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Far Gate

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Microids
Developer: Super X Studios
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

For the most part, the graphics in Far Gate are very nice. The different ships are all quite easily distinguishable, and the three different races are radically different, so you'll never have problems with distinguishing 'us' from 'them'. The game has some other intriguing effects that it uses--if a ship is sufficiently large, when you zoom far out on the map you can still see it despite the economy of scale. Since Far Gate's navigation is considerably more unwieldy than, say, Homeworld, this sort of feature is nice. For all of the graphical plusses, though, there are some downsides. The various systems look a wee bit too garish, as if someone splashed paint all over them. And some of the effects are a little iffy, but this mostly comes from the fact that it's so damned hard to get a good view of what's going on with the camera.

As for the sound, Far Gate is definitely different. The voice acting is surprisingly solid, with a few characters coming off as overacted but most of them playing their role nicely. The sound effects, such as the fire of the ships and the weird sounds of the nue-guyen, all fit in the game nicely. But the music . . . I'm not sure what to call the music, other than really damned strange. To be honest, when I was in the middle of my first major battle I thought the sound was screwing up. Turns out that it wasn't; that's just the way the music goes. It's not bad, but it's very, very strange. Be forewarned.


Gameplay:

Far Gate is a space-based real time strategy game. As such, it has to compete against such classics as Homeworld. And, unfortunately, when you add it all up the game just doesn't stack up. There are a lot of neat ideas in the game, but the control scheme gets in the way so much that you'll be fighting to enjoy the good bits. Which is a damn shame, because there's a lot of fun to be had if you can get over the shoddy controls.

The storyline starts off intriguing--Earth has found a planet viable for colonization, and so a group of colonists is sent out to start a new base for humanity there. Of course, things go Horribly Wrong from the start, and soon enough the experience turns into something rather different than any one of the colonists could have expected. The plot is quite detailed, and it's actually one of the main driving forces of the game; you'll want to see just what happens next to your crew.

The basic mechanics of the game are fairly similar to most RTS games. You have a base from which you expand, building (or growing) new structures off of the central structure. If you build a hangar, you can then create new Terran units, and so on. The Terran base's spokes can also mount cannon and the like, so you really get to customize your base, but without the 'sprawl' of most real-time strategy games. Resources are collected from asteroids, and the whole thing is completely automated, so you don't have to worry about micromanaging your resource collection.

Moving your actual units is another thing. Your ships are all grouped into squads, and you can give orders to separate ships or (more often) entire squadrons. You move them around on the map by left-clicking, and you can change their height by holding down the left mouse button when you click and dragging it up and down. The right mouse button always does camerawork, whether it's zooming in, zooming out, or centering the camera. Unfortunately, having left-click both as unit selection and unit movement can cause some problems when you're trying to move your squadron next to a location or other ship.

Indeed, the main flaws of the game come from the wacky interface. You'll spend more time fiddling with your camera than anything else, and it's hard to get a real good overview of the action in a system. There's just no happy medium when it comes to a view angle; either you see too much or you don't see enough at all. Add to that the heavily scripted nature of the missions, which often spring dirty surprises on you, and you'll find yourself being a wee bit frustrated when you play the single-player missions. Add to this the epic scale of the game and you'll have large sections that you have to replay because you forgot to save the game. Meep.

To its benefit, the game offers multiplayer capabilities through GameSpy. I never saw anyone online playing it when I was around, though, which sort of worried me.


Difficulty:

Some of the missions are devilishly difficult, mainly because the computer does the sort of cheap tricks that you see in these types of games. Remember that saving the game is a Good Idea, and it's often the only way that you'll get through some of the sections of the game. Having to fight with the interface only makes the experience more frustrating, as you try to maneuver the camera around and end up zooming up out of the plane of view completely.

Game Mechanics:

Far Gate uses a combination keyboard-and-mouse control scheme, like most real-time strategy games. Make sure you take the time to learn the controls, because if you don't, you're going to be completely pissed after spending about twenty minutes with the game. Even now, I find myself scrolling when I don't want to because I'm trying to select something with my mouse. The most annoying mouse 'feature' is the fact that in the centre of the top and bottom, you pan, but on the sides of the top and bottom you pull in and out. Very frustrating. The mousewheel does a zoom, but it's almost impossible to do a useful manual zoom; it's almost required that you do an 'automatic' one with a right-click. The menus are simple enough to navigate, and while the boot time is a wee bit excessive, once you get in the game, transitions are minimal.

Far Gate is one of those games that isn't all that bad, but it's frustrating enough that most people who aren't ardent fans of the genre won't take the time to learn its nuances. There's a lot to do, and the storyline is quite good, but having to fight with the obtuse interface and slow pace of the game take away a lot of Far Gate's charm. Fans of the genre would do well to check it out--the game won awards at the Independent Games Festival, and for good reason--but be prepared to deal with a hell of a learning curve and some frustrating missions.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



P2 233, Win9x/2K/ME, 64MB RAM, 3d accelerator w/ 4MB VRAM, sound card, 4x CD-ROM
 

Test System:



Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Fallout Tactics Windows Fate of the Dragon

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated