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Review by: Jim Richmond
Published: August 12, 2003
Many people don’t know it, but there’s an underground movement afoot. Lurking in the shadows are thousands of people, maybe even tens of thousands, who engage in a tradition that was first recorded as far back as the early 1800′s. This clandestine society largely goes unnoticed because their aim is not political upheaval or social change, it’s an affinity for playing correspondence chess. Actually, as I researched for this review I was surprised at the sheer number of organizations, teams, leagues, websites, and newsletters that are out there supporting the pastime of correspondence gaming; chess aficionados being by far the largest segment represented. Counted among their numbers are people from all walks of life including personalities like the dearly departed Humphrey Bogart who played correspondence chess with GI’s hospitalized in Europe during World War II. (Bogart was later ordered by the FBI to stop sending letters because they suspected he was passing coded messages to the Germans.) Bringing a taste of this strategy entertainment style to the PC, developer Codo Technologies delivers the email-enabled strategy title, Laser Squad Nemesis.
In the far distant future humanity has become united, laying aside hostilities based on ethnicity, religion, and greed. After living in peace for thousands of years, the existence of humankind seemed perfect until the Spawn, a race of insect-like creatures, emerged from the black of space and threatened this utopia. Some humans fled to the outer edges of the galaxy but many remained and developed a way to fight the Spawn. Having forgotten everything about armed conflict, humanity gave birth to a race of sentient robotic combatants called Machina to wage war on the Spawn. The plan seemed to work as the Machina drove the Spawn back and reclaimed fallen colonies. Then something happened no one could foresee: the Machina evolved and developed self-awareness. They took colonies from the Spawn as well as from the grasp of their carbon-based fathers, defined their new homeland, and threatened all who dared enter. In order to ensure their own survival, humans had to relearn the art of war and drive back the Spawn incursion as well as put a stop to the looming Machina threat.
LSN is a two-player tactical strategy game from the makers of the original and incomparable X-COM: UFO Defense. It has a hybrid turn-based/real-time system that cannot be successfully pigeonholed in either category. I think it’s best described as “segmented” gameplay. You can command groups of human Marines, robotic Machina, or the dreaded Spawn. Detailed plans are input like a turn-based offering, including movement and firing commands, but each turn is structured into ten real-time second blocks where anything can happen. Your detachment members can be issued direct orders that will be followed to the letter, or they can be sent forward with general guidelines that allow for more flexibility as the battlefield changes.
Plotting out moves for your grunts is as simple as pointing to a location and clicking. You can create as many or as few waypoints as necessary to get them exactly where you want them to be. Since they will obey your direct orders even if it means they don’t go home that night, sometimes providing a little latitude in the direction you give is a good thing. If you don’t want them to barrel headlong into some unexpected trouble, there are a couple of movement options that augment simple forward momentum. The first allows them to halt on sighting a new enemy. When they do this, they interrupt their current heading to stop and shoot at a recently discovered bad guy with whatever time they have left in the current turn. The second alternative is to have them retreat on sighting a new malevolent fiend. This allows them to turn and run like a frightened child when trouble is spotted so they can live to fight another time. If the situation calls for it, an order for perpetual movement, halting, or retreating can be set differently at every waypoint.
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