Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy Review
publisher: Hasbro Interactive
developer: Blue Tongue Software
PII-233, 64MB RAM, 300MB HDD, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 07, 00
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Nikola "Bunny" Zakic
I must admit that I never considered the idea of making a RTS after movie that spent most of its budget on ammunition too sensible. Developers' statements that they decided to introduce squad-based warfare with limited ammo and very important individual soldiers only backed up my suspicions concerning this game. Still, Microprose and Hasbro have a reputation that made us eagerly await the appearance of this game. As it turned out, I was wrong both in my suspicions towards this movie conversion and about the company I deeply respect ever since they published the original Civilization.
Paul Verhoeven's 1997 movie tried to depict Robert Heinlein 1959 novel using a lot of special effects, shooting, violent sequences and a casual story following lives of the main characters. Fans of the novel were somewhat disappointed because of some inconsistencies, but the film surely brought the rest of the house down. The plot of the game partially follows the story from the movie and the novel, but the developers introduced some aspects of the plot themselves. The war between the humans and Arachnids (Giant bugs from Klendathu planet) threatens the human race. But, with Mobile Infantry (MI) units around, those nasty bugs will have to stick to sugar because they cannot touch humans. The campaign consists of 20 missions (without the tutorial) separated into three chapters. You will play the role of a squadron leader, and you and your (6 to 18) men will have to turn the situation to your advantage and finish the war by killing the insect queen on Kladathu. Only the first chapter deals with the movie plot and it ends with capture of the Brain bug. The remaining two episodes will tell the tale of the rest of the war.
The campaign has been well conceived. The quests you have to complete are sufficiently varied to keep your attention and create an atmosphere, which will make you complete them. Your line of duty will be to kill bugs, cleanse planets of bugs and bug-holes, secure convoys, free prisoners and even bring journalists and provide them with something to shoot. You will often recognize scenes from the movie like the massive attack on Whyskey Outpost, where your 12 poorly equipped soldiers have to defend their position until the transports arrive. This sequence looks great and it gives you the entire atmosphere from the movie.
Units, weapons and equipment are more true to Heinlein's vision than the film. Each member of MI has his own name, stats and a profile. The soldiers can gather EXPs and improve skills. Introducing Experience points gave Starship Troopers an RPG aspect, which hasn't been fully exploited, can still influence your strategic planning. Experienced soldiers can use better equipment and weapons, and this makes your veterans very important. If they die, they get replaced by newbies, which makes the game even more difficult.
The game is in full 3D with a mobile camera (as seen in Ground Control), and the control method is typical for all squad-based strategies. There is no micro-economy, resource gathering, base or unit building. When the mission commences, there's only you, the bugs and the weapons (to keep the first two groups at distance). The developers paid special heed to unit commands. Besides some common commands like Patrol or Guard, they introduced several new ones, mostly used for finding optimal routes to a certain destination or pick up point. Programmers did this part of the job well, so you won't have your troopers wondering seamlessly around the map or getting stuck in narrow passages. You can also choose about ten different formations for your troops, or set their level of aggression. Careful soldiers will move slowly, but they will spot the enemy from afar and avoid potentially dangerous encounters. The most aggressive soldiers will always be the first to react and courageously burst into any cross-fire regardless of enemy numbers or strength, but it will also take a couple of moments to reduce their adrenalin level to normal and respond to your commands.
As I already said, this type of games makes you go through mission after mission with the same soldiers, and as there are not many animations of movie sequences that would build up the story, you could reach the conclusion that the variety of quest is less than enough to make you finish the game. In respect to this, the authors provided a great number of different weapons and equipment that become available as the campaign progresses. You won't be able to access the power suits and a couple of veeery interesting pieces of lethal hardware straight away, your troopers will have to acquire sufficient experience in order to use them. This idea proved to be great, and apart from about a dozen weapons you saw in the movie (marita smart rifle, missile launcher, grenade launcher, marita chain cannon), you'll be able to use the nuke, plasma gun, flamethrowers and power suits with jet packs. Soldiers will receive experience, medals and ranks, and in some missions you'll get professional help from medics, engineers and even psy-talents. The developers insured fun playability by introducing the option to upgrade weapons.
A well depicted atmosphere from the book, an interesting campaign, long-term fun for persistent players;
Lack of some common options (saving games and multiplayer), poor interface, discouragingly difficult, long-term fun, ONLY for the most persistent players.