Well, another RTS game to throw on the pile? my only thought was if it could compare to the aging, but good, Age Of Empires series, Alpha Centauri, and the recently released hit Warcraft 3. I have been into RTS games for while, mainly because of the Command and Conquer series. The playability was awesome, a lot of different units and buildings to choose from, and then the other ?faction? to choose which had a completely different array of units and buildings. So you could say I was going to review Moonbase Commander with reasonably high expectations regarding this genre, as I had been used to playing some classic games. A quick glance at the developer?s website for this quickly showed me what I was in for. The game is rated as being for ages 8+. I could see why this was true when I loaded up the main menu - vibrant colours and not many options told me this was a kid?s game. I went into this fearing the worst - and that?s what I received.
The graphics... well what can I say.. reminds me of the original Command And Conquer game, or maybe games before that, which was 1997 and before. It does seem like Humongous Entertainment are stuck in the past, god knows why. Being a sub-division of Infogrames, who are the force behind such classics like 'Neverwinter Nights' and 'Civilisation 3', and the forthcoming 'Unreal Tournament 2K3', I would have thought they'd have access to a half decent graphics engine or at least some assistance in creating one. But sadly this was not the case, and the graphics look incredibly dated. Another point about the graphics is that you can't change from 640x480, and there are no quality options.
The sound.. oh the repetitive dance music. This, as with the graphics, is terrible. Saying it gets annoying is an understatement. It is the epitome of crap, bar none, except maybe the pretty standard beeps and pings that the menu system and buttons make when you press them. The voice-overs are pretty bad also. The woman's voice has a very strange accent and it sounds like she is having trouble saying some of the lines.
Well, the single player is not what I had expected. I thought i was going to be building colonies on the moon. But this was not the case sadly; I was looking forward to another Alpha Centauri. What I got instead was a turn based game which appeared to be about doing challenges, which mainly involved taking the 'energy pools' that were placed on the maps, and while doing that destroying my opponents. The latter is not necessary at all, as the AI is so dumb it spends most of it's time killing itself - well, trying to - and basically leaves you to get on and win the 'challenge.' I assume the difficulty gets harder in the different campaigns which are implemented by means of different 'factions,' but I didn't spend long enough playing the game to find out, as I was almost bored to tears.
Another thing about the factions is that they have no units that are unique to them - basically the factions mean absolutely nothing except that the units look different in game.
The multiplayer mode doesn't offer much as it is basically the same game, with lack of any options that are different from the single player, and being almost identical to the single player in every aspect apart from the fact that you can include human opponents, with the goal remaining the same.
I had expected resource management as standard in RTS games these days, but Moonbase Commander ignores this and the only ?resources? you have to ?worry? about is the energy, and how many turns you have left to build buildings with, with some buildings costing 1 turn, others costing 3, and finally the last set at 7 turns. In challenge mode you get a varying number of turns so how many buildings or units you can create with this will vary.
The buildings that are created are actually launched from your first unit which is called the ?hub.? You get a arrow and can move it left or right, and when you have decided on direction, you have to select the power by means of pressing a button and then pressing it again, which reminds me of golf games. It may take a bit of time to get used to the power, but in time I?m sure it wouldn?t be hard to become a crack shot - if you wanted to spend that much time with this game of course.
There are no ?units? as such in this game although the things that come closest are the offensive weapons you can toss at your opponents. These range from a ?virus? which spreads throughout your opponents buildings (as they are all connected with a stream of flashing lights (??)) and allows you to see them for a short time. Another weapon is the missile, which does what you?d expect a missile to do.
While, in my opinion, the game is not up to scratch, with the bad AI, and repetitive goals, it may appeal to young children with it's relatively easy learning curve and bright, vibrant colours etc. The map editor may increase the longevity of the game by a small amount, but still not enough to offer any real re-playability. Also, the skirmish mode allows you to have some kind of variety, although the first skirmish I did, I unknowingly chose the hardest opponent in the game, and still managed to beat them easily. That was my first time playing the game. Kind of gives you an idea of the difficulty and intelligence of the AI (or lack of). Also in the skirmish, the 'energy pools' are present, but I seemed to be able to win every time without even using them, which leads me to wonder... what is the point of them?
I really did not enjoy playing this game; just looking at the main menu I knew that it wasn't going to be anything special or groundbreaking. The ludicrously easy difficulty level, and the very dated graphics and sounds all add up to a game that is not worth playing, and the very limited multiplayer option which is basically the same as single player except for human opponents. Well you will maybe play it once, if you have the misfortune to buy this game, but I doubt you'll ever return to it, unless you want to create some maps for you and your friends to play on, but I don?t expect you'd ever want to do that when there is many other multiplayer games out there, some that are free, that are a million times better than this one. This genre (I'm guessing it would fall under the real time turn based strategy genre) is not helped by the addition of this game. Quite why the developer created a 2D game for today?s market is beyond me. Avoid at all costs.