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Graphics: Dark Colony’s graphics had a cartoon-like feel to them that reminded me of Warcraft 2. I found the maps to be fairly interesting and creative. I liked the effect of the changing time of day and how it impacted both the look of the game and the way it played with the limited visibility. The units and structures were interesting enough but nothing spectacular. Some of the human units reminded me of those in Fallen Haven, a turn-based strategy game. Weapons fire and explosions were also nicely done but offered nothing truly original. At the same time I didn’t think they were really poor or detracted from the game; they did a decent job of setting the mood despite some of the limitations. Improvements would have been support for more resolutions, and a fix to the inherent problem with seeing my units after they were produced. Because I couldn’t change the angle from which I viewed the game, my base was constantly obstructing the view of units I had just produced. It was rather infuriating when I discovered that a badly needed unit was pretty much hiding behind my base, when I really needed it in a battle. In short, the graphics didn’t come close to what else is out on the market, but they were ok.
Interface: If found the interface to be awkward for a number of reasons. First, I hated the fact that I couldn’t just click on units I wanted to produce in the production menu and have them appear. I’m not sure what the rationale was behind having the spacebar involved in that process, but it was really annoying. Controlling units wasn’t too much of a problem, but there were a lot of commands missing from the controls. The ability to guard another unit or a structure, and a number of other commands would definitely have been a big help. The commands that did exist were simply too basic and not helpful enough to improve gameplay. Another thing that bugged me was that the mini map would consistently show dead enemy units on the map. So, I’d look at the map and think maybe there was an enemy unit in a certain location. When some of my units got there, however, I found that the spot only represented a dead unit or nothing at all. I also thought that active Petra-7 locations should have been identified with a different color from those sites that were inactive. I also had a problem with the end game summaries, which sometimes showed that neither side had any kills, but everyone had lots of deaths. Other additions might have included the ability to send produced units to a particular location.
Gameplay: I found myself having a pretty good time playing Dark Colony, even with the fact that it didn’t offer anything new over previous titles. The game was easy to get into and start playing. The tutorials offered a brief but informative glimpse at the important parts of the game. The game was really set up to include lots of combat and little of anything else (i.e., resource management). The missions were fairly interesting and usually featured variations on the same theme: kill the other guy. The multiplayer portion was pretty standard. I liked some of the wars, but there are a lot of real-time strategy (RTS) games on the market that are much better suited for multiplayer play than this one. The manual was pretty sparse and had only basic information and a minimum amount of detail. Of course, unless you’ve never played an RTS game before, you’ll pretty much be able to pick up everything without a problem.
Sound FX: The FX were pretty bland. They actually reminded me a lot of the old arcade game, Bezerk. It had that same cheesy computerized sound, with lots of whirring and clicking and computerized voices. The explosion sounds were pretty much canned and the voices during the brief cutscenes weren’t a whole lot better. The ambient sounds were few and far between and the responses from ordering to move or attack were nothing new. In short, the FX followed the pack and brought nothing new to the table. I didn’t really think they added anything to the game.
Musical Score: The music in Dark Colony consisted of four tracks. There were a couple of up-tempo songs and a couple of slower, more dramatic ones. I thought the mix was nice, but the music fell short of supporting the game. I didn’t understand why they stopped at just four tracks, especially considering that one was only 1 1/2 minutes long and another was barely 2 minutes long. With the other two tracks, both a little over three minutes each, that didn’t provide a whole lot of music. In fact, the music played a pretty minor role in the game and I sometimes forgot there was any. The music wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t very original and there wasn’t nearly enough of it for it to play an important role.
Intelligence & Difficulty: I was rather surprised that this game wasn’t easier. I found myself struggling a bit after just a few missions in the campaign. In general, I didn’t think the enemy opponents were aggressive enough and they usually waited too long to come at me. The strength of the enemy in campaigns seemed to be largely due to the fact that it started off with greater forces than I did. In the wars, the computer opponents were usually not too difficult to defeat and again seemed too passive. I also found it somewhat silly that the computer would continually send units through an area where I had mines laid. You would think after a couple units that it might figure out the mines were there and not keep sending single units on suicide missions. It wasn’t that the computer appeared to be trying to use units to use up all my mines so it could send large numbers of units through, either. So, the game was challenging mostly because of the opening strength of the enemy opponent, and not because the computer used good tactics or strategy.
Overall: Despite its score, which is a reflection on how it really stacks up against the rest of the RTS market and the games available, Dark Colony isn’t a bad game…depending on who you are and what you are looking for. If you are a gamer on a budget looking for a title that offers more of what you’ve found in other titles at a low price, this is a good choice. I haven’t seen it much in the stores I’ve been in lately, but I’m sure you can find this game in most bargain bins. If you don’t mind a clone game that offers a slightly different look and a familiar theme (humans vs. aliens), then this title isn’t a bad choice. It may also be a good choice for gamers with low-end machines who aren’t ready to upgrade and can’t run some of the newer titles that require faster processors. Even though this has been out for a while, anyone in either of these categories might want to take a look at this game. The rest of you can keep moving along.
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