the missions you are given extra squads. These will include tanks, extra troops, hover bikes & other flying vehicles, these are meant to help you through that mission and the next few until you require more extra squads.
You don't actually control how many squads you can add to your current list, you are automatically given squads when they are needed. This also introduces new units one by one, so you spend 2-3 missions using a new unit and getting the feel of them and their strengths and weaknesses.
The slow introduction of the units coincides with the introduction of the enemy units. As you get more powerful units, so will the enemy. For example you start off with a few troops and a troop carrier, you will meet other troops and some hoverbikes in the first mission, later on you will gain tanks, where you will come across stronger enemy vehicles that the tanks can make short work of.
Some of the enemy units have such strong front armour that you have to go around the back to attack them through their weak rear armour, so using some clever tactics you can surround the enemy so whichever way they turn they are vulnerable. This means a little sacrifice, but it all pays off in the end.
Besides the vehicles you get to play with, you also get missions where your actions affect another stage of a mission. The very first of these is where you need to destroy a power plant in an enemy base within 2 minutes, just before another load of friendly troops attack the base to try and capture it. If you do not destroy the power plant a load of sentry guns wipes out the other troops and you fail the mission.
The variation of the squads are good too, you get your bog standard troopers & special forces then your vehicles called Terradynes, these include troop carriers, tanks and artillery. Later on you're introduced to Aerodynes, these are your aircraft and when using these you have to battle for air control as much as for ground control!
The games controls are so simple, using the mouse and a few keys you can control the whole battle, zooming from one place to another checking on your troops progress. Moving the mouse to the edges of the screen turns the camera I that direction and the arrow keys on the keyboard move the camera in that direction, so just using these you can look at any point in the map.
The other controls are practically all done via the mouse. You have to land your troops via a landing craft, instead of having to press keys and stuff you just click on the on screen icon that shows you there are troops ready for deployment and click on the appropriate drop zone marked on the mini map. Oh, didn't I mention anything about mini maps and dropzones, well to land your troops you are designated a dropzone which is marked on your mini map. The beginning of the mission shows only 1 dropzone but others will become available if necessary. You also get objectives marked on the mini map, such as places you need to investigate or where you need to attack the enemy.
To actually move troops you just have to left click on them then right click on where you need them to move. You get the standard drag-select where dragging a box around troops will select the ones that are in the box. All possible actions are all displayed on screen, for each operational squad you have an icon on screen which easily identifies the number of units in that squad, the squads strength and its name. Double clicking on these icons focuses the camera on them and using the icons you can also select multiple squads to form a fighting group.
The whole game looks really good too, you get night missions where visibility is really poor and missions with fog (although developers love to use fog for some reason, no matter what the game!). The game at night looks the best, all the dynamic lighting and particle effects on the explosions looks real good lighting up the immediate area. If you zoom out with the camera and look down and catch a few explosions on screen at once you get the feeling of looking down from the space ship on to the battle, you can then smile while your troops dispose of the enemy like a bunch of rag dolls. That's if you're winning of course.
Unlike Force Commander where I noted that the ground was very bare, ground control isn't, there is always some action going on, whether it's a small skirmish with a few troops or the main battle, you wont go far without a fight. There are times when you have to travel a long distance without any action or much scenery, but there are always little hill's, valleys and mountains you need to tackle to get somewhere.
The in game sounds are cool, nothing greatly impressive here, they just do their job and do it very well. You also get a female commentator letting you know when your troops have destroyed an enemy squad or when you have lost a unit in one of your squads. This is great because it helps you know when to provide some support to squads that are getting hammered or know that some squads are doing well and that a breakthrough is imminent.
These is much more to GC than meets the eye, the mission briefings are cool, the graphics are clear and crisp, even when you zoom right up close. The attention to details is great, buildings fall apart after a few shots, they smoke after a few more then finally explode, but don't disappear, your left with the hollow shell to look at when you have finally won the mission. You don't actually build bases, the whole game is based on troops, you may come across built bases, but these are part of missions, where you have to defend or attack them.
Vehicles leave tracks as they move and also blow up a load of dust, they can always find their way about, the AI is good, even on easy and the game provides a great challenge on hard!
Overall this game rocks, its just too good to miss, if you want a good strategy game that will last you for a while, then get this.