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Wargame Construction Set (DOS)

By Raphael on November 9th, 1999

Star Lanes (DOS)

By Raphael on November 9th, 1999

Age of Empires (Windows)

By Raphael on November 7th, 1999

MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat (Windows)

By Raphael on November 3rd, 1999

NCAA: Road to the Final Four (DOS)

By Raphael on November 3rd, 1999

Privateer 2: The Darkening (DOS)

By Raphael on November 3rd, 1999

Starsiege (Windows)

A disappointing entry in a great series... but man, the graphics rule!

The Good
The graphics are absolutely gorgeous! They are the highest quality graphics of any 'Mech game so far, and they are some of the best of any game I've ever seen. The game runs like lightning.

The music rules! It seems hard to find a game today with good music, but this game has high-energy, hardcore techno, dancey type stuff pounding as you fly across the beautifully rendered planets. It is an awesome gaming experience in this aspect.

It supports Glide and Open GL, which gives it wide 3D support, but also supports DirectDraw for 2D cards.

SS supports any DirectInput device, which means that you can finally use the mouse to turn left & right!

You can choose your "face art", in other words, what your character will look like. You can also customize the art for your HERCs!

The Bad
Unfortunately, despite the awesome graphics and music, the rest of the game is a big disappointment.

First, the plot. Professional sci-fi writers were hired to develop the Earthsiege universe. They made it take place about 200 years after ES2, and added all these new characters. The main problem I have with this is that the plot is kind of hard to follow... Is Dynamix really trying to rival FASA's BattleTech universe??

Second, the controls are highly customizable, but there are a lot of controls that I never was able to really figure out, or seem useless. For example, you can "Drop a Nav Marker". This seems pretty useless. There are all these controls that you can use to turn your shield focus. This seems pretty interesting at first, but during a battle there is just too much to concentrate on, and I was never able to make use of this feature.

Third, and most important, the HERCs themselves are really poor. The way ES I and II handled the HERCs loadouts were far superior. ESII featured some new special items you could put on your HERC, like a turbo booster, an energy pool increaser, shield increaser, etc. The only thing you had to configure for the HERCs were the weapons and special items (which went in a standard weapon hardpoint). But in SS you have to configure: your Engine, Reactor (two different things!), Computer, Shields, Armor, Sensor, 2 Special items, and up to 6 (only 6!) Weapons. Basically, the problem I have with this is it's just too complicated and restrictive. For the weapons, you are heavily restricted. In ESII, some of the HERCs could hold up to like 8 or 10 weapons. In this game, there are only about 4 HERCs that can hold 6 weapons. All the others can hold 4, 2, or even 1(!) weapon! This is just way too restrictive. Not only that, but you are severely restricted farther because each weapon mount is only able to hold a certain "size" of weapon (each weapon is defined as like small, medium, large, etc.). Usually only 1 or 2 mounts are able to hold the largest sized weapon. ESI and II had this to a certain degree, but they were not nearly this bad.

Another thing is that not all the vehicles are HERCs... you can also pilot tanks, which is stupid. I mean, why should you buy a "'Mech"-type game if you're gonna be driving a tank?

Next, the HERCs don't weigh very much. The largest ones are 90 tons, but most are far less (I'd say the average is about 60 tons). This means that you are heavily restricted in the amount of items you can put on them. Once you get a good Engine, Shield, and Reactor, there's hardly any room left for good weapons. I guess this makes it more challenging, but in my opinion, this greatly takes away from the fun that ESII had.

Lastly, the weapons themselves are really terrible. They don't do very much damage, and they're hard to aim. They're just too needlessly complicated: each one has a Shield Damage rating, and an Armor Damage rating. When I'm in a battle, there's too much action going on for me to figure out which weapon would be best to shoot at the target, so I end up just firing everything at it. I would almost say that the ES universe would have been better if the HERCs didn't have shields, like the MechWarrior 'Mechs.

