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Review by: Emil Pagliarulo
Published: November 28, 1997
If you think humans are afraid of catching a nasty venereal disease, just imagine how the inhabitants of the planet Scayra must feel. The failure of the main energy shield protecting the colony city of Scay-Hallwa has led to the escape of a sinister virus — Herpes Simplex. Sometimes fatal, always uncomfortable, Herpes has almost become something of a joke in our society. For the indigenous creatures of Scayra, the virus is no laughing matter. Instead of simply giving them an uncontrollable rash, Herpes mutates these beings, called Scay’Ger, into horrible, bloodthirsty monsters. They cannot be reasoned with, and want only to destroy every single human they come across…for they blame you for their unholy transformation.
Blue Bytes’s Incubation is the latest game in the “Battle Isle” series, and quite possibly the most innovative turn-based tactical combat game ever made. The player controls a squad of space marines who must accomplish missions deep in the heart of the besieged city of Scay-Hallwa. Your ultimate objectives are twofold: secure as much of the colony as possible from the marauding Scay’Ger, and add support to the evacuation.
When the game first begins, three marines, Bratt, West, and Maxon (who are all introduced in the opening cutscene) are sent on a mission to “clean up” an infested factory. What was supposed to be just a handful of Scay’Ger actually turns out to be an almost relentless assault, and at that point it becomes apparent that the alien threat is far more serious than anyone first thought. After that initial bug hunt, which effectively introduces the player to the mechanics of combat, the missions get progressively more difficult. Fortunately, each combat engagement is a self-contained entity, so in between missions you have a chance to collect your thoughts and some much needed supplies.
The main, non-combat game screen depicts the city of Scay-Hallwa in all its rotatable 3D glory. From this screen, you have the option of saving the game, or recruiting new units. You can recruit as many new marines as you have equipment points for (which are gathered in the missions) but it must be remembered that the more money you spend on soldiers, the less you will have to equip them! Depending on how far along you are in the campaign, different map hotspots will become available that allow you to jump to the various parts of the game, including cutscenes, resupply points (including some battle areas that have already been cleared out), and the missions themselves.
The cutscenes are rendered with the same engine used in the missions, and usually involve visiting the office of one of your superiors, like Captain Urelis (who, incidentally, sounds just like Candace Bergen). There, you learn about upcoming missions, the general state of the colony, and the current Scay’Ger situation; if you’re lucky, you may even get a hint as to what’s in store for your squad down the line.
The resupply points are a godsend, for there you can upgrade your units’ weapons and armor, and purchase valuable equipment, like medic kits and stimulants. Incubation uses an experience point system to keep track of the soldiers’ progress, and this experience translates into skill points that can be “traded in” (along with some equipment points) for weapons and items. For example, that flamethrower might look like a real lifesaver, but if you haven’t accumulated enough skill points, you won’t be able to purchase it. The same is true of all of the items, from servo systems to scan modules. The resupply points are also where you distribute the commendations that might have been earned in previous missions; every soldier can receive up to three such honors, and each is the equivalent of an extra skill point, which can be used to purchase better equipment.
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