A few years ago James Thrush had a dream. It was about a ship going through a wormhole in outer space. The idea of Far Gate was born. A fair amount of time has passed since then, and during that time much has been done. Super X Studios is a small company, but they have sure made an interesting product. Read on!
The story of Far Gate is pretty original, and here it is, quoted from Super X Studios:
"You, as Jacob Viscero, ex-black market smuggler, have been thrust into command of the PDC - the Proximan Defense Core, a volunteer militia protecting mankind's first colony at Proximan Centauri. Upon arriving, however, the colonist's new home is found to be uninhabitable. Was Earth wrong, or did they lie?
Two alien races, the Nue-Guyen, a fleshy, organic, space born race, and the Entrodii, a crystalline alien intelligence, are discovered traveling through a series of wormholes that thread the galaxy. Conflict erupts because of the communication breach between the three radically different races."
When you play the actual game the storyline is very much like a movie, there is no summary of destroyed units etc, it's much more continuous. In my opinion this feels much more exciting and makes it much more likely that you'll end up not sleeping till 04:00am
When I looked at the requirements for this game I was somewhat puzzled; the graphics only demanded Voodoo 1 / TNT 1. Luckily, if you have for instance a Geforce card you can push it to the limit! With resolutions up to 1600x1200, bump mapping (environmental if you have a Matrox g400-g450) and Transfer & Lighting. When playing the game I noticed that on 1024x768 my pc was slow! I can play Quake 3 on 1024x768 with all effects on max and it runs as smooth as a baby's bottom, but this was obviously too much. Well, too much might be an overstatement, but it was something I found slightly irritating. It only occurs when I for instance zoom onto a unit (and it puts the textures into the memory), so the second time I did it - it was as smooth as I expected. The model animations are also outstanding. If you have played a strategy game before you should know what Fog-Of-War is. You know, most often a dark cloud that makes you unable to see everything on the battlefield. In my opinion that dark cloud is pretty unnatural, so in Far Gate that has been changed slightly. Every unit and every building has it's own range of view. Unlike other games that range of view is now simply how far the individual unit / building's radar range is. Luckily, with a building called HubbleScope you can monitor a small area far outside your normal radar range. That way you can slightly keep an eye out on your enemy's base. I wish I could show you a clip as an example of the animation, but I can tell you it's far better than for instance Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. I must admit that I have never gotten a chance to try the Homeworld games, so I can't say if Far Gate is better or not. Since you can even play the game properly on a Voodoo 1 / TNT 1, and get truly awesome graphics on a Geforce (etc) you should definitely at least try a demo.
The Music / Sounds:
Let's start with the music. Normally when I've played space games, to get a futuristic atmosphere techno music is used. Quite frankly it was interesting to hear Far Gate's music. The genre I found the most fitting must be Alternative Jazz. When you're building your base and basically minding your own business there's slow soothing music, but once an enemy is detected and things are getting hectic it changes too just as hectic music. It feels futuristic in a very different way, and even though I'm not exactly a jazz person I liked it. Speaking of hectic atmosphere, it is just then you can really hear the amount, and quality of the in-game sounds. When you install the game you get to choose between high and low quality music / sounds, and even though I haven't tried the low quality music / sounds it sounded absolutely great on my sound blaster live! (thanks to EAX), along with the Trust Soundwave 1000 3D Plus (and not the lousy headphones I have been using) speakers I acquired at Christmas. Really good quality of the sounds, along with great usage of available technology makes the gaming experience even better.
Since I haven't played the Homeworld games before the controls of Far Gate was very much unlike anything I've tried earlier. Your first missions are simple tutorials that teach you how to move around, the interface, attacking and everything else you need to know. You will need to keep attention, because once the "teacher" is done talking it does not take long time till the text of what he says is go - meaning you can't goof off. It did take a couple of hours until I had mastered this new way of doing things, but once that was done everything felt very efficient, even though you don't have a map to click on like in other RTS games. One of the main things you need to be concerned with when playing the game is that you're not just moving across a relatively flat area, you need to think up and down as well. As you can see on the screenshot there is a grid on the "ground" where you move your units. Moving up and down is done by holding down the left button and moving it up and down accordingly. One of the things I found to the most enjoying is that when you're in the normal view (above), you can simply right click on a unit and it takes you right above it, meaning when you send for instance 10 catamarans (artillery units) and 10 interceptors (close combat units) you can zoom in on an interceptor while it's moving towards the enemy, watch it shoot, hear the roars as the catamarans fire, and hopefully have a close view when the threat is neutralized. Even though it took a while till I mastered playing the game it was a brilliant solution for a space strategy game where you don't actually have a solid ground to base the gameplay upon.
Obviously you can have a lot of fun playing against your friends in a game that isn't merely a copy of the worn out idea of Command & Conquer. To do so you get to choose between TCP/IP, Modem, Serial, Mplayer and Gamespy so there is no reason not to give it a shot at the first LAN-party you're going to.
I wish there could be a bit more modes to choose from when you're hosting a game, but it has the normal "kill the opponent" so for most people that should suffice.
James Thrush and the rest of Super X Studios have made a very good real-time strategy game, a game I for one have enjoyed and which I hope more people will after reading this review. People with somewhat old computers should be able to play this game, and people with newer computers should be able to get all the effects it can spew out. When you and your pals have learned how to play the game efficiently you can play it online, through modem etc so the potential for fun is high. Since this game came out just before 2001 we can't put it on next years voting on the best game of the year, but if it weren't for that it would surely be a good contestant.