The Bottom Line
Overall, this game is very average. I would go so far as to say that it's not worth buying, other than to look at the awesome graphics. If I were you, I'd wait a few years until it gets put in the cheap software bin at your computer store and get it then. Sadly, the cons slightly outweigh the pros...

By Raphael on November 3rd, 1999

Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom (DOS)

By Raphael on November 2nd, 1999

Command & Conquer (DOS)

This game made "Real-Time Strategy" a household term.

The Good
C&C was one of the first Real-Time Strategy games I ever played. It was so easy to use, and I thought it was really fun. It always reminded me of playing with those little plastic army men. It was so nice being able to move all those units around with the click of a mouse. It seemed as though there was a lot of attention to detail, and I thought the graphics were pretty good. The music was great.

The Bad
The acting was average, but I really don't like the video mode they use for the cutscenes... I think they're really hard on the eyes with all those horizontal black lines.

The enemy AI left a lot to be desired. I mean, if you can build a wall and box them in and they aren't even smart enough to destroy it, that's pretty poor. It made it easier though. :)

The Bottom Line
Before C&C, there were, of course, many real-time strategy games, but C&C popularized the genre. Since it came out, there have been countless other games that emulated the interface. What Wolfenstein was to First-Person shooters, C&C was to RTS games. For this reason, it deserves special recognition.

You can probably find it pretty cheap these days, so why not try it out if you haven't before? It's spawned several sequels as of this time, and because of their success even more are sure to follow.

By Raphael on November 2nd, 1999

European Air War (Windows)

If only SWOTL had these graphics...

The Good
I have played it over both a local network and the Internet. The local network (10/100) is excellent, but over the Internet it is unplayable at 56K (way too much lag).

The graphics are the best of any WWII aircraft simulation I've seen so far.

The variety of ground/ocean targets is really awesome (tanks, armored cars, different types of buildings, destroyers, etc.)

The variety of planes is pretty good, but it could be better. They did a great job of accurately modeling the physics of flight. Also, the enemy planes are smart. They'll juke and do whatever they can to shake you off. They aren't too good in the first version, but in subsequent revisions they got a lot better.

The Bad
As compared to the Lawrence Holland trilogy, specifically Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, this game doesn't feature a campaign mode. You can play a "career", but you'll be stuck with the same plane for 20 or 40 missions and the war will progress pretty much the same as it did historically, with only slight variations depending on how well you personally perform. D-Day can occur about a month sooner or later, and the war can end sooner or later. The way SWOTL handled "campaigns" is a lot more fun, because you can actually change the outcome of the war. In this game, D-Day will always occur, and the Germans will eventually lose.

Where are the experimental planes (Do 335, Go 229, Me 163, He 162, etc.)?! Where are the Russian and Italian planes?! I'm still waiting on a WWII game that features Fiats, Macchis, and MiGs! Why can't you fly bombers?! SWOTL so far is the best WWII game for flying bombers. In most of these new games you can only fly fighters, but lining up that Norden bombsight and raining bombs down while fighting off Me109s is really fun!

Also, there isn't a very big variety of "death animations". In other words, when you destroy a plane, what do you see? In this game, the enemy's engine will smoke and it will slowly glide down while the enemy pilot still has control, or the wing will break off in a ball of flame. Most of these types of games don't have a very big variety of death animations. The guys who make these animations need to watch some more documentary footage and create some new stuff!

The Bottom Line
This is a solid WWII aircraft simulation. It is better in some ways and worse in others than Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, but overall it's very realistic and pretty awesome.

By Raphael on October 31st, 1999

Mech Commander (Windows)

By Raphael on October 30th, 1999

Close Combat III: The Russian Front (Windows)

WWII gamer: you want realism and a new setting? Look here.

The Good
Close Combat 3 is a dream. Finally, a game that takes place on the Eastern Front! There have been so many WWII computer games made, but virtually all of them take place in the Pacific, or in the Western Front in Europe. The war between Germany and Russia is full of gaming possibilities: it lasted 4 years, it featured the largest tank battle in history, hundreds-of-miles long fronts, involved millions of people, and it was an epic struggle between two horrific regimes. It's about time a game company realized this.

