The future has brought many changes to the human race. Humans have abandoned Earth, traveling among the stars in an effort to find a new home world to ensure the survival of the species. Vast leaps and bounds have been made in technology due to a mysterious force known as the Spirits, who have also led man to a new paradise through the use of Alpha and Omega gates.
To complicate matters strife has arisen between mankind, leading to the creation of different factions; some intent on bringing man back to his origins, others looking solely to the future paradise offered by the Spirits. Then there are the malicious beings known simply as Scourge. These beasts mindlessly follow the large city ships known as Frames. It is up to the powerful captains of the Frames, the Legates, to protect their colonies and ensure the survival of mankind.
So the question becomes can you master the power of nanotechnology and create a force strong enough to guide your Frame to safety?
It was at this past year’s E3 that I first laid eyes on Russian Developer K-D Lab’s newest title, Perimeter: an RTS which enters the market at an odd time. The latest offerings of Real Time Strategy games have been mere variations on existing themes and haven’t really helped evolve the genre much. I am happy to say that, as claimed on the box of Perimeter, this game lives up, at least partially, to the phrase Real Time Strategy Reborn.
Perimeter is, at a glance, a futuristic RTS game reminiscent of titles like Dark Reign and Dune 2000, but it’s more than just a new set of units borrowing a common RTS engine.
Like many RTS games, Perimeter is about creating buildings and expanding territory to ultimately crush your enemies. Where this game differs is in its overall approach. For starters there is essentially no real resource gathering going on in this game. Your basic power supply is the only thing you need to worry about. Power is used for nearly everything, such as spreading your influence, reminiscent to the Protoss power pylons of Starcraft.
Now where this becomes tricky is in the area of the game’s various types of terrain. In order to build structures, you need to be on completely flat terrain. To make the terrain flat, you are forced to utilize units known as Brigadiers, basic vehicles which release tiny units capable of leveling hills or filling in holes, in order to create flat ground which you can then use to spread your power system.
Once you gain a handle on creating your power network, it’s time to start focusing on creating buildings and ultimately units to defend and of course conquer. This game features a relatively small number of structures when you count them all up; however, looks are deceiving in this case. Many of your structures, like your Bomb and Laser Labs, are capable of being upgraded, which eventually allows you to create much more powerful units for fighting, as well as various base structures for defense like laser turrets and missile launchers. These upgrades are also essential as they allow you to begin creating your armies.
Unlike most RTS games, Perimeter forces you to utilize squads for your battles. Gone are the times of using lone units for battle as this game is all about the squads. Where it gets tricky, at least initially, is that you only get one squad for each command center that you build. So your army is limited by what you build, as well as a cap of 250 units on screen.
Once you have built your soldier, officer, and lab tech buildings, you are ready to begin raising your army. Your three basic unit types are soldiers, officers, and technicians. Your soldiers are your primary form of fighting as the officers are only able to suppress firing and the techs are used to help heal nearby units.
||The true beauty is in the use of nano-morphing. Through the use of sophisticated nano-technology you will be able to morph your units into different fighters. For instance, you can take 10 soldiers and 4 officers and morph them into a flying unit capable of attacking ground and air units. Depending on the structures and upgrades you have going, you can morph into other units such as the heavy bombing unit Wargon, or the Extirpator, a heavy vehicle capable of attacking both ground and underground targets.
Your squads are limited in that for the most part all units in the squad morph into the new units meaning that you will need multiple squads in place in order to create a more diverse fighting force. This disadvantage is also somewhat negated by the ability to morph your squad literally on the fly from ground units to air vehicles to heavy vehicles all in a matter of seconds. This will make for some intense guessing and on the fly strategizing to try and find the rock to break your opponents scissors.
Finally, outside of all of this is the Perimeter itself. The Perimeter is a super powerful and of course energy intensive force field which can repel nearly all attacks. Within your power cores, all adjacent units and buildings are covered by the Perimeter as well which makes surgical strikes difficult, unless they are very sudden and do their damage quickly. Each force field can be put up individually, but with one click of your mouse you can engage the perimeter for your entire force. One advantage to this is that it allows you to defend structures long enough to repair them should they be badly battered in a strike or raid from your opponent.
Graphically this is a very attractive game. It features some very pretty terrain settings located on some very alien worlds. Although there has been some complaint about slow down, I never encountered any in my time with Perimeter and that includes during heated battles with dozens and dozens of units on screen at once. The visual effects in-game is also very well done and it is apparent that much time was spent in making the game aesthetically pleasing.
My only gripe is that your ground units are so small that unless in vehicle form, it’s sometimes hard to see where they are. Having said that it bears noting that since each squad is in fact hot keyed, it isn’t an entirely a worrisome thing. I would have liked, however, to see an up close view of my individual soldiers as the models appear to be very well done.
This game does make use of some very pretty, if occasionally confusing, cut scenes which are used to help move the plot along. The presentation between missions and for briefings is certainly reminiscent of Starcraft which I undoubtedly consider a good thing.
In this type of game, sound is rarely important to me, which is probably just as well as in this case the sound is not a major aspect of this game. While all the sound effects and speech in-game are nice, they just don’t really jump out at you. Whether it’s because of the nature of mankind in the future or some bizarre localization snafu, none of the people in the game inspire much in the way of emotions. It’s almost as though they don’t really care ultimately if they live or die. This is a minor grip on my part really.
This is the one area where the game really missed a chance to be great. It features a very threadbare multiplayer set including deathmatch and team deathmatch modes for up to 4 players. The maps are all of decent sizes, but the inclusion of more modes and certainly of more maps would have been greatly welcomed.
Also the need to use Gamespy to find opponents in multiplayer was disappointing, as I hate having to rely on an outside service to set up games. The in-game feature never turned up any opponents for me and when I was on Gamespy, the most opponents I ever saw on at once was 5.
As an RTS title, this game has a lot going for it. With the inclusion of a rather lengthy and very fun single player campaign, coupled with a solid, if limited, multiplayer mode, this game has a lot to offer both the casual RTS fan and the genre enthusiast. The unique game elements and the sheer number of different ways to play the game ensure that even a mediocre gamer can have a decent shot at beating a pro.
For a title surrounded with very little fanfare, I was quite surprised with what I found. This game is easily the best in-planet RTS title I have played since Starcraft, and it definitely gives me hope for the future of the RTS genre as a whole. Seldom does a game come along that promises innovation and then actually delivers it, but Perimeter has found a way to make RTS gaming fun again.