Review: June 2001 Archives

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Westwood Studios


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 400 MHz, 16 MB video card, 700 MB HD space, 64 MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM

The Emperor is dead. Slain by the hand of a Bene Gesserit assassin, his demise has created a power vacuum that three great Houses seek to fill. Shortly before his death, the Emperor instituted a type of formal warfare between the three Houses of Atreides, Harkonnen, and Ordos. The battleground is Arrakis, a vast desert world known to the universe as Dune. Dune is also home to the Spice Melange. The Spice is necessary for space travel, and can prolong human life or inspire oracular visions. The Spice is power. The House that controls Dune controls the Spice, and the House that controls the Spice controls the Emperor's throne and the universe.

Emperor: Battle for Dune is the newest Real-Time Strategy (RTS) from Westwood Studios, set in the world created by Frank Herbert in his epic novels, and made a surreal reality by David Lynch's 1984 film. The player can command the military forces of any one of the three great Houses, in skirmishes or in extended campaigns for control of Dune. Each of the houses has an array of unique units, and can ally with five lesser Houses to add considerable tactical variety. The game is three-dimensional, and can be played alone or with up to seven other players.

Stellar Frontier Review

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Publisher: Stardock
Developer: Stardock


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM

Download it from www.stardock.com/products/sf/

Stellar Frontier is a multiplayer, real-time, 2D action game that looks and plays a lot like a souped-up version of the classic game Asteroids. The player commands a ship from one of three civilizations (the Humans, Arceans, or Drengin) that battles the other two species for control of space. Players can engage in ship to ship combat, or fight epic battles in an effort to take over other species' colony worlds. Ships can be upgraded by finding salvageable debris, or using the bounty money gained by destroying enemy vessels. The game is going to be featured on Stardock's Drengin.net, a service that will allow you to download and play games for a set annual or monthly fee. Currently, you can download the game for free, but there are some premium functions that give paying customers a mild advantage.

Pencil Whipped Review

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Publisher: ChiselBrain Software
Developer: ChiselBrain Software


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 233 MHz, 8 MB video card, 10 MB HD space, Windows 95 or more recent operating system

Pencil Whipped (v2.4) is a conventional 3D, First-Person Shooter (FPS), with very unconventional graphics. All of the textures – walls, torches, weapons, and enemies are drawn in pencil. The sound effects are even done by voice recording, giving the game a cartoonish feel. The doors really do make a "Kshreeek" noise when opened. Really. Exactly like that. A hit by the early enemies rewards the player with the sound of a person shouting "smack!" Beware, though, the cuteness is tempered by verbal taunts. The mildest thing a monster shouted was "Hey! It's the idiot!"

Publisher: Interplay
Developer: Black Isle Studios


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 200 MB HD space, 4x CD-ROM

Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter is a dungeon crawl set in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons ruleset and the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. For anyone not familiar with the tabletop, pencil-and-dice gaming set, it's a fantasy setting where you kill a lot of monsters. Unlike the Baldur's Gate series, Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter doesn't involve very much character interaction, and the plot exists mostly to move the characters from one hack-and-slash setting to another. That said, ID:HoW was designed to be exactly that: a game about combat, for those who wanted a lot more fight and a lot less talk.

I played the original Icewind Dale at the same time as the Heart of Winter expansion. The expansion enables a number of enhancements to the original Icewind Dale, including new special abilities, new voices and portraits, and a higher level cap. The reasons to play both together rather than Icewind Dale alone are:

  • 800x600 resolution lets you see enough of the screen to make the game fun.
  • A hotkey that highlights interactive items makes searching for loot much easier.
  • Gem bags, potion bags and scroll cases eliminate a lot of tedious inventory management
Publisher: Dreamcatcher Interactive
Developer: Cryo Interactive


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 24x CD-ROM

The character of 'Wales' (a poor play on H. G. Wells) has built a time machine at the close of the 19th century, with which he flings himself 50,000 years into the future. Stuck in a mysterious world, he seeks to understand his surroundings and return home using the secrets of "chronomancy." To do this, he must seek the help of a god-like being with power over time, named "Khronos."

Hoyle Casino 4 Review

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Publisher: Sierra (VU Games)


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, 16 MB RAM, 100 MB HD space, 4x CD-ROM

Hoyle Casino 4 is a casino game that allows you to play all of the standard casino games including many varieties of Poker, Blackjack, Slot Machines, Craps, Video Poker and Roulette. Gameplay consists of creating an identity, using the Facemaker to create a portrait of the player identity or choosing a pregenerated portrait, and then entering the casino to progressively increase your stake of $5,000 at various games of chance, or lose all of your fictitious cash. There are newer versions of Hoyle Casino available from Sierra.

Publisher: Interplay
Developer: 14 Degrees East


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 266 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 500 MB HD space

This strategy game is set in the post-apocalyptic world that has helped make the Fallout series so popular, a fusion of near future and recent, cold-war past. In this setting, the Brotherhood of Steel has dedicated themselves to the preservation of technology and the reunification of the remaining populace under a common banner of peace. The Brotherhood is willing to use extreme measures to do so. At the opening of Fallout Tactics, a recent recruit has joined a splinter group of the Brotherhood of Steel, and is charged with individual tactical missions to further the interests of the Brotherhood in what was formerly the suburbs of Chicago.

