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Buy Me?



by Sean B.

Think back to the early 90's, specifically the year 1990. It was the year that a man known as Chris Roberts introduced a game to the public that would arguably become the most influential space-sim game ever to hit the market. Wing Commander started off by changing the shape of space-sims by adding more than just the average simplistic missions. The missions had more of a human touch behind them and the gamer had the chance to get to know his or her wingmen.

the ship detail is truly sweet even when up-close and personal

On top of this, the missions had many different aspects to them, not just the same old defend or attack assignments. Now in 2000, Chris Roberts has pushed the envelope once again.

With the release of Starlancer by Microsoft earlier this month, space-sim gamers have a new game to obsess over. When the news broke about Chris Roberts leaving the company he had stayed with for almost a decade to begin his own, gamers were concerned that this would affect the quality of his games. But you can put your worries to rest, if all of the games that Digital Anvil (in cooperation with Microsoft) release are like Starlancer, we may have a new series to look forward to.

The game begins with a view of the future as if the cold war had never ended. Man has colonized other planets and has advanced in space travel capabilities. But not everything is good in the future. There is still tension between the Coalition (Russia, China, countries from the Middle East) and the Alliance (United States, Western Europe, and Japan). Without giving away too much of the storyline, war breaks out between the two factions, the call goes out to volunteers to take up the struggle and your character is one of the many that respond.

The storyline that is presented is a refreshing change from the norm. Most space-sims have the human race struggling against some odd alien species so it is nice to get back to basics with the human versus human conflict. Furthermore, the game gives an individual a very thorough explanation as to why his/her character joined and why he/she is a beginner(that's right, you can play as a male OR a female). Your squadron unit is made up of retired veterans and civilian pilots so this explains your lack of experience as well as the experience of your wingmen. Again, without giving away too much, Digital Anvil has successfully stayed away from the same-old rehashed storylines.

As for the actual game mechanics, there seems to be little or nothing that one can complain about. The graphics and sound are just fantastic and completely immerse you in the space-dogfight atmosphere. The ships themselves are beautifully rendered and there are enough ships within the game to find one that fits your play style. Also, the shape and look of the fighter and large capital ships do not deteriorate as you get closer. The shape and colours remain perfect and there are none of the grainy, pixilated textures that are found in so many other games.

explosions in this game are actually quite pleasing-debris and all.

Digital Anvil also stayed away from using real actors for the characters which is the accepted and appreciated standard of today. The characters are well rendered and animated and are not cartoony. The sounds on their own make the game feel quite realistic and if you close your eyes and just listen to the lasers and explosions, you could swear that you were in space yourself. Communication between wingmen also sounds realistic and the voice-acting is clear and understandable. Overall, the audio/visuals of the game add to the realism of this sense-pleasing space-combat game.

While Chris Roberts' first series was a fan favourite, it did lack a multiplayer option. Starlancer has made up for this oversight and provides quite a few options for the multiplayer hungry gamer. Everything from playing on Microsoft's Gaming Zone to playing a friend over the modem is available. Additionally, gamers can play either in a death match session or in cooperation with each other. The cooperation session is a particularly interesting feature since it allows a group of gamers to play all of the campaign missions in order instead of just random missions.

One of the drawbacks of Starlancer is in the actual control of the game. There appears to be as many commands as there are buttons on the keyboard. For a beginner, this could be confusing. Fortunately, not all of the commands are necessary for playing the game. Only certain keys will be used constantly, allowing a beginner and a veteran to space-sims a chance to get used to the settings. On top of this, the keys can be customized any way in which the gamer chooses, allowing one to become better acquainted with the command buttons.

Finally, Digital Anvil has provided three training sessions in the game so that a pilot can check up on the command buttons and skills even within a campaign.

the cockpit environment is great-until you're ejected.

Another drawback is the fact that you can only play the campaign on the Alliance side. It would have been a fun addition to be able to play as the Coalition. Sometimes it is fun just to play as the bad guys.

Also, Starlancer does have its frustrating moments. When a pilot is forced to eject, there are 3 possible outcomes - be killed by the enemy, be picked up by the enemy, or be picked up by the Alliance to begin play again. In one session, one of my friends here in the office kept getting blown to pieces and ejecting. After the ejection cut scene he kept getting killed even though there were no enemy fighters around-you can just imagine the frustration.

Despite these drawbacks, Starlancer is a great game and it comes from a long line of space-sims. It is unique in it's own sense and a blast to play. Whether you're playing a single player campaign or a multi player session, this game will definitely deliver. I recommend this game highly to anyone who has played a space-sim or is interested in trying out a new genre.


game is beautiful in terms of graphics, sounds.

nice to see storyline get back to basics

controls can be complicated