|a game by||Massive Development GmbH|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Archimedean Dynasty achieved a reasonable amount of critical acclaim on its release, and having sold 150,000 copies, it would appear PC gamers took it to their hearts. So it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that a sequel is in the works, except Blue Byte is no longer at the helm. Instead, Massive Development has taken up the reigns and is currently working round the dock to improve on the original in every possible way.
The sequel takes place in the year 2666, five years after the end of the original game. Sure enough, a new force has emerged to threaten the safety of Neopolis, the scene for the underwater battle between good and evil. A mysterious pirate gang called the Crawlers are up to no good and have joined forces with rebels in a civil war that has shaken the world of Neopolis. Just when you thought things couldn't possibly get worse, a scientific experiment goes horribly wrong unleashing hordes of godlike creatures into the world, which may sound horribly clich&l but let's face it, they have to give you something to shoot at or the game would be no fun at all.
In its simplest form, AquaNox is an arcade underwater shoot 'em up with dazzling graphics and more than its fair share of spectacular gratuitous explosions. Beyond that, you can expect to encounter mercenaries, pirates, squid and all manner of underwater wildlife intent on your destruction. There are more than 70 NPCs in the game, many of whom will have key parts in the storyline, so we assume there will be a lot more to this title than simply blowing things up. There are more than 30 single-player missions, nine different player ships and 40 different enemies, including some terrifyingly large creatures.
You Will Be Scared
While AquaNox is not expected to break new ground in gameplay terms, our hopes are that the atmosphere and storytelling that made the first game so good are still intact. We've been playing the Beta code for a couple of weeks, and the action is incredibly fast paced, and is probably best described as a cross between Quake III and Starlancer, only underwater... obviously.
Archimedean Dynasty went a long way to giving players a reason for relentlessly pursuing enemies and blowing them up, we hope this is still the case with the sequel. Massive Development has dropped the simulation elements which they say weren't useful in the first game, and added easier navigation and a greater selection of tactical options, which will hopefully add more depth to the combat side of the game. While we will obviously reserve our opinion until we get our hands on the review code, we can say AquaNox is looking very good indeed at this point. In Massive Development's own words: We promise: you will be scared stiff'. I don't know about you, but I'm shaking already.
Too often seen as the poor cousin of the space shooter, the deep-sea action game hasn't seen too many triumphs over the years, though one example that did swim against the cunrent was Archimedean Dynasty. Emerging from small German codeshop Massive Development in 1996, it was reviewed by Paul Presley at the time for a titanic 92 per cent, (of course, Leisure Suit Larry 7 was awarded a questionable 79 per cent in the same issue...)
Aquanox is the sub-oceanic sequel to this submerged classic, and what's more it's looking rather spectacular. The richness of the colour palette has created an extremely atmospheric setting for the action, which centres around combat between small attack subs. You play the role of Emerald 'Deadeye' Flint, hero and mercenary, in a post-apocalyptic future where we all live in cities beneath the sea. When a botched military experiment rouses an ancient race of gigantic and somewhat unsociable sea creatures, it falls upon you and your four wingmen to save the day.
Designed as a blend of space-shooting and FPS-style gameplay, the stripped-down controls adopt FPS strafing and shooting principles, with absolutely no sim-type nit-picking to dilute the action. Eight distinct submarine vessels will become available during the game, with all manner of guns, torpedoes, electro-disruptors etc, available for purchase along the way. We expect to have this one in for review quite soon.
Yes, for a fleeting moment we were thinking the same thing: a game based on everyone's favourite mindless Europop outfit? Excellent! You'd have a choice between playing as the little duckfaced girl with the scarlet hair, or the shouty, bull-necked cellmate from Hell, and it would be a sort of cross between Tomb Raider and that dancing game on the PlayStation, with loads of gratuitous hard-core pornography cropping up between levels. Well, they're Dutch or something, aren't they? Huh? Anyway, it'd be fantastic. Except for the soundtrack, which would eventually drive you to suicide.
But that isn't what it is at all. In fact, Aqua is the sequel to the overlooked classic Archimedean Dynasty, a game which earned a whopping 92 per cent from ourselves waaaaay back in issue 46. Why the original never really set the registers ringing is a moot point. Perhaps it was the unusual undersea setting. Perhaps it was the competition from more traditional 3D blasters like TIE Fighter and The Darkening. Or perhaps it was because saddling a game with a clunky title like Archimedean Dynasty is almost as off-putting as calling it Alan Titchmarsh's Unicyding Crochet Adventure and hiring someone to stand in front of the shelf, ringing a bell and telling potential customers to scarper. What were they thinking? Most people fell asleep halfway through reading the name, for God's sake. They might as well have called it Don't Bother.
Anyway, the sensibly monikered Aqua can be summed up fairly accurately as an underwater take on Elite. You take on the role of an aquatic mercenary called Emerald 'Dead Eye' Flint (presumably he's got a glass eye or something) and must rid the undersea world of an as yet unnamed (but "sinister and horrible") menace by darting around in a variety of futuristic submariney-type things, firing watery laser bolts at wibbly-wobbly bad creature-type things. We're promised plenty of scary organic enemies which will test the developer's curved surface technology to the very limit. As you can see from the screenshots, this is a good-looking slice of game pie.
But hang on a moment... Developers Massive claim Aqua will boast both an epic interactive plotline and a load of do-what-you-like Elite-style open-endedness. Which should be impossible. Still, they reckon they'll be implementing a clever sort of'plot guidance system' which enables you to do largely as you choose, occasionally 'catching' you to advance the unfolding storyline with a series of interrelated missions. A kind of free will on stabilisers.
Like all potential blockbusters, Aqua is powered by a highfalutin engine with a stupid name - Krass -which supports all the 3D cards and is simply dripping with all the volumetric bump-mappy bi-linear whoojamflippery you could ask for. What else? Well, not much. There's no publisher as yet (that's still being finalised), and it isn't out for a long time. We just thought you'd appreciate a gander. Because we care. About you. In a gentle and concerned, yet faintly sinister way.
Now close your eyes and please stop crying.