Incubation: Time Is Running Out
|Editor Rating:||6/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||6.0/10 - 1 vote|
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The Battle Isle Games Are Something Of a rarity in PC gaming circles. They're hex-based. They're turn-based. They're Germany-based. They've got more statistics per kilobyte than all of the Championship Manager games put together (they might even give Microsoft Excel run for its money). They're not even particularly in the way that games like Red Alert or Quake can sometimes appear to be to misguided gaming snobs. And earlier versions sported graphics that can only be described as minimalist.
None of these potentially 'anorakistic' traits have stopped the series from gaining a very large, very loyal legion of fans who have snapped up and cherished each release of the game as soon as it hit the shops. No wonder then, that Blue Byte have decided to captitalise on the success of the Bottle Isle games by producing another game which features the characters from the previous titles.
It's of paramount importance that you understand one thing and one thing only at this point. The similarity between Incubation and the previous games in the series ends there. Some of the characters make a re-appearance (one Commander plays a cameo role), but all the vehicles, all the ships, and even all the hexes have disappeared completely (gulp!).
Uihat, no hexes?
Incubation is still turn-based, but this time you're controlling a squad of elite space marines (more on this later). The general idea of the game is that you take a troop of inexperienced and stupidly weak marines from one mission to the next, hopefully keeping them alive to gain experience points and update their weaponry. Of course, while all this is going on, aliens will be coming at you from every angle. You may think that this all sounds pretty straightforward, but once you've actually played the game, you'll see you have more potential problems to deal with at once than you could possibly imagine. To start with, the aliens come at you through holes in the ground. There are no set number of aliens programmed to attack you from these nightmare niches - they'll just keep coming at you 'til the end of time unless you either a) destroy the outlet they're coming from or b) leg it to the next part of the level, making sure you close the doors behind you as you go. thus sealing off the area.
What this all amounts to in each level is a race against time. Every area of the level is cordoned off, so you need to use a couple of marines to get through the doors while the others provide them with cover. Blast your way through the room you've just entered, find the entrance to the next one, and so on until you finally get to the exit for the level. There are other things to take into account while you're happily blasting your way from one room to the next, though. For example, most weapons your marines use have limited ammunition. The temptation to stand one of your guys in a room and watch as he repeatedly blows aliens to pieces is very strong, considering that his experience points go up with every alien he wastes. Do this for too long though, and you'll find your marine runs out of ammo, with a large area of the level still to get through. Result? One very experienced, but very dead marine. So as you can see then, Incubation is a game that very much puts the emphasis on strategy. It's also deeply atmospheric. And scary. In fact, it has a lot in common with another game that we slaves to strategy know and hold dear.
Space Hulk anyone?
For some reason, we at Zone had already formed our opinions on what to expect from Ineubotion, having seen it briefly at E X-COM was the word on everyone's lips. 'It'll be X-COM then, except with 3D missions' was the general opinion. We were wrong. X-COM is a resource management game with an unfolding storyline and tactical combat missions. Incubation, on the other hand, is simply a turn-based strategy game. By 'simply', we mean that's all there is to it You don't have to worry about building things. You don't have to worry about how much money you have or haven't got All you need to worry about is getting your marines safely from one mission to the next and upgrading their weapons and equipment in preparation for the next battle. If this sounds a bit repetitive, cast your mind back to a game called Space Hulk. Haven't played it? Let me tell you about it It's a mixture of real time and turn-based action in as much as you 'freeze' the action while you tell your marines what to do. then start the clock running again and watch while all hell breaks loose. It's a very, very atmospheric game which forces you to think strategically while at the same time scaring you out of your wits. Incubation is very similar. There is an almost unbearable sense of foreboding and tension while you survey each level, knowing that sooner or later you're going to have to give in, hit the 'end turn' button, and hope that you've made right decisions. It's not unlike Chess as it happens, in that the you will spend more time 'thinking' " than 'doing', if you take our meaning. That's not to say Incubation is sedate in any way. The entire game environment is fully 3D. This is extremely handy for zooming all around the play area before deciding what your next move should be. But even better still, once you end your turn, you will see the action unfold in front of you in full three-dimensional glory, with the cameras zooming in to the most exciting part of the action at relevant points in the proceedings. This innovative 'free-style camera' technology that Blue Byte have built into the game is unlike anything we've ever set our eyes on before and really has to be seen to be believed.
Think of Incubation then, not as a collection of graphically spruced up X-COM tactical missions, nor as a new and improved Space Hulk for 1997, but as a unique amalgamation of both these things and a hell of a lot more besides. What's more, you can bet your last Rolo that we'll bring you a full and comprehensive review of Incubation as soon as we get our hands on a finished copy of the game.
Protect To Survive
Look after your marines and they'll look after you. Every time they kill an alien, they get experience points. These points can be 'spent' in the Incubation Weaponry Mall at the end of each level, allowing you to buy better weapons and expensive chick-pulling gadgets. Incubation is good like that, you know. We only played it for a few levels and already our marines were getting better armour, better machine guns, and more advanced equipment. This is in stark contrast to certain games, which shall remain nameless, that make you play forever before getting any new toys to play with.
Additionally, if you manage to keep your men alive long enough, they will eventually go up a whole experience level, making them better at just about everything in general. For instance, they'll be able to travel further, they'll be able to fire more accurately, you know the kind of thing. So look after your Incubation buddies now, y'hear?