Haegemonia: Legions of Iron
Ok, Let's clear up the big issue first. To the best of my (admittedly limited) knowledge, there is no such word as haegemonia'. There's hegemony, meaning leadership by a single state, which is taken from the Greek hegemonia', but there is certainly no current usage of any derivation thereof employing either the ae' conjoined vowel or its separated 'ae' descendant. So now you know.
Of course, if developer Digital Reality had its way, the game would be called something sensible like Space Fighters or Galaxy Brigade. Or Star Bangers. We know this because we visited them recently to check out their new space epic. The linguistically challenged title comes from above, indicating the usual big-nosed machinations of marketing people trying to earn their fee through the medium of unnecessary interference.
Anyhow, on the basic level Haegemonia is much like any other 3D strategy game set in space. Think Homeworld, Imperium Galactica et al. But as ever, the game has a few interesting ideas that are designed to raise it a notch or two above the competition. Heroes, for instance, add a quasi-role-playing element to the game, gaining in experience as battles go in their favour and bringing individual skills to the roles you assign them.
Then there's the advanced espionage system, the five separate races, natural space phenomena that affect the tactical decisions you make, an on-going storyline that runs seamlessly through the campaign missions and both deathmatch and co-op multiplayer missions for those of you with friends. And, of course, it looks like a million bucks.
The background primarily concerns the ongoing disputes between Earth and the Martian colonists fighting for independence. The two main campaigns tell the story from either side, although it's not long before several alien races arrive on the scene and force the two enemies to battle grudgingly alongside each other. Aside from combat, Haegemonia has an element of resource management, taking in mining, taxation, colonisation, production and R&D. Interestingly, your heroes can be assigned to planets as well as ships, boosting population morale and increasing output. The research tree requires a bit more thought than usual, with fixed spending levels limiting the paths you can travel along.
Having spent a week with some pre-beta code I have to say there's still work to be done on the game balancing side. The current system allows you to transfer units and heroes from one mission to the next.
But since some missions don't allow you to rebuild your forces before plunging you into a major assault, you're often put into an impossible situation before you even begin.
The tactical front also needs some beefing up. Despite the fact that you're in space, combat still feels pretty two dimensional, although the concept of fighting alongside allied forces adds to the strategy somewhat.
Haegemonia could well be a decent successor to the Imperium Galactica series, provided Digital Reality takes the time to give the game a good wash and buff, refining the game mechanics a bit and brushing up the interface to make it more user-friendly.
Download Haegemonia: Legions of Iron
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Despite a name that suggests something you might apply to the inside of an oven to dislodge stalagmites of burnt cheese, or perhaps a cream intended to liberate one's testicles from the rigours of chafing, Haegemonia is a space strategy game and a cracking one at that. Going on the past record of its Hungarian developer, you'd expect as much, seeing as it was Digital Reality who conceived and created the first two episodes in the critically acclaimed Imperium Galactica series. With that responsibility now in the hands of another team, Digital Reality has continued to follow the empirebuilding themes it pioneered, offering once again a strong story-driven campaign and epic real-time battles set across and beyond the solar system.
On the face of it, Haegemonia looks to be the latest title wishing to take the space strategy throne from Homeworld. All the conventions laid out in RTS gaming are followed, with resources to plunder (mining asteroids), ships to build and enemy fleets to vanquish. However, there's a lot more to do than just mine and manufacture, with no less than 200 technologies to research, dozens of planets to colonise and a rich story to play through, with the Mars colonies on the brink of war with mother Earth and alien races waiting in the wings.
In an attempt to focus the game as much on characters and story as the epic strategy on offer, Haegemonia introduces a number of heroes, who if assigned to units can boost their abilities in battle, or if posted to colonies, can effect production or civil morale. Keep your heroes and units alive and they gain valuable experience during each mission which can be carried over to the next one.
Focusing the game further is the fact that, though set across near-infinite space, the levels are surprisingly compact, if not in size, then certainly thanks to the abilities of your ships, which can traverse the great beyond in minutes, or less if you decide to speed up the game clock.
The beauty of the game isn't just skin deep, but for the record, the graphics are far more impressive than many other space-related games, especially when it comes to explosions. What will be a welcome relief to the many of you who might otherwise give such a game a wide berth is that it gradually but steadily teaches you the ropes without ever overcomplicating matters, especially in the very difficult later stages. The problem with empire building games generally (and this was certainly true of Imperium Galactica II) is that unless you approach them with the right mentality, you'll soon find yourself being overwhelmed by the whole affair. This also happens with 3D strategy games, especially ones set in space. It's all too easy to become confused by their often hideously complicated and disorientating interfaces. However, Haegemonia manages to avoid both of these problems.
Unfortunately, despite their beauty, battles are rather small scale. The designers have clearly limited the number of ships you can build, and to make matters slightly worse, there's a fairly limited amount of battle tactics which you can employ; just click on the enemy, watch and hope for the best.
Despite this, the depth of research options, the graphics and ease of use make for a very entertaining game, and while there could have been more scope for battle strategies, there's more than enough focus on other key areas like story and characters to make this an essential purchase. So while the settings of Homeworld and Haegemonia are similar, the feel and focus of these two behemoths are light years apart, meaning space-based RTS fans will be far from disappointed.