Available : Summer 2003

Nexagon: Deathmatch © Strategy First
Preview by Dennis Sloutsky

Nexagon: Deathmatch (Previously known as Nexagon: The Pit) is an upcoming tactical strategy game from Strategy First. The storyline of the game revolves around futuristic combat games between convicts, who choose to fight each other instead of rotting in jail, for a chance to win money, and ultimately their freedom. The games are shown live on a large TV network company. This story is indeed nothing new, and we've seen it before in Unreal Tournament (and more recently in The Gladiators from Arxel Tribe – although you shouldn't think that Nexagon is a spinoff of the latter, since it has been in development since early 2001), but where the game differs from both is in the gameplay.

When starting each game, you, as the team owner, have a certain amount of money that you can buy new 'gladiators' from the 'bank' with, as well as build fortifications next to sanctums – the spawning places of your gladiators. Sanctums are the main assets for each competing side in the game; upon destruction of one side's sanctum the game is over. You can build fortifications and traps next to your sanctum when you start the game, in order to slow down enemy's progress, but the fighting units are of course the main fighting powers in the game. In our preview copy two races of fighters have been included – Ghandros and Tekkan, although 4 races are supposed to be included in the final version. Each one of the races includes different unit types, each one with different abilities, attacks and amount of hit points. For example some are slow, but very powerful, while others are light and able to 'cloak' themselves and become practically invisible to the enemy. The balance of the units is what makes the game fun – as you can select any combination, of fighters as long as money permits – and the total number of units in your control is limited to 5. As soon as they all die and you have no way to protect your sanctum, you lose. A nice touch in the game is that your units can get experience for killing enemy fighters, progress in skill and be transferred to the next level. This means that pretty soon you'll be able to have some favorite gladiators that you will get attached to and wouldn't like to die.

One other thing that you have to worry about is the money itself – you will get money not only for defeating your foe in a game, but also standing your gladiators next to sponsors' billboards for a short time during a match's duration, and for aesthetics of your base – the area that surrounds the sanctum. As I said, before each match you can build different structures next to your sanctum – and not only you can build defensive structures such as traps and turrets, but you can also place trees and other 'aesthetic' structures there, which will please the show viewers' eyes and give you some extra cash at the end of the mission.

The graphics look pretty decent, although I am sure they will be improved even more by the time the game will hit stores. A lot of detail has been given to the gladiators' figures and to the levels themselves. The game is played in full 3D, and you can rotate the view and zoom easily to get a better overview of the battlefield. The levels themselves aren't really big, so the framerate is pretty decent. Another cool detail about the levels is that all, or almost all the objects in them can be broken, so you could make some alternative ways to the enemy's sanctum on the battlefield.

The game also features a very solid tutorial, that guides you through all the tricks of playing the game. I cannot say much about the sound and music, as there's simply not much of either of those in the version that Strategy First was kind enough to send us. The multiplayer was also missing (but will be present in the final version). You can expect to hear about all of the above in a review once the game gets to stores.

Nexagon looks like a promising game. The gameplay is fast and vicious, while the selection of player's race and fighters' combination is crucial to winning, which makes it a highly tactical game. At the same time the economic model of the game is interesting as well, since you have to think about your bank account's size at all times. This combination makes up for some very interesting gameplay. It's clear that the product at its current stage still needs to be polished and fine-tuned, but I'm very interested in playing the final result. Check out our gallery for some exclusive screenshots.