Developer: Mythos Games
Designer: Julian Gollop
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: РС и PlayStantion 2
Estimated release date: April, 2001
Minimum requirements: currently Р3 400, 64Мб, second-generation 3d card.
Dream Valley, or everything we could dream about
We have not heard anything about amazing game, X-Com, for a long time. Relations between X-Com developers (Mythos Games company) and publishers have been broken for many years, since the time of Microprose absorption by Hasbro Interactive. It is not our business what was the reason, but X-Com disappeared for a long time in result. X-Com trademark owners have tried to re-animate the series several times in last few years, but failed to escape some bad luck hanging over X-Com. Genesis died unborn, and Alliance is postponed for uncertain term.
"King is dead, long live the king!"
The things are really not so bad. Last spring Mythos Games announced the commencing of new game development, with quite unusual name The Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge. The head of project is well-known Julian Gollop, one of strategy design classics. He and his colleagues were the authors of unforgettable saga of stand against aliens, X-Com. Now, much, much later, at the beginning of new millenium, Mythos Games developers decided to sum up their fifteen-year experience of strategic and tactical game creation. Unfortunately they were unable to return to X-Com itself, but the conception of new game is very similar! And that's good - why one should invent a bicycle?
Green guys again?
In not so far future our long-suffering good old Earth is under alien invasion again! As if it haven't had enough! ;) Mysterious Saurans, lizard-like creatures from outer space, have demanded humans to surrender, or else... Being offended by such a disdain, humans tried to stand up to the enemy, but had too long odds. They were defeated in a few days. Ruthless invaders have destroyed two thirds of mankind. The rest of people have been turned into slaves, driven to reservations to force them give up the hope to escape the pathetic lot, being the food for Saurans. In the meantime, invaders started the colonization and terraforming of Earth. Aliens have planted their flora everywhere, and released some nasty fauna.
But it is human nature to ask for trouble and refuse to admit their defeat. Daredevils from Terran Liberation Army keep fighting and make minor strikes on aliens. The stand gone underground and remembered guerilla war experience. One day, few years later, one of such assault groups has sneaked into former secret military base (base ruins, to be exact). If you've seen the movie "Hangar-18", you understood already what am I talking about. Yes, it is Area 51, most secret military base of Pentagon. And it is located in notorious Dream Valley. Humans have found alien origin artifact kept here for a long time by US government. Having analyzed this artifact in one of their labs, humans discovered a new weapon - system allowing to destroy Sauran equipment! Now mankind has a chance to win. I can stop describe the game plot here - all the rest depends on player talents.
Higher, higher and higher!..
The aim of developers was to create the game with matchless graphics quality, engine capacity, plot dynamics, gameplay intensity… Generally, this project is daring attempt to develop a game where all epithets may be only superlative. But let's keep the logical order. Developers decided to save unnecessary efforts and got the license to powerful engine called Havoc instead of long design of own engine. Havoc allows implementing absolute 3d world. No wonder, you say? Of course, almost any game has the words "full 3d environment" in its description. But there are different kinds of 3d implementation! Dreamland engine supports high quality picture, physics laws emulation and high interactivity of environment.
Judge for yourself, physics elementary laws, gravitation laws provides very original game effects. E.g. you can push the monster standing over the steep, and he will fall - and if there is some man down below, you'll have two corpses instead of one. All the items, without any exceptions, may be affected in some way. You can brush the rubbish off the table outside, bring down the bookcase and watch the books scatter around the room. You can blow the whole building, like in early X-Com.
Developers haven't limited themselves to simple game transfer to new platform and 3d engine. For the first time, the game has causal-investigatory connections. E.g. you launched a grenade and thrown old tree to house roof. The house collapsed. One of big debris pieces hits the gas barrel, it explodes and kills the soldier nearby. This chain may be very long.
For the first time, the game will allow to affect the terrain. Powerful explosions will leave the craters, and, theoretically, you can make such crater deeper or wider (if you don't care of ammo spent). The game takes into account everything, even the shockwave. Don't be surprised if splinters of glass from window broken by shockwave wounds your soldier or your soldier knocked off his feet by the wave. Also, night follows the day, and day follows the night, like in real world. But now it's time to say the main thing: like its predecessor, the game is turn-based! Amazing fact - developers decided not to invent any compromise or combination of real-time and turn-based modes.
Game engine allows to switch camera over the multiple modes, you can see the events both from your side and through the eyes of any soldier. You can switch the camera to missile launched and watch the flight from any point, including the eyes of target enemy. Modern accelerator capacities make possible to implement many strange effects of futuristic weapon use.
When describing game physics law system in his interview to Gamecenter, Julian Gollop said: "We have been busy integrating the physics systems into the game. This will allow us to simulate explosions, terrain destruction, and the effects of any collision within the tactical environment. The next step is to apply some clever physics properties to the characters in the game. Soon we will have characters that will step accurately through rough terrain, flinch when hit, or collapse like a rag doll when blown away by a shotgun. Alongside this, we are just adding the water simulation, which is looking excellent so far. Objects can float and bob in the water, generating realistic waves and ripples."