The amount of realism and detail is just unprecedented. Every gun makes the sound the real gun made. Your soldiers act as real soldiers would. They even speak in their native language!

The sheer amount of units available blows me away, and each one is historically researched and modeled.

The graphics are absolute top-quality.

The Bad
Where are the aircraft?! For example, the Ju-87 Stuka, modified with gigantic tank-busting cannons, was a key factor in the actual war. This game only centers around the ground battle. It would be really great if you could call for aerial attacks.

Also, even though the maps are really big, it would be better if they were even bigger!

The Bottom Line
If you are at all interested in WWII or historical gaming, you must get this game. An epic game that is worthy of the epic war that it portrays...

By Raphael on October 29th, 1999

World Cup 98 (Windows)

By Raphael on October 29th, 1999

EarthSiege 2 (Windows)

An excellent 'Mech game

The Good
The graphics are amazing. Also, it was one of the first Win95-only games which made it easy to get running. I don't think it ever locked up (amazingly!), and it ran really fast. The sounds of the weapons, and the weapons themselves (excluding the missiles) were pretty awesome. The 3D "virtual reality" environment is still very impressive. The missions are challenging.

The Bad
A big, big problem I have with ES2 is the lack of mouse support during the missions. You can turn the HERC's turret, but only with the keyboard or joystick. I find it much easier to use the mouse to turn the turret. :) In this aspect, MechWarrior 2 blows ES away.

The mission briefings were really boring... sitting there listening to General Gierling going on and on. I think they could have done that a little better. The actor who played Gierling was great, don't get me wrong, but all he did was sit there and read. It would have been better if he had a bigger role in the game.

The plot (of ES I and II) left a lot to be desired. It's basically the same as the Terminator movie, except with HERCs instead of Terminators. Dynamix had the contract for the original MechWarrior and when FASA went to Activision to make MWII, Dynamix still wanted to make 'Mech games and they basically threw ES I together. ES II isn't a whole lot different from ES I (a few new HERCs, some new graphics), so they can be considered together. ES I and II have far superior graphics to Mechwarrior 2 (the unaccelerated, basic version), but they lacked the rich universe that FASA has spent 15 years creating to back MW up. The FASA/MechWarrior/BattleTech universe is by FAR more detailed than either ES or Heavy Gear, with RPG's and about a hundred books written my major sci-fi authors to broaden its source base. Dynamix hired various people (published sci-fi writers, etc.) to develop the ES universe for Starsiege (ES III), but Starsiege was a major disappointment to me, and that's for another review. :)

The Bottom Line
This is from my homepage:

The biggest difference between Mechwarrior 2 and Earthsiege is that MW2 has the rich universe FASA has created behind it, so it has a grand story that you, as a player, are fighting in. ES doesn't have this... basically, if you watch the Terminator you know what ES is about.

More specific differences include: in Mechwarrior you must manage heat buildup as a result of firing weapons, which isn't a factor in Earthsiege. Also, in MW 'Mechs can have jump jets (which let them fly for limited distances), but the ES "HERCs" are ground-only except for the Razor aircraft.

Overall, ES2 is a great game, except for the lack of mouse support. If you like 'Mech-type games, you can't miss it!

By Raphael on October 29th, 1999

Wolfenstein 3D (DOS)

By Raphael on October 8th, 1999

Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor (DOS)

By Raphael on October 6th, 1999

MechWarrior 3 (Windows)

I said to myself, "I think I'm about to be blown away..." - and I was...

The Good
Well, I have to thank ATI for getting me into Battletech. My ATI video card came with an ATI version of MechWarrior 2, and I loved it so much I got the BattlePack version of MW2, MechCommander, and then I got MW3 as soon as it came out.

