Project Earth: Starmageddon
Poor Mindscape. While browsing through the last couple of issues of PC it appears we haven’t been particularly kind to its games. It’s nothing personal of course; it’s just that its last couple of offerings have been erm... a bit shabby. Fortunately, though, Starmageddon: Project Earth is anything but - in fact, it’s a very decent game. However, this momentous, all-singing, all-dancing, great 3D RTS hope also coincides with the budget release of the much acclaimed Homeworld, which of course begs the question, will Starmageddon be able to compete with such an established heavyweight? Let's find out shall we?
Fruit & Fibre
Cruel twists of fate aside, Mindscape and developer Lemon Interactive can be extremely proud of Starmageddon. As a story it’s nothing special; the 'aliens attack Earth’ plot has been done to death and the cut-scenes are typically cheesy attempts at making a cliched script sound even less dramatic than you could possibly imagine.
However, as a visual feast, Starmageddon excels. There are plasma trails galore, beautiful glowing engines and mighty laser weapons and explosions. The backgrounds are also stunningly detailed with such wonders as fiery meteors hurtling through the vacuum and distant spiralling galaxies.
Playing Starmageddon is a truly evocative experience. The alien spacecraft in particular (or Daemons to give them their proper name) give off a suitably menacing atmosphere. The human ships are also impressive even if they’re not quite up to the standard of the ominous aliens, but needless to say, whichever side you ultimately choose to play, your eyes won’t complain.
Your fingers should be pretty content too. The interface has been designed with the left mouse button firmly in mind. All units are moved with this button, and by pressing Ctrl you can bring up a list of construction and unit behaviour options. You also have a maximum of three motherships on any one mission, and by hitting F1 to F3 you can flip between these. The intuitive design of the interface means there is no messy fumbling around when it comes to selecting units or controlling the 3D camera and radar.
Some Mothers Do ’ave ’em
Despite having the ability to flip from one mothership to another with the 'F’ keys, a tactical game this certainly is not. There are only a handful of different units per side leaving little scope for imaginative attacks. Starmageddon is essentially about which side can build the biggest force in the shortest space of time.
On top of this, none of the motherships truly interact with each other on the battlefield, so effectively, the whole multiple mothership idea is just an added complication rather than a useful innovation.
On mission three, for example, you control two motherships. One of them must destroy a jumpgate, while the other has to utterly wipe out an alien base. Apart from the fact that both motherships are hopelessly outnumbered from the word go, you just don't have enough time to collect resources to build your fleet. Before you know it, wave upon wave of alien spacecraft are pissing all over you. Determination against overwhelming odds and no shortage of patience are the requirements here - and if you've got those, it’s a good indication you might just stick it out for the next dozen or so missions.
There's also a huge reliance on resource collection (ore from asteroids in this case), so expect the first few minutes of every mission to be spent waiting for your harvesters to return. But even if the ancient concept of 'build and kill’ is simple in theory, in practice Starmageddon is a hugely challenging game. There are no difficulty settings, so whether you like it or not you’ll find yourself thrown into the deep-end fairly early on. And we also noticed that the human campaign in particular seems a lot tougher than the Daemons; whether through design or error, the Daemon units are apparently cheaper, quicker to build and more effective in battle.
There are other problems to contend with though. Units suffer from poor Al, especially when they’ve just been constructed and ejected from your mothership into space. On later missions this can be fatal; instead of heading off to destroy the hoard of ships attacking your base, they simply float around waiting for you to change their mode to 'aggressive’. It’s an extra mouse-click you just don't need.
When it comes down to it, Starmageddon is a slightly frustrating, yet very accessible, enjoyable and uncomplicated RTS space experience. But alas, it doesn’t come near the sheer all-round quality of Homeworld. However, if you’ve played Homeworld to death, you’ll find more than enough to enjoy in Starmageddon to warrant picking up a copy.
Download Project Earth: Starmageddon
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP