Game Over Online ~ Starsiege

GameOver Game Reviews - Starsiege (c) Dynamix / Sierra, Reviewed by - Rebellion

Game & Publisher Starsiege (c) Dynamix / Sierra
System Requirements Pentium 166, 32 MB Ram, 4X CD-ROM, DirectX
Overall Rating 82%
Date Published Saturday, March 6th, 1999 at 03:12 PM

Divider Left By: Rebellion Divider Right

In December, Dynamix graced us with the entertaining title, Starsiege: Tribes. This new engine featured some nicely detailed graphics and a lot of action. Dynamix has used this engine again to further the story started with Tribes and expand from a first person shooter to a mech combat sim.

The plot follows closely with Starsiege: Tribes. In a futuristic world, strife has broken out among the humans and their own creations, the Cybrids. Additionally, conflicts have been arising between the Imperials and the colonies. Typical futuristic space turmoil cliches don't particularly help enliven the game, but Starsiege does make up for it with a well conceived story line.

Multitudes of cutscenes, using the game engine, allow the player to follow the developments of the campaign and how they're influencing it. In between missions, there is also an constantly updating newspaper and historical timeline showing reactions to what's going on as well as key military incidents. This definitely makes for a much more detailed, out-of-game environment, which few games seem to ever make an attempt at.

Graphically, it looks virtually identical to Tribes, a lot of sparse outdoor environments, combined with sterile outposts. The eyecandy is well done, with decent smoke effects, lightning, and all the other usual bells and whistles. Like Tribes, your mechs also leave tracks as you traipse your way around each of the campaigns. With Starsiege, Dynamix implements OpenGL support for the nVidia TNT and Intel i740 chipsets adding to the current 3Dfx Glide support. A bonus as it might seem, the OpenGL performance runs horribly compared to the Glide performance. ** CALL TO GAME DESIGNERS WITH OPENGL EXPERIENCE - PLEASE HELP DYNAMIX OUT BEFORE THEY HURT THEMSELVES ** Glide supports resolutions up to 1280x1024 while OpenGL supports a measly two video options 640x480 and 800x600. On my PII 450 with a Canopus Spectra 2500, Starsiege would crawl to unplayable conditions at 800x600 with all the graphics turned on. On my PII 300 with a Voodoo Banshee, it played brilliantly at 1024x768. In my opinion, this is totally unacceptable. Many gamers have opted away from 3Dfx and want games to perform up to par with their equipment. Obviously, these poor results state more about the code of the game then the state of my hardware. In addition to the Glide version playing better, it also looks much better. While Glide does look better, OpenGL still looks passable, and I think once Dynamix gets their coding together, this "performance" problem can be resolved easily through a patch.

Audio is also quite well done. It supports all the new 3D standards including A3D 2.0 and EAX. I didn't notice a significant amount of detail to the 3D positioning, but it does enhance the gameplay. Weapons are, for the most part, given decent sound effects. The background music fits well with game and helps maintain the feeling of desolation the sparse landscape creates. I do wonder about the sound that seems apparently missing from the game or just doesn't sound realistic, like the mech engine and the actual movement of the mechs. I'd expect something a little more profound in this area. The cutscene speech and briefing intros fit well into the game as well to help create a decent environment.

Getting down into the nitty-gritty, this AIN'T Mechwarrior. It just seems to be lacking the gripping interest level and complexity that Mechwarrior had. The actual mech in Starsiege handles too simplistically, like a toy, instead of like a huge sixty ton metal monster. A lot of what made Mechwarrior so good was its complex instrumentation. There was much better control over what was at your disposal. For some reason, I just found the actual combat to be somewhat of a challenge, my teammates made quick work of the enemies while I ran around missing them consistently. It does take some mastering to get aiming down to a science, but the actual targetting just seems a bit off.

Missions have a good bit of variety although the difficulty in many may be a little too low. It does progressively get harder, but it just seems as if the first five or six are too much of a cakewalk for when you actually get to the heavy fire. It does have a good number of mechs and tanks to outfit your squad with and a long with a large number of parts and weapons, you can literally build your squad vehicles from the ground up. This customization makes choosing a mech a little more entertaining then Mechwarrior's choose-your-own-weapon approach.

As for entertainment value, it's a worthy title. Although it's not quite was I was hoping for, it doesn't fall too much short of my expectations. I do have to grumble about the poor OpenGL implementation since it just isn't fun to play on my primary machine with the performance and graphic quality as shaky as it is. It doesn't quite live up to the caliber of the previous "classic" mech combat games, but it does have a solid graphics engine and a pretty stable multiplayer backbone.

Since the Tribes engine is used here, the multiplayer experience found in Tribes can also be found here. Many of the game options found in Tribes, like Capture the Flag, are also found in Starsiege. It does feature the relatively sound online multiplayer qualities seen in Tribes and should get some good support through and Dynamix's own servers. I'd expect to see this become a semi-popular multiplayer game.

Overall, I, for the most part, liked what I saw. If the glitches that really bothered me were fixed, I'd definitely enjoy it a bit more. It's not quite the quality of Mechwarrior, so if you're looking for the real meat and bones combat sim, I'd suggest waiting for Heavy Gear 2 or Mechwarrior 3. If you'd like something slightly less complex, that runs good on your Voodoo, has good multiplayer, and isn't much too difficult, Starsiege may just be worth a look.

Highs: good multiplayer, good cinematic storyline (though cliched)
Lows: poor OpenGL implementation, doesn't stack up to Mechwarrior


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