Dark Colony

aka: DC
Moby ID: 2737
Windows Specs

Description official descriptions

In a gloomy not-so-distant future, mankind have finally made it to Mars. The colonization of the red planet is vital for humanity's survival, as the heavily polluted Earth's resources are nearly depleted. At the same time, the Taar, a mysterious alien race that lost their homeworld many centuries ago, has decided to take Mars as their new home.

As the war between the two species erupts, the player has to choose his side and lead his people to ultimate domination over the red planet. Things become even more complicated when the ruins of an extinct ancient civilization are found on Mars, revealing immensely destructive weapons that could easily turn the tide of the war in favor of the faction that manages to gain control over them first.

Dark Colony is a real-time strategy with heavy emphasis on the actual combat. Resource gathering, base construction and unit production have been made as simple and fast as possible, allowing the player to focus on decimating the enemy armies. Ancient artifacts, available in some of the missions, provide unique options for beating the odds, even when they seem to be against you (and they often will).

The game plot advances through short cutscenes, briefings and debriefings which detail the development of the war. The game also offers various promotions and decorations that you can earn for your player character, who will actually be present on the battlefield, acting as a more powerful and durable trooper with some special abilities (such as calling in reinforcements and inspiring the regular troopers).

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Credits (Windows version)

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Reviews

Critics

Average score: 69% (based on 24 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.0 out of 5 (based on 21 ratings with 2 reviews)

Simple sci-fi RTS

The Good
Dark Colony is just a rock solid, no nonsense RTS. Everything from development of your base to gathering resources is kept simple. Your base can only be built on the small platform you start with and there is only one resource to gather. Basically, all you have to worry about it pumping out units and upgrading them as fast as you can. Both factions basically have the same units. Sure one side uses different genetically engineered monsters and the other uses mostly automated death machines, but tomato tomahto as they say. You have your infantry, support, artillery, medic, bombers etc. Dark Colony had a few innovative features for its time that this fan still enjoys to this day. Features like having an on the field commander and capturing different "artifacts" each with pretty frightening abilities such as creating a gravity well and sucking all in its grasp to oblivion or focusing the energy of the sun into a 1 meter wide beam to fry the target. There’s even an artifact that takes control of the local fauna! The skirmish mode allows for huge battles with up to 8 different sides, you can have the computer as an ally which, at that time, was rare. You can also transfer funds to your allies and vice versa, which is a neat little feature that makes LAN play extremely fun. There’s no rushing in this RTS, battles are long and extremely bloody, making it that much more satisfying when you see your troops marching into the enemy base. Lastly, in all my years of playing video games, Dark Colony has the best cinematic introduction I've ever seen. I'd suggest getting your hands on this game for that if nothing else.

The Bad
The campaign is challenging to the point of frustration sometimes. The AI always seems to you have you outnumbered. You always seem to be out of money and the bulk of a mission is spent waiting for your funds to reach a certain point. Even for it's time, the graphics are nothing to brag about, they're not bad but they're not good. There are some faux lighting effects and decent amount of detail, but that’s about it. It's nothing to cry home to momma about either. More so for the skirmish, all that really matters in this game are numbers. A good general rule to follow when playing is "If you're outnumbered, you're going to lose". There are a few exceptions to this rule, but it’s generally true. Now this is really a matter of taste, this fan personally doesn't like it, but you might not care.

The Bottom Line
In this day and age, Dark Colony is a solid, pick-up-and-play RTS. You can just jump into a skirmish with a few AI buddies or on a LAN and have blood spattering on the screen within minutes. If you like sci-fi themed RTSs and don't hold graphics as a super important factor in a good gaming, you will enjoy this. Dark Colony is not for everyone, but this slightly above average game can keep most gamers entertained for a decent amount of time with good replay value.

Windows · by Viktor Kovacs (13) · 2007

Aliens check in, they don't check out.

The Good
Dark Colony may seem like an “underdog” kind of game, especially in light of its more popular contemporaries (like Blizzard’s StarCraft or Westwood’s C&C series), yet a in-depth look reveals a pretty good and fun to play real-time strategy.

The first thing that grabbed me about DC was its dark sci-fi atmosphere, spiced up with some dystopian and cyberpunk elements. The game as a whole has a fairly “gritty” feel permeating the artwork and the storytelling. The plot itself revolves around the colonization of Mars, which leads to a bloody conflict between two races - the humans and the Taar (aliens, also known as “Grays”). Both races need the red planet badly and none are willing to share it with the other. In the human campaign you take the role of the chief of security of one of the mega-corporations terraforming Mars, whereas your alien character is a young Taar warlord (a “Ximal”). The two races follow their own plots, which can include all sorts of dirty tricks and treachery (either conducted against you… or by you).

