IHAVE been late for appointments before, but four years is stretching it a little. Still, this is roughly the time that has expired since the president of Eris sent out a call for help, before you crash landed on Targ. Four years after the events of Mercenary and the Second City, you are back on course to Eris, answering the plea for help from the doomed planet. Of course you probably finished Mercenary a long time ago, and have to spend the rest of the time waiting in hyperspace for Paul Woakes to finish Damocles, the solid 3D polygon successor to Mercenary.
And now he has, but was it worth the wait, and is the game worth all those 90 per cent plus reviews that hordes of other magazines give to an unfinished game? Read on and see.
Travelling to Eris reaveals the same dull control panel used all those years agom, which is fine for continuity's sake, but scores nil points for style. Sadly, the very same squeaky sound effects have also been lovingly dusted off and represented for your dismay.
Never mind, once you land on Eris things start to look up, and not just at the stars. Landing at the spaceport reveals a solitary structure with a car outside. Your key is inside the building, along with directions to the president's apartment block.
A nice drive follows as you navigate down, a road towards the apartments and your long-delayed appointment. You can, of course, simply not bother going but head off in any direction you like, admiring the flat and barren landscape.
Obviously there were not any overcrowding problems on Eris because even the cities consist of great empty tracts rather than cosy suburbia or densely-packed and decaying innter city. This rather detracts from the game, giving it a lifeless and empty feeling. Of course there are not any citizens around either because they have all been evacuated or fled.
Why? You find that out when you converse with the president's voice in her office. The comet Damocles is heading this way, and in only three hours will impact the planet, utterly destroying it - well, what do you expect when you name a planet after the goddess of discord?
A timer counting down adds to the tension, but the fact that the spaceship you are given by the president is capable of interplanetary flight, making escape at any time, possibly tends to reduce it considerably. What you are doing is rescuing an empty planet from destruction. The president offers you a bagful of cash, and sends you off to a professor's lab, as he was working on a solution before you arrived. Apparantly, he had found one, and then disappeared without trace. One fast flight over pancake land alter, and you can investigate further, as clues are proferred, along with the method of destroying the comet. You want bombs and explosives, and are set on a trail to follow.
This trail will lead you through a mere 20 per cent of the gameworld, so there is plenty more to explore. It is not pointless exploration either, as there are apparently numerous ways in which to rescue Eris if you should chance to find them or think of alternatives. Either way, finding the teleports that allow you to travel from planet to planet without time-consuming spaceflight is essential.
While the flight aspects of the game are undeniably very fast, they are so because of the simplistic nature of the planet. No ther moving objects (save planets), flat and empty landscapes, and buildings which appear half sized rather than growing from a small blur.
Inside the various buildings it is Freescape time, with exactly the same lumbering movement, and exactly the same blank painted walls. This is allied to a message and document reading interface which can only be described as tedious.
So four years on, has it been worth the wait? Does Damocles deserve the rave notices it has attracted? Is it worth shelling out £24.95 for?
Well, if you like Freescape-style games, with an unfolding plot, a chance to try out alternatives that are not signposted but may work, and some very fast flying thrown in just to keep things moving, then yes it is worth buying.
I do not think Damocles is worth the 90 per cent scores though. I am not impressed with a product that has taken nigh on four years to complete, and with its barren and empty atmosphere, not interested enough to play it in my spare time either.