Is there any spirit, or not?
This is the project surface. Now, what about gameplay? I can console X-Com fans: blue globe is back! :) And now it is 3d and more beautiful. As before, you can feel yourself almost like god, turning the whole planet in any direction you wish! Setting the different time speed, you can control the situation over the entire terrestrial globe. Player must build bases, gather resources and capture aliens. As before, we'll fly to intercept enemy "saucers" and search for alien bases. But aliens are not static too - they are developing, conquer new areas, improve their bases. So it isn't easy. Additionally, they are able to find your bases and attack as soon as they can. By the way, both human and alien bases are consisting of two facilities - surface installations and main underground chambers. Such structures as defense fortifications, SAM systems, and watchtowers are to be placed on surface. You can watch everyday activity, workers and trucks moving. You can also observe the battle in case of assault, both on surface (SAM systems) and underground. All the personnel is going to fight, both soldiers and civilians - but soldiers fight better!
Now you have to establish your bases carefully thinking over its position, taking into account the landscape, resources available, and non-detection chances. There no money in the game! Absolutely! Don't expect to get spare funds from a pair of "saucers" successfully brought down. Main resource is morale and manpower. The output of your workers and scientists depends, as well as number of new recruits available, depend on how successful your activity is. Your campaign will fail without people. There will also be diplomacy in the game. Why not? Do you think you're the only human group on the Earth? No, there are other people like you, and they have their own plans and bases. They even can be Sauran allies… So the battle will be tough. There is also espionage! You have to hide for a while, and gather the forces. And most important, you have to protect the people and liberate the reservations.
The role of crusader, fighter against the universal evil, is more or less present in any scaled game. Here you have to challenge the superior enemy. And this enemy isn't dumb! He's not just attacking, he's developing also. Aliens are like humans in this issue - able to capture your technologies to become "wiser".
Dreamland difference from any strategic games of such scale is that any soldier is not just faceless unit alike others, he's a person with own stats and skills. You can equip any soldier as you wish, arm him with any weapons. Every soldier has his name and special skills. Everyone is collecting combat experience independently, and develops own skills. Any changes in unit equipment alter the appearance. Each weapon type has several models. And each soldier has own "live" voice!
Read some interesting excerpts from Garry Taylor's interview to Daily Telefrag (Garry is head audio designer):
Tolstiy: How do you go about choosing or creating sounds for the individual creatures in Dreamland?
Garry Taylor: Firstly, before anything, I go through the main design document, to try and get as much information as possible about all of the characters, aliens, and anything else that may need sound effects. I need to know everything about the aliens. This includes their size and appearance, their temperament, diet, physiology, etc. I look at the artists renders, and ask them to produce avi files for every animation. They supply me with the avi's, and only then do I go to work creating the sound effects. I have to take lots of things into consideration. The Saurans are carnivores, so they should sound nasty, and frightening. I spend a lot of time on creature sound effects.
Tolstiy: There were no voices in X-Com - the marines were as talkative as fish. Are you going to implement voice of marines in your new game?
Garry Taylor: I am. All the characters will have speech. Your squad will speak to you during the tactical missions. I felt this was essential to heighten the tension during the missions.
From shotgun to F-117!
What equipment is available to humans? From the very beginning of the game, you are not limited to just rifle and pistol. Humans have access to everything - as shotgun or assault rifle, as modern tanks and stealth fighters. I.e. most of equipment mankind has now. And that's not all. Player can capture enemy artifacts, research it and then reproduce. Moreover, new weapon sample may trigger the development of completely new technology - new for both humans and aliens. Analyzing captured alien bodies, scientists will discover their weak points and develop a special weapon to target it, or invent new combat tactics.
Technology tree is unique for strategy game genre. First, it is huge and very complex; second, you cannot be sure you invented everything! If you missed some minor details and later playing a new game, you can discover the major changes in your arsenal caused by this "details". In opinion of developers, this feature is one of main reasons causing you to play the game over and over.
Now the developers are not sure, but it is possible they'll include the option to play for aliens! And this is striking difference from any similar strategic game.
Multiplayer is planned too. At least we can be sure we'll get a hot seat mode. And now it will be genuine multiplayer, not homemade X-Com multiplayer we played before.
When the game is to be published, and for what platform? Developers are sure Dreamland will become available by April, 2001. But exact release date depends on Sony and PS2 launching in Europe. The game is being developed for two platforms at once, PS2 and common PC. However, developers complain PC is too weak… So think about computer upgrade, if you are really going to play this masterpiece!
What doctor said?
Let's sum up and make a final diagnosis. It is hard to say for sure - right now all we have is a set of screenshots and ecstatic responses of E3 visitors. But amount of ten million British pounds says a lot. It is current amount of game budget. Anyway, the game will set new genre boundary and show deserving aim for other developers. It is said, the quantity produces the quality. And several years of undisguised stagnation in strategic genre at last resulted in brand new game!