Players: | Release Date: 08/21/01 | Genre: Strategy
PC gaming has fallen off in recent months. Everything worth playing is either a copycat of a successful product or a sequel. Thankfully the folks at Nexon have not only given us something new, but something good. They combined elements of RTS, RPG and squad-based tactical games to create a wonderful online gaming experience.
In the world of Shattered Galaxy you create a hero and assign him ability points. You choose which faction (nation) you want to fight for. Then buy the units you wish to command on the battlefield. You're set, now its time to fight for the glory of your faction.
I have to say I thought this game had a lot of polish. The tutorial when you first log in is simple yet effective. It shows you around the capital, where you'll go to repair and upgrade units throughout the game. The tutorial will also give you the basics on fighting. Like any combat training, its no substitute for the real thing. Once you've got the basics down its time to help the faction.
Relic is the "newbie" planet. That's where you'll begin. Recently there was some upheaval on the planet. There were four factions to choose from but those were consolidated into two. The idea was to create larger battles or something along those lines. What it really did is to force factions that truly hated one another to suddenly get along and rally together. As time passes the old ways are being forgotten and the integration is taking hold.
Relic is a great place to learn the game. There is a level cap and while you'll likely get creamed early on, you'll catch up with the rest of the pack in no time. I recommend that new players join a regiment fairly early. Regiments work somewhat like clans do in other online games. Joining a regiment will give you a chance to work with the same players on a regular basis and learn from them. Teamwork is incredibly important to success in the game and regiments tend to foster the team ethic.
The planet is divided into provinces. Each province has its own value based on what resources the land contains. Provinces also have different terrain, which can provide big defensive advantages or none at all. Naturally, the more provinces your faction controls, the wealthier it becomes. The tribute is your share of the faction's resources. It's like a monetary reward for fighting and contributing to the glory of the faction.
The actual fighting in each province is far better than I'll be able to describe for you here. In any battle the objective is to maintain control of the points of contention (POC). As the attacker you have twenty minutes to destroy all of your enemies, gain control of all POCs, or have a majority of them when the timer runs out. Only ground units may gain control of a POC. Battles for a single POC can be incredibly intense with twenty or more players' units involved in the fight. Since each player has between six and twelve units, you just have to see the action to believe it.
When the battle is over the winning team gains experience points (XP) for both the heroes and the units each used in the fight. Losers gain some XP for their units, but usually not for their heroes. There are exceptions to this latter rule for low-level heroes to give them the thrill of advancement through participation. When you gain enough XP you'll move up in level and rank. This allows you to add another ability point to further customize your hero. When units advance in level they are capable of utilizing more powerful weapons, armor, engines, etc.
The political side of the game allows your hero to further his reputation by running for Overlord (OL). The OL is the leader of the faction and gets to choose a council. He also has the power to shout messages to every faction member on the planet, very useful for letting people know where to send reinforcements. On Morgana, the other planet, the OL can also negotiate cease-fire agreements and alliances.
The game has pretty good graphics and sound. There is a wide range of units to choose from in four basic categories: infantry, mobility, aviation, and organic (aliens). The units are nicely detailed and are distinct enough to be recognizable at a glance on the battlefield.
In the course of playing the game, there were only a couple of issues that kept Shattered Galaxy from world-class status. Being an online only game it goes without saying that lag, disconnects, and out of sync (OOS) are issues that you will have to deal with regardless of your Internet connection. I also found that newbies might indeed find it rough going on Morgana. Because the Battle Commander can accept or decline your request to join a battle, you will find it difficult to fight for your faction until you achieve a greater level. Of course, it's hard to level up when you can't find a battle. Nexon is working to address this issue and will probably have something worked out soon.
Despite those few negatives I mentioned, Shattered Galaxy is that rare breed of game that comes along and reminds us why we like playing games to begin with. Battles that are over in twenty minutes make it easy to pop online for an hour and actually accomplish something. SG offers fast paced action while demanding cunning and savvy from its players. Teamwork is crucial to success and helps to create the sense of community online games require for a healthy extended lifetime.
Personally, I love the game. I can't recommend it enough if you like PC gaming, and online gaming in particular. I know there's plenty of other stuff out there trying to suck your funds this holiday season (XBOX), but Nexon has put together one heck of a game that is definitely worthy of your attention.