This is easily the best Mech game I've ever seen, and it has some of the best graphics of any game I know of. The game runs smooth as silk, and the sound effects are really impressive. The voice acting is good, the choices of Mechs are great, and the multiplayer rules. It can use the Joystick/Mouse combination of controls that MW2 had for legs/torso twist, which I love. You can also customize the controls.

When your Mech is hit by bullets, it will pitch over, and can actually fall over if the conditions are right. This is a real pain, but it adds to the realism. Also, if your leg is damaged, it will limp. :) The MFBs (Mobile Field Bases, which let you rearm & repair) are really nice. I wish MW2 had had them!

The Bad
Even though the voice acting is good, the storyline is hard to follow, typical of the other MW games I've played. Basically, I end up finally getting the story after playing it through about 3 or 4 times.

It would have been nice to be able to play on the Clan side. But I guess that would have doubled the price, huh? :)

And even though the graphics and sound are great, I wish the "results" of the impact of the projecticles would be more realistic. I'm waiting for a Mech game that shows bullet holes in the Mech! Also, when missiles hit, they make a big ol' crater in the ground. Now that's neat, but the craters are like perfect circles... it seems like they shouldn't look so "sculpted".

Even though patches have tried to rebalance the effects of the weapons, I still think bullets knock Mech's down too easily.

Also, the single-player is too easy to win. They need to have more enemy Mechs coming at you!

The Bottom Line
You definitely should play MW3 if you are interested in Mech games. It's awesome!

By Raphael on September 20th, 1999

Wing Commander (DOS)

By Raphael on September 20th, 1999

Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz (DOS)

By Raphael on September 20th, 1999

Zork III: The Dungeon Master (DOS)

By Raphael on September 20th, 1999

Knights of the Sky (DOS)

By Raphael on September 20th, 1999

Star Wars: TIE Fighter (DOS)

By Raphael on September 20th, 1999

Imperium Galactica (DOS)

By Raphael on September 19th, 1999

The Civil War (DOS)

This poor game tries to do too many things, and doesn't do a good job at many of them.

The Good
I must say that the programmer, Steven Morle-Green, really tried to improve it. He asked for suggestions and implemented many of them in a series of patches. It had an encyclopedia which was ok, but it didn't have very detailed information (the average entry was about 5 sentences long!). It also came with a little illustrated book that told how life was for soldiers during the Civil War. This was one of the most interesting parts of the whole package.

Another nice thing was the game featured multiplayer support via LAN or modem. Since I didn't know anyone else with the game, I never tried it in multiplayer until several years after I got it (over LAN), and it crashed during the first battle...

The Bad
The "icons" -- from the main screen to the unit identification icons -- are so badly done it's almost impossible to tell what they're representing in some cases. The sprites that represent the units during battles are horrendous... the regiments move like stick figures. Also, the game would have to re-render the graphics everytime zooming in or out during battles. With the computers back in 95, this took several seconds and made for bad gameplay...

The music -- traditional Civil War songs -- is pretty dismal. It's like bad MIDI stuff. There are no volume controls... only on or off.

The game also had a lot of bugs. During battles, sometimes units would suddenly fly across the screen for no reason. In the strategic mode, if units moved by water sometimes they would get "stuck" in the water! Argh! It was hard to tell if some units weren't moving because of the difficulty setting (you could make it so that units wouldn't always act on orders immediately because of delays in the order reaching them) or if it was just a bug. I tend to think that in many cases they were bugs, because I don't think it should've taken a unit the whole course of the war before it would finally begin to act on the order. :)

I must admit that the programmer did improve the sprites and icons, and also fixed a lot of bugs, as patches came out. The references above are to the original version.

The Bottom Line
The game could have been really good. It was a quasi-real time strategy game... You would spend the "night hours" planning moves and ordering cities to raise and train regiments, build railroads, etc. In the day hours, the units would move and real-time battles would occur. However, with the poor graphics, bad music, and bugs, it just wasn't a very good game.

A valiant attempt, but it just falls short in too many areas.

By Raphael on September 19th, 1999

Archon: The Light and the Dark (PC Booter)

By Raphael on September 18th, 1999

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