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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: January 22, 2002
The hype associated with major forthcoming PC games sometimes reaches unfathomable proportions. Every title in development is reputed to redefine the very nature of virtual entertainment, breaking old barriers and setting new standards for the future. Massive Development’s recently released AquaNox, published by Fishtank Interactive, faces the same dilemma of sky-high expectations. Despite the failure of other undersea adventures to achieve their stated goals, including Microsoft’s Deadly Tide, Ubi Soft’s Sub Culture and Deep Fighter, and SegaSoft’s Fatal Abyss, can AquaNox meet and even exceed our watery hopes and dreams?
AquaNox is a sequel to Massive’s own Archimedean Dynasty, published by Blue Byte in late 1996. The action in this new release occurs in the year 2666, five years after the war in Archimedean Dynasty — not coincidentally, this is the same time lag between the release of the two titles. On the surface, a lot of similarities appear to exist, as you again assume the role of colorful mercenary Emerald “Dead Eye” Flint and earn credits with which you can upgrade your ship and its weapons by undertaking combat-laden tasks. You again face the Bionts, a mysterious bio-robotic civilization intent on erasing human life from Earth. However, while Archimedean Dynasty was a multifaceted title encompassing the strategies and tactics of dealing with trading and resource management, AquaNox focuses on arcade battles and downplays the mental aspects of its predecessor’s gameplay.
Nonetheless, AquaNox‘s plot is unintelligible at times and difficult to summarize. The world of Aqua, an underwater kingdom where humanity resides, is faced with a new test of survival, and once again only trusty Flint can save the day. A dejected Flint begins in a weak little craft after his sub is stolen, a risk since various factions of power-hungry denizens are always at each other’s throats in a battle for scarce resources. Jumping at the opportunity provided by the endless conflict, the Bionts launch a new attack, causing seaquakes and unleashing unspeakable horrors. Despite the complexity, the story is quite gripping as it unravels across missions.
The combat at the center of this offering is frequent and intense. It’s also a bit unwieldy, due in part to the difficulties provided by the underwater setting; you rarely need to undertake sophisticated maneuvers and instead can just indiscriminately shoot at anything sinister. You’ll often find yourself swinging wildly around trying to attack foes from all angles because it’s not easy to detect the direction of incoming shots. While you can implement small bursts of speed through a booster power-up to try to escape danger, most of the combat takes place at a very close range.
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