More 2007 RTS action PDF Print E-mail
Written by Adam (Vergil)   
Thursday, 26 April 2007

This year is not done with the RTS genre yet.   Just when you thought Supreme Commander and Command & Conquer 3 was enough, there are a bunch more games from this beloved genre on the way before the end of the year.  Still no word from Relic what the ambiguous 2007 reference at the end of Dark Crusade was about however.  I really wish they’d get to announcing that.   A Dawn of War sequel could even further shake things up.

The latest title I’ve taken interest in is Universe at War: Earth Assault.  As you might guess from the name, this title is in development by Petroglyph, the guys who did Star Wars: Empire at War.   In case you never picked that title up (I didn’t), you might also know them as the half of Westwood Studios that did not stay with EA after Command &Conquer :Red Alert 2.

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What is interesting about UaW:EA is that it is a completely new and original setting.  The basic premise is that in the year 2012, three alien armies invade the Earth with the mission of either saving it, or pillaging it.  In this game, you do not play as the humans, for the humans are helpless against the alien assault.   So far only two races have been revealed: the dominating Hierarchy and the robotic Novus that stand in their path.   The third faction remains a mystery.

It seems that so far the Hierarchy, as their name implies, is an alien race that forms a rigid caste system.  They travel from planet to planet using everything from grass to people as resources to fuel their war machine.  Their very being is toxic to Earth’s life, so as the Hierarchy advance, they slowly destroy everything in their path.   The signature weapon of the Hierarchy are these massive walkers.  These walkers are so huge that ignore terrain.  That’s right, you can’t depend on lakes or cliffs to hold the Hierarchy back – they will simply smash or climb their way through any obstacle.  These mobile fortresses come with various hard points which can be fit with cannons, launchers, and unit production capabilities.   The walkers are slow, moving fortresses in essence, that can spew out armies of grunts and resource collectors as they advance towards you.

The Novus on the other hand, are a clean looking robotic faction.  They were apparently built by a now-dead alien race bent on stopping the Hierarchy.   Though no Novus unit can ever stand up to the mobile fortresses, the Novus make great use of mobility and adaptation.  For example, all Novus structures are connected via this thing we at this time know as a “network.”  The network allows choice Novus units/structures to teleport along it to any point where the network reaches.  As a result, the Novus are very mobile and hard to actually eradicate.  The example of this in use given in PC Gamer magazine is imagine a Hierarchy force smashes into a Novus base.  At first glance, the massive walkers will decimate structure after structure.  However, the Novus player was able to immediately grab and move his builders to a place further back in the network and started building defensive towers and combat units.   By the time the Hierarchy player caught up with him, his defenses were ready and he was able to crush the onslaught.  More or less, in order to kill the Novus you gotta keep the network isolated and not widespread so you can corner your foe and crush him.

If what they have developed so far is any indication, these three factions will be truly unique.  If the guys at Petroglyph can pull this one off and actually balance it, we could be looking at the first RTS in a while to take the kind of racial-uniqueness risks that Starcraft did.  I don’t know about you guys, but I wouldn’t mind playing something where there is more true difference between the factions and that these differences serve to add to game play in a balanced and fun way.

To boot, Frank Klepacki, the music composer of the more classic C&C games, is onboard for UaW:EA. They have released a video podcast where Frank is interviewed about his plans for UaW’s music.  His set up is very nice and there are some excellent audio teasers for the Hierarchy.  I didn’t know Frank had stuck around with Petroglyph instead of going with the EA guys, though that would explain why C&C:Generals and C&C3:Tiberium Wars have such different sounding music than previous C&C games.   To boot, in order to further secure faction-uniqueness, Frank is doing a different soundtrack for each of the three factions.  This beyond excites me because while Frank’s RTS soundtracks are good, he’s never done that before, at least not in a C&C game (well actually Red Alert 1 had a slightly different sound track for the Allies and the Soviets, but there was still some cross over).  I think it’ll be great to hear that faction identity coming through musically again – too many RTSes have gone the identical soundtrack for each side approach (Dawn of War, Supreme Commander for example… wait… both of those are Jeremy Soule… hmmm) which I think is a real waste when the sides are truly different from each other. In Dawn of War, The Eldar really deserve a completely different musical detail than Chaos does.  The Imperium-bent to all the music of the game really feels out of place when playing as some armies.

Overall I am excited about UaW:EA.  I hope they do pull of their planned Fall2007 release, though if it takes them longer to do it right, I’ll live with that.   I also hope we’ll get some sort of demo or beta to try out in the near future.  We do need to hear more about how the game will play and how it will be like or unlike other RTS games.  You can have the coolest factions ever, but if the game play mechanics suck, we won’t get into it.  So far though, it does sound promising.  I’ll keep you posted.

I’ll be picking up C&C3 either today or tomorrow, so expect to hear at least a review on that in the near future.

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 April 2007 )
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