Written by  :  Aamir Alavi (5)
Written on  :  Jun 19, 2001
Platform  :  DOS

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Great action, good strategy and kickass gameplay!

The Good

This is possibly the best mech-style game ever to be released. It reaches a fine balance between action and simulation which no other game in the genre has been able to do. I personally found the Mechwarrior and Heavy Gear games to be too technical and fiddly especially without the use of a fancy joystick. This detracted from my enjoyment of those games as I was concentrating more on the controls than on the game. Terra Nova has simple controls and manages to reach a remarkable level of immersion. For instance unlike other games, your squadmates aren't just back-up cannon fodder. They often have specific abilities like demolitions or electronics that are essential for the completion of missions. Furthermore there are several levels that are designed in a way that forces you to split your squad and use special tactics. In fact, almost all the levels have various ways in which you can complete them. Go in with stealthy scout suits to evade perimeter patrols or wade in with heavy armor and guns blazing, it's up to you. They even have scout probes you can launch from your suit and manually control to survey the area (a small window shows you a probe's-eye-view). Of course these drones can be shot down if they're spotted by the enemy. New weapons and defensive measures (and smarter, tougher enemies) are introduced throughout the course of the game and this ensures the combat does not get stale. Portable laser turrets and mines means you can set up ambushes in narrow passageways. I liked the way you had final control over when to detonate charges set up by you or your squadmates and had to make sure everyone was clear before you pushed the button. Innovations like this abound throughout the game.

The environments deserve a special mention because of their vastness. Each level has a huge playing area with varied terrain such as lakes, hills, mountains, cliffs and canyons. Different planets also have different gravity levels which affect jumping and falling. Some levels even have thunderstorms or snow falling!

Radio chatter between your squadmates also enhances the atmosphere.

The game didn't sell well when it was released; most blame the high system requirements for the time (a Pentium-90 when most people had 486s). No reason to worry about those now though.

The Bad

The graphics are pixelated and grainy compared to the glorious accelerated environments of the later Mechwarrior games. In fact you can only go up to a maximum of 320x400 resolution (if I remember correctly). For the time however, the graphics were exceptional.

The music and sound are also nothing exceptional however the use of the Q-sound positional audio system greatly enhances the experience.

Yes, the acting in the cutscenes is like most other games i.e. so-so but its nowhere near as bad as the worst and the videos do flesh out the characters to some extent (almost as well as the Wing Commander games).

The Bottom Line

Buy this game if you want to see how a mech game ought to be done. I still prefer it over Mechwarrior 4 (the latest in the series) mostly because of the greatly simplified yet equally satisfying control system. Of course this is my opinion and flight simulator afficiandos probably prefer the technicality of the Mech and Gear series. I haven't had any problems running this on my PII-450 with a Creative RIVA TNT2 card. Of course it's a DOS game so it all depends on the DOS drivers for your hardware or how well your system emulates that under windows (exit or boot into DOS if you can). The gameplay is incredibly addictive and the missions are varied and interesting both in their nature and their settings. Think of it as the Tie-fighter of mechgames with wing-commander style presentation as an added bonus. The best of both worlds!