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Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Vatical
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 16
Genre: RPG/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

Graphics in Terminus are beautifully Spartan, and eye-candy doesn't override realism. So much time was put into perfecting the physics engine, and the graphic presentation helps keep it feeling real. I found that dialing-up graphics didn't cause terrible slow-down, but even on the lowest setting, Terminus looks good. Ships are really the characters in the game, and got the lion's share of the design budget. I only wish the station interiors could have been spruced-up a little. It's discouraging to fly a trillion miles to reach some remote space station and find it looks exactly like the one you just left...

Flying a spacecraft is noisier than a fry-machine at McDonalds, with beeps and bonks at every turn. The scanners, sensors and H.U.D. displays stay busy, and the hum of the engines or the roar of a torpedo launching is all really well done. Alright, space is a vacuum, and those torpedoes would actually just go '......' in real life, but so what? I wasn't as enthusiastic about the music, not because it's less than high quality, but because it doesn't match the atmosphere. Somehow, for the pace of Terminus, the music CD Vatical went with is too dramatic. If this were fast-paced combat or hack-n-slash dungeon action, it would fit great.


Hardcore Mac gamers will immediately feel at home with Terminus. Anyone who ever whiled away some hours on the classic Escape Velocity knows all about life as a space pilot. EV was built on simple lines, but the idea of starting out as a fledgling pilot and building up your reputation carries over nicely to Terminus. The similarity ends there, however.

Terminus' Story Mode lets you align yourself with Earth or Mars, and also offers a career as Pirate or Mercenary. The story spins out differently depending on your initial choice, but the main difference is perspective. Unless you join the United Earth League [UEL], you'll find yourself in an underdog position most of the time. This raises the bar for difficulty, but gives Terminus great replay value in Story Mode. After Story Mode plays out, you end up in Free Mode. Free Mode is also available as a starting point, and this is where I spent most of my time. Some people may work through the different storylines and leave it at that, but Free Mode is intoxicatingly... well, 'free!' In a world of linear games, it's refreshing to just get in there and experiment. For every mode, Terminus offers a wide range of ships, but you can build your own. Design a ship for battle or focus on payload and mine the asteroid belt. Accepting missions is what makes for structure in Terminus, and you'll have your choice of violent and non-violent contracts. Training and Gauntlet Mode are the other single-player modes, used mostly to hone your piloting skills. Multi-player adds Deathmatch and Zero-G Hockey. These are almost mini-games compared to the depth of Story or Free Mode, but I see that some folks are already hosting games specific to these modes.

I won't talk much about multi-player, because it still seems like a work in progress. Vicarious Visions offers 'Game Ranger' as a tool to track down hosted servers online, and there are server lists at Station Terminus, but dial-up slaves like me may need more bandwidth to really take advantage of the online capability. LAN party, anyone?


In Terminus, everything is measured in terms of realism. With realism jacked up, you'll find a well placed torpedo or collision reduces your meticulously constructed ship to so much space rubble. I'd venture to say that by adjusting realism and difficulty, anyone can feel at home playing Terminus. But in case you think that Vatical watered it down, try the 'Elite' setting. Humbling, to be sure.

Game Mechanics:

The printed manual does a great job of outlining the universe of Terminus, and goes through what you'll need to build a good ship, control performance through fuel, energy and weapons choice, all the while getting the most out of playing. The one thing I really wanted that isn't there is a pull-out showing keyboard shortcuts and controls. The hardest, and most fun, part of Terminus is flying your ship while managing navigation, weapons and engineering. Once you get past the 'Arcade' settings, Terminus becomes a very believable space flight-sim.

The controls will seem very similar to those found on any flight-sim, but the implications of flying without air friction have been addressed masterfully in Terminus. In lower-realism settings, the computer makes corrections to align your trajectory with the ship's bow-stern axis; without the computer helping, your ship relies entirely on thrusters for motion. It takes getting used to, but once you're accustomed to the different type of motion, things get fun. Outfitting the ship is about optimizing performance. Smaller ships loaded down with heavy weapons will be sluggish, and big ships can either be good transports or deadly weapons, depending on your inclination. Terminus lets you manage everything from standard fuel and ammo to how much energy devices are soaking up and how stealthy they are. It's a dream for engineering types who want to manage all this stuff, but you can also buy a pre-outfitted ship and just play.

Other technical aspects beyond flying the ship are Navigation and Communication. Terminus has a great interface for navigation that lets you lock onto anything from a ship to an asteroid and see what's happening around you by way of radar and sensor input. One of the cooler features is a 'command line' that lets you type in '/navlock _____' and immediately set your computer to target an object. The Communication Screen works similarly, but is also a place to see input on your current mission and responses from NPCs. Once you've established reputation, you can broadcast instructions to fellow pilots and even request ships to jettison their cargo. Once you accept a mission, you'll be assigned a sensor/comm. frequency that you input to manage progress. A time limit and objective is always part of a contract, and if you come through, expect a nice monetary reward at the end. This money buys upgrades, new parts or cargo. The economy system lets you make the most of buying low and selling high, or you can just identify a juicy transport and hijack its cargo.

The depth of options is amazing in Terminus, and I'm guessing that every player will find a different way to build reputation. Even in Story Mode, there are times you will float around for hours, taking on contracts and just exploring.

At the end of the day, I would recommend this to any Mac owner. There aren't that many games of this quality for Mac, and if you're a space geek like me, Terminus is totally addictive. If you want pure action, try Pod Racing, but for realism and immersion, you can't beat Terminus.

Installation: Terminus presented some problems out of the box. It all went fine until I was ready to start up the game, at which point I experienced total meltdown. With the patch to version 1.4, Terminus ran like a dream, with no changes to Mac OS 9.0 default settings.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Minimum System Requirements:

G3-300 Mhz CPU or greater, 96 Megs of RAM, OpenGL compatible video card, OpenGL 1.1.2, 128MB Virtual Memory, Mac OS 8.6 or 9.0, 4x or faster CD-ROM. Joystick and TCP/IP network connection (for multi-player only) recommended.

Test System:

G4-350 Mhz, 128 Megs of RAM, Mac OS 9.0, Rage128 Video Card (16MB VRAM)

Macintosh Oni Sony PSOne Parasite Eve II

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated