Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 11/13/02 | Genre: RTS
While the trend for traditional 2-D real-time strategy games (RTS) to be rendered in 3-D brings an extra layer of detail to the genre, games like Hegemonia that are set in space truly emphasize the extra ?ÄòD' in 3-D. What exactly does that mean? Let me put it in simple terms: In a normal RTS like Warcraft III when you splat an enemy unit, you get a pretty (maybe I should say gross) death sequence from an overhead perspective; when you splat an enemy cruiser in Hegemonia, you can swing around the doomed unit from every angle and really watch that puppy pop!
As the campaign storyline goes, you take either the side of an Earth commander or that of a Martian colonist commander (human either way), and you work to quell the war that is brewing between the factions. Unfortunately, it only takes a few missions to sort everything out, and you end up playing out the rest of the game which is virtually identical for both sides. A new, deadly alien threat leads to a hasty unification and common struggle against this dire threat.
Hegemonia really reminded me of the gameplay elements of Master of Orion II and the look of Homeworld, and it manages to bring all of the elements together into a solid game. You have to balance resources, manage your research in order to upgrade weapons and capabilities, decide which hero units to place where, and unleash your warbirds on the opposition. Unlike MOO2, when your units gain experience and gain veteran status, you can actually tell a difference in there combat ability. Experience even plays a huge role in how your spies behave; a newbie spy might just bring back some information or come back in a body bag, while a veteran spy might break bad with something on the scale of what James Bond might pull.
The visuals are, in a word, stunning. You can see the atmosphere around planets swirl with shifting weather patterns. While the backdrop that is meant to be space appears far more fanciful than realistic, it adds a sense of wonder to the game without detracting from the play. Let's not forget the ships. They are rendered with a distinct look for each ship type based on what race you play, making it easy to distinguish your ships the targets.
There are a few drawbacks that keep this game from being absolutely superb in my book. If you play through the single player campaign as a representative of the Earth and then switch and play as the colonists, only the first few training missions are different. The first mission could offer a bit more training, though most of my questions were answered by the second mission. I did not particularly like the light fighter ships either. They had to swoop in and fire on other ships dragging out the combat, while larger ships could blaze away continuously. They are also useless against planetary bases. I guess that makes some sense if you liken the fighters to basic spearman in other RTS games.
Overall, Hegemonia is a cool game with a really odd name. Sure, the name's meaning has some bearing on the game, but it's still odd as heck. The gameplay requires the player to balance out combat with research and planetary management but not to the point that it bogs the game down. A diverse set of singleplayer missions could have boosted the replay value of the game a few notches, but it boils down to a fun game that should please most RTS fans.