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Xenocracy

Moby ID: 7952
Windows Specs

Description official description

Xenocracy is a cross between a space combat action sim and a political strategy game. In the far future, four planetary superpowers (the Earth Dominion, the Mercury League, the Venus Alliance and the Mars Combine) are vying for control of the solar system and on the brink of all-out "thermostellar war". As commander of the United Planet Nations peacekeeping fighter squadron, your role is to maintain the balance and prevent cold war and localized conflicts from escalating into open interplanetary hostilities. Further complicating the matter, you must deal with pirates and a looming alien threat.

As each planetary superpower launches low-intensity strikes (as opposed to open warfare) against the colonies and outposts of the other three, you are presented with the choice, via a strategic solar system map showing flaring geopolitical hotspots, of which to aid. If you aid one superpower too much at the expense of the others, as one is first tempted to do, you upset the balance and cause the war you sought to prevent. Whichever you choose, afterward you are realistically presented with complaints and political propaganda from the other three superpowers, and receive news broadcasts concerning the interplanetary geopolitical wrangling.

In addition to keeping the peace, you also manage research and development of newer and more powerful technologies, which will eventually prove crucial. Several fighter and weapon types are available, and the scenery varies from asteroid belts and dust clouds to planetary surfaces. You may choose from several wingmen, each with a personal description and personality type, whom you must do your best to keep alive. Missions include such tasks as defending mine complexes from attack (or attacking them) and protecting convoys (or destroying them).

The game also allows Arcade Mode, in which you simply fly missions without regard to the strategic aspects of the game, and multiplayer games of up to 8 players over TCP/IP or serial connections.

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Credits (Windows version)

73 People (68 developers, 5 thanks) · View all

Team Lead & Lead Programmer
Lead Game Designer
Lead Artist
Programming
Artists
Setup Programming
Additional Artists
Additional Game Designer
Video-Recording and -Compressing
Production
Production Director
Lead Production
Lead F&E
Lead F&E Programming
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 64% (based on 21 ratings)

Players

Average score: 1.3 out of 5 (based on 9 ratings with 1 reviews)

Kofi Annan tries his luck at Wing Commander. Disaster ensues.

The Good
Xenocracy's strongest points come from the introduction of a a couple of nice ideas which form the premise for the game. You see, in the future, known space is divided among a group of planetary superpowers (Earth, Mars, Venus & Mercury) and much like the nations of our own beloved planet, they are in a constant struggle over political and economical issues. Instead of being a soldier for one of these factions, in Xenocracy you take the role of the lead commander in the United Planets forces. An independent organization that acts much like the UN of our times, except for the fact it has a more of a militaristic "Galactic-Police" style and it's work basically revolves around safeguarding the delicate balance of power between each side.

Each of these superpowers knows that they have to keep some semblance of peace, so all-out war isn't declared, but instead they perform flash strikes on the borders, cross trade lines, break treaties, and occupy unassigned planets. In other words: it's the middle east in space, with no clear enemy or ally and just a lot of people killing and bitching at each other.

The game is played in some sort of "turns" in which the current political situation is outlined and the different planetary powers request your aid for a number of reasons. One might ask you to destroy an illegal convoy from another power that is transporting resources out of it's assigned routes and thus illegally increasing that faction's quota, while another might be asking you to protect an outpost from invading forces (and you might also get a request from the invading faction to aid THEM). Each faction throws their political/economical/religious reasons at you through their ambassadors (which provide the "briefings" for each missions via small FMVs) and it's up to you to decide which one to help. Once you do, you take to the cockpit, fly the mission and the galactic map gets updated according to your actions, and thus the cycle repeats itself.

The observant gamer might recognize this gameplay model from other strategy titles, but this is a first for a game of it's kind, as it incorporates the act of political juggling into the Wing Commander-space shooter game mold. Upholding galactic peace is not just a fancy objective, since failing to give support to some faction causes them to leave the UP and not only brings the galaxy one step closer to disaster, but also decreases your funds (provided by a mutual fund from all UP members) which come into play on each mission when you need to select the ordnance and ships you want to take with you. All of this adds a tremendous depth to the space sim genre and constitutes the game's strongest asset.

The game's visual design follows the always interesting European scheme of using icons and clever layouts to create a unique and distinctive feel, and the truth is that the attractive layout is a refreshing sight in a genre oversaturated with lifeless computer-like interfaces and stuff like that. Specially if you consider that the game also has to be able to handle political charts, news and assorted stuff besides the basic "select your next mission" screens.

The Bad
If you got all excited about the game after reading the cool premise it has which promised to inject some new life in the space genre then you are not alone. So was I. Unfortunately the resulting game fails to live up to it's potential and crashes and burns tragically into it's own incompetence.

The basic, rotting problem with the game is that the place where all the meat of the game should have been, the space-sim, is a terrible mess. Not only is the flight model a generic and unimpressive one, devoid of any challenge, with braindead AI and stupidly simple gameplay mechanics, but the graphic engine is beyond horrible. It's sluggish, has practically zero visual appeal, handles a hideously limited number of objects and distances and has nothing in the way of special effects. Exploding ships, for instance, are represented with the "particle explode" trick in which the ship's polygons simply fall apart while lame sprite explosions are added here and there (this not only looks like ass, but also gives the impression that the ships are made out of a paper shell).

However we could have let that slide if the game had an original collection of missions to play through. Unfortunately, due to their random-generated nature they are nothing but generic and idiotic exercises that grow boring all too soon. Every missions falls under one of 3 categories: A convoy that is under attack (protect or help destroy), a ground base that is under attack (once again, protect or help destroy/invade) or an all-out space dogfight. The only difference will be for which side you'll be fighting, but aside from that 99% of the game's missions are the ones I just described with only some interludes with space pirates and aliens to spice things up every now and then. I assure you that your brain will just melt from the boredom, and the addition of an "arcade" mode that removes the political element from the gameplay makes it even more dull.

I can continue to point out other minor details, such as the artsy interface being confusing sometimes, the HUD configuration system being a total crap, the poor ship design (which seems to have been done after a particularly damaging acid trip), etc. etc. But I think you get the main point of it by now: the game at it's core is crap.

The Bottom Line
A truly interesting concept completely butchered and destroyed by a lousy game. Had the developers spent as much time on the gameplay mechanics, the engine and the mission design as they did on the creation of the premise and gameworld (lavishly detailed with an on-line chronology and several unique news flashes to illustrate it) we would be talking about a legendary title here. Unfortunately we just have another case of a good concept poorly executed.

Windows · by Zovni (10504) · 2005

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Luckspeare.

PlayStation added by Xoleras.

Game added December 12, 2002. Last modified August 14, 2023.