The trouble with traditional hex games (and let's face it, they're nearly all WW2 anorak-o-ramas) is that it doesn't take long before you lose track of everything... or it doesn't if I'm playing, that is. There you are one minute, with nine million i tanks, ten million jeeps, 12 million aeroplanes and 406 trillion soldiers, and a cunning plan for each and every one of them. But there you are a minute later staring gormlessly at the monitor: what was it you were trying to do again? You can't remember. Worse than that, you can't even be bothered to try remembering. You know deep down in your soul that you're going to lose the battle anyway, so why waste an entire life studying such appallingly sad things as hit-points on a tragic look-up table?
When is a hex not a hex?
I phoned Tony Bollard-Chapman, chairman of the Anti-Hex Game League in Croydon, and asked him to define a 'hex'. "A hex," he told me, "is a giant six-sided shape containing a badly-drawn picture of an artillery unit."
I asked his definition of a 'nightmare'. "A nightmare," he said, "is 250 hexes."
As you can see, we were as one on the subject - as I knew we would be.
I then mentioned my pet theory about how a hex game could make itself more palatable if it 'hid' the hexes. He asked me to explain so I cited Colonisation, adding that, much as I shared his hatred of hex games, that particular one was sort of pretty addictive and unhexy.
"Rubbish," he retorted. He then asked what aspect of it most appealed to me.
"Attacking the natives and stealing their gold," I replied. "Precisely," he said, knowledgeably. "You were playing a hex game as if it was a shoot 'em up. I take it you never completed the game as was intended by the author... establishing trade routes and ultimately gaining independence from your motherland?"
I admitted I'd never got to that point, as I got bored when I ran out of soldiers.
I said that I had. He asked me what my main aim was in those games. "To invent nuclear weapons," I replied, adding that I never got very far.
"Exactly," he said. "You're happy to play a hex game until the point you realise it's a hex game, whereupon you retire." "Yes," I said, "which was my point." "Whaaat?"
"My point was that a hex game could be more palatable if it 'hid' the hexes." "Hmmm," he muttered, disgruntled. Unbelievable: I'd won an argument -and we weren't even arguing.
Hex, drugs and rock 'n' roll
So onto Cyberstorm. Okay, Cyberstorm is a hex game which has hidden its hexes. (Sort of.) It's also hidden the fact that it's turn-based. (Sort of.) Here's the gig:
Plot You're with a futuristic mining company, and your business is taking ore from planets called Zarp and Zoog and whatnot. The way you get this ore is to send in a spaceship which has 'robots' onboard. Once the ship has landed, you send the robots to the site (or sites) in question, they fill up with as much of the stuff as they can carry, and then rejoin the ship for the journey home.
Problems: You're not alone. There are other inter-stellar mining companies.
Solution: Weapons and tactics.
So that's the basics. Here's a sample mission, and I'll take it from the beginning of the game where you find yourself (as in most games) tooled up to the ones rather than the nines. Step one: you've got to get your robots sorted. And this is where the word 'robots' has to be qualified, because they're not really robots per se; they're part human, part machine. Think of Ripley at the end of Aliens stomping around in her giant exoskeleton doofer. and you'll be about there - apart from the fact that the 'people' inside your Cyberstorm exoskeletons are genetically engineered rather than born of woman.
Still with me? Good. So you've got three rather crap Bioderms (the people) and three equally crap Hercs (the exoskeletons). You also have a tiny bit of dosh. so it's time for your first resource management frenzy:
- (1) Are you anticipating any trouble?
- (2) Do you intend to mine just the required amount of ore, or do you fancy some bonuses?
- (3) Do you want to recon the entire planet just in case there's a spanky 'find' on the cards?
- (4) Are your Bioderms skilled enough in particular specialist areas?
And on and on. So here's what you may decide:
- (1) Yes, I anticipate trouble.
- (2) I want to mine as much as possible given my equipment.
- (3) Yes, I want to recon everything.
- (4) I need to do some tutoring.
To this end you equip your two largest Hercs with an extra loading bay (more ore) and as many weapons as they can now carry (which isn't many). This leaves Here number three free for one of two roles: defence/attack or speed/stealth. However, your decision to do a mega recon dictates the latter, so you strip it down to the bare necessities - no weapons, no 'extras', no nothing. Now it's time to take your three Bioderms to school. Bioderm one and two, being up for the same job, get tutored in. say, missile and cannon skills (just in case). With the few remaining credits you can teach your recon Bioderm a thing or two about piloting (seeing as how it's got to cover a lot of ground quickly).
Hex, lies and videotape
Blam! Planet landing. Cue Civilization-style 'Oh dear, I can't see very far at all' syndrome. Exploration is all-illuminating, and your recon robot is about to come into its own, so click, drag, release -you've set a waypoint for the thing. It doesn't move though, naturally, seeing as Cyberstorm is turn-based. Time for the mining robots, and it's guesswork as to where they should go, so a couple of furtive click, drag, releases later and their waypoints are also set. end turn, computer moves its pieces. Blam! Your recon robot has covered heaps of ground (seeing as it's lightweight) and has revealed a large ore deposit area. You set it a new waypoint and set your slower mining robots waypoints to inside the ore area, end turn, computer moves its pieces. Blam! Blimey, your recon robot uncovered some 'enemy activity'. You wish you'd given it a bloody cannon.
You waypoint it back to the mothership in the hope it hasn't been spotted. You tell the mining robots to do their thang. which takes a few turns. They survive. You fly back to base. You get bonus dosh and access to more Here types, more Derm types and more hardware of the 'kill' variety. Time for mission two...
Hex crazed maniac
And on it goes. You know the route with these things; while you get promotions (essentially a bigger 'army' and bank account) and access to a myriad of new and ever more wonderful gizmos, so the enemy does too. Tactics become all, but foolish bravado can pay off too (ahem, not). If I'm making things sound simplistic, it's due to lack of space. I couldn't cover Cyberstorm's 'everything-ness' in two pages even if I made a pact with the Devil. Suffice to say it seems pretty unhexy and unturn-based at the beginning but becomes more and more weighed down with every new mission. If you get to the point where you're controlling 28 robots and have discovered 72 per cent of the 'secret things' hidden away in the far corners of planet surfaces, then you'll deserve to wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the legend 'I am a Hex God'.
If however you're more of a C&C realtime person, you'll love the first ten hours of Cyberstorm but will gradually become dazed and confused: the clunkiness of the graphics and grooviness of the scope of tactics and what have you may fall by the wayside when faced with the realisation that a large scale exchange of fire can last almost literally a zillion years. Oh. and a final note... modem and network options akimbo. Yes! Go head-to-head. Great in theory, but imagine just how snoozy it's going to be when it's not your turn. Do you wait at the keyboard? Go shopping? Have a bath? Watch your garden grow? Still, different strokes for different folks, eh?
Download MissionForce: CyberStorm
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP