This is Chip's first review for us as a guest reviewer. So I'd like to thank him for covering Nexus and hope you all like his review.
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!
I would probably be one of the first to admit I am a bit of a geek when it comes to space games. Having been a gamer since 1972 I have seen my share of games involving space for arcades, home computers, and consoles. I have enjoyed them all to one extent or another; however in 2002 a tech demo was released accidentally, called IG3 that was beyond anything I had ever played before. Very few games have survived several name changes and switches to new publishers, which in the first instance makes this game stand out. Now that the full game has been released under the name Nexus: The Jupiter Incident and under a new publisher HDI, let us see if the full vision of a Tactical Fleet Simulator has been realized.
Who is Marcus Cromwell?
This is the question that opens our space opera. We learn through the introduction that Marcus Cromwell is the first person to be born in space and at a very young age he lost his father when the ship he was commanding disappeared. During this time in earth's history, several mega corporations have monopolized the conquest and colonization of our solar system. A delicate balance is maintained between the corporations. All is not well though as a new discovery on the outer rim of our solar system threatens this delicate balance. This is where you enter.
Many people will probably associate the game style with that of Home World since both are RTS styled space games. This is really where the similarities end. With Nexus there are no resources to worry about and you cannot build new ships in battle. The game model is that of a military campaign. You are assigned ships and that's it. If a ship is lost then you do get a replacement, but at a cost which I will get to in a moment.
Building up to a battle you start with an advancement of the story with the cast of characters. The voice actors have done a commendable job. The actors are believable in their tone of conversation and the context of the story. Having seen so many games where you cringed every time you heard any kind of voice acting, this was a pleasant surprise.
The conversations also include objectives and hints on the upcoming battle. Did the phone ring? Need a soda? Not a problem. The battle does not start until you tell it to and if you missed the conversation, you can replay it.
In this screen you are also given the view of the area of interest that you will be entering. It is here that you can rotate, twist, and zoom to your hearts content admiring the heavenly bodies. The map also displays objects of interest and fleet locations.
Configuration is also located on this screen which allows you to change the load out of your ship(s). Weapons, shields, engines, E.C.M.s, and fighter craft among others. It is all here. A unique aspect is that the game does not use any form of credit to have the ships upgraded. It uses a point system which you can just consider days. You cannot remove an item to get points. You only have so many points, based on your performance from the previous mission, and that is it.
Points are also awarded that you can apply to your character's military, engineering, or science rating that improve certain aspects of ship performance. This gives the game a quasi-RPG aspect. This can make the difference of saving a ship or not during some really heated battles.
Last but not least Marcus Cromwell's diary can be accessed from this screen. This helps round out to complete the story and gives more depth of character than is found in most games.
Are you ready to go to battle? GOOD! This is the meat and potatoes of the game. No matter how deep the story is or how many buttons and options you can select, it is the game play that is important. Starting the mission you are presented with a 3rd person view of your ship(s) and your battles will be carried out in this view. The action is presented in real-time with the space bar acting as a pause. In pause you can issue orders, view the battle field, check status of ships, mission objectives and even view previous comments by the other characters.
The interface is laid out with intuitiveness in mind and I found that the layout combined with the tutorials allowed me to be able to quickly get to grasps with the game. The left hand side of the screen consists of your fleet while the right consists of items not under your control, waypoints, and enemy. The bottom consists of attitudes (aggressive, defensive, stealth, and focused), manual control, and ship specifics (i.e. approach, hold position, target shields, hull, etc.) so you can mix and match your style to which ever you feel comfortable with.
I have never seen a space game that had graphics that come close to Nexus. The graphics are very close to Babylon 5 quality. There are 6 different races and each have their own style of ship and each one is beautifully designed and rendered.
They range from Babylon 5 styled earth ships to organic and even something in-between. Some of the ships have small moving parts like gun turrets that track targets, radar dishes that spin, and larger rotating ship sections and they all cast realistic shadows. On the other end of the spectrum you have ships that take so much damage that they lose containment and explode. What you get in this case is one of the brightest explosions I have ever seen in a game.
Are there any negative spots in the graphics, unfortunately there is one noticeable spot. That is being the asteroid fields. While the asteroids in your immediate area look great, the background asteroids have a bit of a blurry/blocky look. I have a feeling it may be that way for performance reasons.
The first thing I noticed about the sound was how much the music matched the sci-fi setting. I know it is really hard to judge sounds on things that don't exist but for the most part each sound fits what you would think the item would sound like, from wimpy lasers to bombs hitting the shields.
I know I have only scratched the surface of the game in the review. There is so much more to Nexus than what meets the eye and with the inclusion of mod tools and the burgeoning MOD communities it looks to have a long life. What it really boils down to is would I recommend this game and the answer is whole heartedly, YES! The game is easily one of the best games of the year and should not be missed.