From an artistic angle, DC offers superb artwork - terrains are very detailed and feature lots of decorations and doodads. All maps have various ambient sounds, which also during the day or night. The underground missions are particularly atmospheric, taking places within creepy ancient tunnels littered with dried old skeletons.

Gameplay is pretty much identical for both races because the game units are (almost) identical but with different names and appearance (e.g. the human Reaper is the counterpart of the alien Sy Demon). Units fall into different categories, which are useful for different situations - e.g. light infantry, heavy ground assault, artillery or remote assassination.

Building and unit creation are very simplified - buildings always appear in pre-determined spots, and creating units is as simple as choosing how many you need produced and clicking the “build” button. Resource gathering is very simplified as well - you simply place your extractor unit on the resource node and the money start flowing into your account. This simplicity allows players to fully devote their attention to the actual battles with the enemy. Overall, the game interface is similar to Command & Conquer’s.

There are several notable gameplay features that distinguish Dark Colony from its contemporaries:

First and foremost, my favorite gameplay feature: the player character is physically present on the battlefield. In every campaign mission there will be a “commander” unit on the map, which represents you. The commander is a considerably more powerful version of the generic human/Taar grunt and has two special skills, the first being the ability to “inspire” nearby troops (improving their combat performance). The second ability is unlocked by being promoted and gives you the power to either request reinforcements (Human) or summon flying saucers to abduct enemies (Alien). As you rise in rank, the abilities will improve as well - bigger reinforcements & bigger number of abducted enemies.

In order to advance in rank, your commander must take active part in the battle and be on the front lines with his troops (instead of just staying safely at the base). Thus you can gain promotions and several medals. If the commander gets mortally wounded, he is temporarily removed from the map (to heal) and returned some time later, yet this forfeits any promotions that you might have earned in this mission.

The second notable gameplay feature is the day/night cycle - I believe DC was the first strategy game to implement this. The change of day and night has more than just cosmetic effects - it also affects units’ sight ranges. Humans see better (farther) during the day, while aliens see better during the night. Therefore, most players time their attacks so that they happen during the more favourable part of the cycle.

The later missions feature ancient artifacts that can be “harvested” from ancient ruins and then used against the enemy. It is interesting to note that the artifacts available to the humans cause damage and destruction directly, whereas the artifacts in the alien campaign focus on mind control and disrupting the enemy ranks. This contributes to having a more unique gameplay experience in the two species’ campaigns.

The game features an “encyclopedia” that provides more detailed (in-universe) information about units and artifacts, along with 3D-rendered images.

A few words about the AI - it is fairly good. Computer-controlled enemies have an amazing talent to harass your forces, if you are careless. They also excel at launching surprise attacks against your base, especially if your main army is away and unable to react in time. The AI uses artillery and assassination units with frightening proficiency.

Last but not least - the battles feel very satisfying. Units do not die very quickly, so there is plenty of time for a good shootout to unfold. Explosions look and sound awesome too.

The Bad
The simplicity that I described earlier could be seen as a disadvantage of the game too. I suppose some players will be annoyed by the fact that they cannot choose where to construct their buildings (and thus determine the layout of their base, which could be important for defense).

Identical units can also be seen as a flaw, as they could make the gameplay for the two species feel way too similar, unlike games like StarCraft where each race is a unique experience.

The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a retro RTS with character, Dark Colony could be your game. Sure, it can be a little hard on players at times, yet it can ultimately offer you many hours of fun and blood-soaked conquest.

Even though it could never become quite famous, the game does have its small (but fiercely loyal) following even today.

If you enjoy this game, keep in mind that there is an expansion as well - “The Council Wars.”

Windows · by Gatekeeper (290) · 2015

Trivia

Light

Dark Colony is one of the first RTS to add day/night cycle as a tactical consideration, as the Greys see much better during night time (those big eyes, you know).

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Related Sites +

  • Polish Dark Colony Fansite
    One of little remaining Dark Colony fansites. Patches, a multiplayer client and full game downloads are uploaded and tournaments are occasionally organised. The site can be read in both Polish and English.

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 2737
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by jeremy strope.

Macintosh added by Terok Nor.

Additional contributors: MAT, Kasey Chang, Patrick Bregger, Plok.

Game added December 4, 2000. Last modified March 31, 2024.