Mission Force Cyberstorm
You've just been hired as a mercenary/manager/Han Solo type to command a group of HERCs sound familiar? It should. This is the strategy cousin of Sierra's best-seller EarthSiege 2). Your mission is, not surprisingly, to build your force and go kick the bad guys' collective butts. Sounds like every other strategy sim, you say? Well, on the surface there are a lot of similarities between Mission Force Cyberstorm and, say, Command & Conquer, , etc., but there are some notable differences, and in some cases some big improvements.
To begin with, MFCS allows for a bit of micromanagement (but not so much that it becomes annoying). You actually construct your fighting force -- not just the HERCs (big fighting robots, for the uninitiated), but their pilots as well. Seems that the battlefield requirements of the future were too much for mere flesh and blood, so the military strategists came up with genetically-engineered fighters -- Bioderms, in the parlance of the MFCS world. These guys (and gals) are arguably the coolest and creepiest feature of this game. The look of the Bioderms, the sinister futuristic music that accompanies their creation, and just the whole idea of it adds a very nice Orwellian touch that is rarely equaled in science fiction games.
Secondly, while the missions are presented in a sequential order, you are in no way bound by a mission tree as you are in C&C and. Each mission is selected from a list of a half-dozen missions, each with the objectives and rewards clearly laid out. In many of these missions, you can not only earn a bounty for wiping out the bad guys, but can also take a jaunt into the forbidding countryside and mine various ores for additonal cash. This adds a great deal of flexibility, as you can pick challenges as you feel ready for them, visit ore-rich planets when you are low on cash, etc.
Finally, one enormous improvement over the aforementioned strategy games is the ability to fine-tune your view of the battlefield -- you can zoom far out to see the entire battlefield, or move in to see a single unit in high detail as it fires missiles at a hapless opponent. This is an excellent ability to have in any strategy game; hopefully others will pay attention to this sort of interface, as it adds a great deal to the playability of this genre.
Controls are entirely mouse- and keyboard-driven, so there are no cumbersome joystick controls to learn as there were in EarthSiege 2.
MFCS uses an isometric battlefield view, much like other strategy games. I had some difficulty keeping the battlefield zoom level adequately adjusted between what was optimal for fighting and what was optimal for strategy.
One of the criticisms I have for this game (and one that I have heard voiced by other players) is that the AI is in general a pushover. I found this to be the case on perhaps 80% of the missions, with a noticeable increase in difficulty for the last 3 or 4 missions. Again, I really feel that all strategy games should allow for a simple sliding difficulty bar control at the outset of each new game. I can hear the guys who program AI routines gnashing their teeth over that comment, but c'mon, you know it would be a cool feature.
Very easy. Sierra has mastered the intuitive, hassle-free setup, and Mission Force Cyberstorm is no exception.
Tons. You can manage everything from the kind of battery in each of your HERCs to which skills each Bioderm is trained for. Or, you can quickly pick from a number of well-balanced setups for your HERCs and Bioderms. This makes MFCS an ideal game for both the micromanagement strategy fans and the 'get me out to the battlefield and let me start shooting' types. And MFCS includes a random mission/terrain generator, so the battlefield possibilities are virtually unlimited.
Windows 95, 486-66 or better (Pentium recommended), 8 MB RAM, Windows-95 compatible video card, sound card, mouse. Modem required for head-to-head play
I am tempted to rate this game higher than it perhaps should be, simply for the ambiance it achieves. But bearing that in mind, here are the highs and lows of Mission Force Cyberstorm: it is a turn-based game, which will be sure to disappoint the recent converts to the real-time model. However, given the interface and the complexity of battlefield control, I think that this was a good choice on the part of Sierra's design team. The audio and video are first rate, and the scenarios are a nice change from those presented in real-time strategy games or first-person action games. A 2nd CD with the complete game on it is included with every copy, so you can immediately go head-to-head with a friend over the modem or network without having to buy a second copy. Way to go, Sierra! (Kudos to Westwood for initiating this concept.) The extra 90 cents or so will buy you long-term customers. Overall gameplay in single player mode is somewhat limited once you figure out how the Cybrids (the bad guys) think and operate, so this is a drawback (as well as, I suppose, fodder for an expansion pack), despite the fact that MFCS contains a random mission generator -- a definite plus for multiplayer games.
Overall, this game is easy to learn and play, and is an interesting concept for a strategy game. I give it an 85 -- it was more than I expected and was a really nicely realized concept.
This sort of game seems to take us to the threshold of the really cool possibilities of Internet gaming -- it is high-tech enough to make for fascinating action, yet turn-based and simple enough that we may be seeing a whole genre of these games begin to send moves around the world soon, much as chess moves were exchanged over the Internet not long ago.