Dark Colony

a game by SSI
Platform: PC
Rating: 6/10

Description

Overview

The year is 2137, by human reckoning, and the war for Mars has begun. After studying Mars for many years, humans found a valuable energy source called "Petra 7." Only a few tanks of this precious gas could power cities and accelerate crop growth for entire continents. As studies on the gas continued, plans to mine and terraform Mars were planned and put into operation. For the next several decades Mars was prepared for human habitation. The humans spewed oxygen gas into the atmosphere, seeded the wetlands, and brought insects onto the new world. Finally the time arrived to move in.

Soon after arriving on the red planet, strange things began to happen. Lizard-like creatures and strange arachnids seemed to appear overnight, artifacts and ruins of unidentifiable origin were discovered beneath the surface of the planet and then, suddenly, entire colonies seemed to disappear into the darkness.

Mankind was not alone on this planet! An alien race, dubbed the "Grays," seemed to materialize out of the night. With them they brought scythe-like creatures that could cleave a human troop in half with a single sweep of its' massive claws.

The Taar, as the aliens call themselves, are merely nomads seeking a new home. Their planet has been ravaged by plague, which has left them close to extinction. For 500 years Taar scout ships have been scouting out the human race, undetected until now.

The Taar have one goal: to destroy any foothold the humans establish on Mars while searching for "Portalis," an ancient portal that, when reactivated, will become a doorway to gather the scattered remnants of the Taar species. They will then be ready for the real battle: the war for Earth.

Gameplay

Gameplay is fast and sometimes enjoyable. If you have ever played Command & Conquer, you will have absolutely no problem jumping right into the heat of battle in Dark Colony.

If a problem should arise, the "training missions" will certainly prepare you for the real thing. I found that just taking your troops and running them headfirst into battle was not always the best way to do things, although sometimes it did work out quite well.

A nice twist to the game is the fact that the Taar fight better at night and the humans fight better in the daytime. It gives the game a better feel and mood. It also makes you sit back and think about your next move: should I try to run through their camp before nightfall or should I hope that they don't attack me while I am building up my resources?

Parental Warning

I would like to give a fair warning to all people with little children. This is not a game for small children to watch. As I finished loading the game with my 4-year-old son on my lap, the cinematic movie at the beginning kicked in. It started out fine but turned violent very fast. I am still explaining to my son why the human soldier blew the head of the alien to pieces. I believe the movie could have been toned down a little, and I would have liked to see a way to turn the blood off so that I could enjoy the game with my kids.

Graphics

As far as graphics go, this game is beautiful!! The landscapes are well-rendered, and the animation for the humans and the Taar are crisp and clear. I was very impressed by the way things looked as characters moved and was surprised how realistic some of the structures appeared. I must say that this game is one of the nicest-looking games I have played in a while.

Audio

Some of the sounds were downright eerie. I noticed that when the "Petra-7" vents erupted, my speakers would start shaking and I actually thought something had blown up on my desk (maybe I should buy better speakers). Sometimes during battle there would be too much going on to really hear the different sounds of war. The soundtrack is interesting to say the least. It was definitely well thought out, and I found myself sitting back and relaxing to the music as I got my troops ready for battle.

Documentation

The user manual is easy to read and very informative. It explains everything you need to know to get started and even gives you a chart as to what you need to build and the order in which you should build it. There are short descriptions of the different units, as well as the prices for each of them.

System Requirements

Required: Windows 95, Pentium 90, 16 MB RAM, 1 MB SVGA card (2MB SVGA recommended), natively supported Windows 95 video and sound cards, 4X CD-ROM drive

Network and Modem play: Windows 95 and IPX compliant network, 28.8 Kbps or faster modem, SoundBlaster family and 100% compatible sound cards

Bottom Line

Command & Conquer on Mars? That is what kept popping into my head as I played this game. If it had come out about two years ago, I would definitely have been waiting in line for it at the nearest software outlet. As it is, though, it is two years too late and two years shy of being original. SSI tried to spruce it up with a couple of nifty features: an encyclopedia, your choice of being human or Taar, training missions and great graphics. But it still reminded me of other games on the market.

Overall, I believe Dark Colony is a solid game with wonderful graphics. If you have never played a strategy game in your life, you may enjoy it. But with the competition so tough right now, it is hard to choose it over any of the rest. Let's be realistic: do I want to spend $50 on a game that I've basically already played when I could use the money to buy something original? I don't think so.

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