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Dark Colony

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:

GAME DEVELOPER:Strategic Simulations Inc. (SSI)

GAME PUBLISHER:Strategic Simulations Inc. (SSI)

Copyright 1997, Strategic Simulations Inc. (SSI)

Dark Colony is an underrated real-time strategy game in the same vein as StarCraft or Warcraft 2. Its commercial failure is perhaps unsurprising, given the deluge of RTS games in 1997 and the fact that Dark Colony does not offer anything that is dramatically different from RTS bestsellers. Still, there are some innovations, however small, that are worthy of recognition, in addition to the fact that the game is a good starting choice for newcomers to this genre who are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the frantic action of StarCraft.

Dark Colony is set on Mars in the far future. Humans have discovered a new, valuable energy source called Petra-7 on Mars.The bad news is that a group of wandering aliens, who call themselves Taar, feel that the humans are intruding too much into their potential new home. In Dark Colony, you can either represent the humans, or the aliens (called “Greys” by the humans) and help them establish their new home and rid the planet of those pesky humans.

SSI definitely took the approach “more is better” with Dark Colony, as the game is more or less a typical RTS, except there are dozens of maps, many multiplayer options, and additional features such as nighttime missions, and the ability to fight indoors and underground. The game is quite easy to get into and enjoy, though, as Adrenaline Vault observes: “The game was easy to get into and start playing. The tutorials offered a brief but informative glimpse at the important parts of the game. The game was really set up to include lots of combat and little of anything else (i.e., resource management). The missions were fairly interesting and usually featured variations on the same theme: kill the other guy. The multiplayer portion was pretty standard. I liked some of the wars, but there are a lot of real-time strategy (RTS) games on the market that are much better suited for multiplayer play than this one. The manual was pretty sparse and had only basic information and a minimum amount of detail. Of course, unless you’ve never played an RTS game before, you’ll pretty much be able to pick up everything without a problem.”

Dark Colony also introduces some new features not commonly seen in RTS, such as the ability for your units to advance in rank, similar to Fantasy General. They can also be awarded medals for exceptional performance in battles, and this will improve their abilities. The only major downside is that the units are basically the same on both human and alien sides, and there is no truly race-specific unique units that make gameplay different. As such, you may not be tempted to play as the other side once your campaign is over, although the flawless multiplayer play may change your mind.

Overall, I find Dark Colony to be a solid RTS that definitely deserves a second chance. It is not as good as StarCraft or Red Alert, but perhaps comparison with such heavy-hitters is unfair. Dark Colony is a fun, introductory-level RTS that is easy to get into, and provides a lot of long-term play value with dozens of missions– many more than RTS classics. The graphics are also excellent, if a bit on the violent side, so you may not want to play this game in front of your kids. Try it out, and it may just grow on you the way it grew on me. Thumbs up!



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