The main call of the Fallout universe is the way in which it so seamlessly blends a paranoid, American, cold-war sensibility with near-futuristic technology. The game's 2D, isometric perspective is more than made up for by a beautifully rendered tile set that details nearly every aspect of the post-apocalyptic universe. The game has an extensive single-player mode as well as multiplayer. It can be played in a turn-based mode that makes the game play true to its heritage from the Fallout RPG series, or in a live mode that makes the game play like a real-time, small unit tactics game.

System Shock 2 Review

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Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Looking Glass Studios


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 200 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 4 MB 3D video card, 250 MB HD space, 4x CD-ROM

System Shock 2 is the sequel to the game in which a rogue Artificial Intelligence (AI) named SHODAN took control of Citadel Station, an orbital station owned by TriOptimum Corporation, and attempted to use it to destroy the earth. Years later, TriOptimum Corporation has developed a faster-than-light propulsion system, and built a prototype interstellar ship – the Von Braun. The UNN, a worldwide governing body, allows the maiden voyage to take place as long as TriOptimum tethers a UNN military vessel, the Rickenbacker, to the Von Braun. The main character is a UNN grunt, assigned to observe and protect this FTL experiment, after three years of uneventful assignments. Coming from one of the three branches of the UNN military, the grunt may have focused on combat, technical skills, or psychic powers. On the journey, the two ships discover a signal from a distant planet, previously thought uninhabited.

The game begins as the player awakens from a post-surgical cryogenic sleep in the Von Braun, to discover a brand-new military grade cybernetic implant and a mild case of amnesia. The Von Braun's AI XERXES is behaving strangely, the ship is malfunctioning, and dead crewmen litter the floor. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that the crew discovered an ejected portion of the former Citadel station that was full of SHODAN's biological creations. These creatures have evolved into a hive-mind assemblage of creatures called The Many, that has incorporated XERXES. A shard of SHODAN's software survived, as well, and a reconstructed SHODAN looms large in the plot.

System Shock 2 strives to combine the action of a First-Person Shooter, the plot and character development of an RPG, and good, old-fashioned horror. A multiplayer element was added long after release in patch form.

Publisher: MicroProse
Developer: SimTex


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 2x CD-ROM, 75 MB HD space

Master of Orion is a defining game of the 4X genre. 4X games are those that emphasize exploration, expansion, exploitation of resources, and extermination of one's opponents. Just as the Civilization series really established this genre of turn-based strategy games in the hearts of gamers, the Master of Orion series sets the standard for space-based 4X games. A vast improvement on the original Master of Orion, itself an adaptation of a board game, Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares puts the player in the shoes of an alien race that has just developed the technology necessary to spread into the vast reaches of space. Using a predesigned race, or a race with a set of customizable attributes, the player seeks to expand his empire and dominate the galaxy. Through espionage, warfare, politics, or sheer production, the player tries to dominate by either conquering all opposition, winning a diplomatic victory in the Intergalactic Senate, or conquering the ancient Antareans. MOO II can be played against computer opponents, or a combination of human and computer opponents.

Deus Ex Review

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Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Ion Storm


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 150 MB HD space, 4x CD-ROM

Deus Ex is a game that transcends the usual boundaries of genre. This game looks and plays like a first-person shooter, but has the strong story and elements of character choice that are typical of role-playing games. J. C. Denton is a nanotechnologically augmented soldier, created to fight for the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition (UNATCO) and increase the effectiveness of international law enforcement. Denton moves among near-future versions of familiar locations such as New York, Hong Kong and Paris, uncovering a vast international conspiracy that weaves virtually every modern conspiracy myth together into a seamless plot. The Illuminati, Majestic 12, Area 51, the Knights Templar, aliens and a man-made plague all shape Denton's world as he discovers the truth about world powers and fights to save humanity. This game has an extensive, storied single-player mode and a multiplayer combat mode.

Diablo II Review

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Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM (32 MB RAM for multiplayer), 4x CD-ROM

Diablo II is pure action. Pure monster-killing, item-dropping, fireball-chucking entertainment. The game does not offer sophisticated plot, extensively scripted dialogue, or complicated puzzle solving. The highly intuitive interface allows a novice to begin slaying minions of evil by the handful as soon as the opening cinematic is completed. For the many players who wanted something more out of the original Diablo than just a better sword and shield, Diablo II has added a skill system that has addictive potential for players with motivations beyond loot. Each character class has thirty skills available that allow a player to really excel at point-and-click monster bashing. While single player mode is playable and fun, this is a game intended to be played on Battle.net, Blizzard's free, on-line service. The five character classes' skills complement each other, and create near infinite combinations of cooperative party play.

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This page is an archive of entries in the Review category from June 2001.

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Review: June 2001: Monthly Archives