Hard Nova logo

Megatraveller promised to bring state-of-the-art space role-playing to the Amiga, but it couldn't deliver. Here we have a similar futuristic set-up: a weaving story of mercenaries and conspiracies, which you have to explore and survive. Unfortunately, like MegaTraveller, this fails to deliver.

The future has been messed up real bad. The colonisation of the outer planets was controlled by the free market. A market where hired killers were in short supply but in big demand. All manner of anarchy broke out as the furthest reaches of man's empire became hostile battle grounds, where only the profit margin of your paymaster mattered.

The good
You're a mercenary with a ship, a side-kick and no crew. Using nouse and debating stills you must first find recruits, then find a mission. The mission could be anything from smuggling to exploring, but if you're to pay the rent you'd better do something. Four different star systems await, as do adventures on foot, in your hovercar and in deep space.

As the active participant in the whole show, you're not given a single linear path to follow, but left to your own ends to discover the game's secrets. Controlling the main character - the captain of a smallish space fighter - you must decide whether shooting or asking questions comes first.

Played through windows with icons or keyboard shortcuts, you are shown and told about the worlds you encounter. Hard Nova comes in three flavours: space, land travel and footwork. All three areas will have to be utilised if you are to become one of outer space's less moral - but wealthier - folk.

All possible actions are controlled by the mouse and adhere to the same proximity principal. When something is visible in the display window it can be targeted, when targeted it and either shot, talked or moved to.

In space mode the aim is to negotiate your way to the Stargates - sort of hyper-space M25s - then to the system and planet of your choice. Once you're there, the hovercar comes into play, as it is used for all trans-planetary travel. Once you've reached the chosen location on a planet then you, and your boys/girls/alien things of indeterminate gender, can get busy and start some close-up investigative/destructive/illegal work. The three stages provide a zoom facility, with the scope to cover many different star systems in real detail. With communications and surprise attacks possible on every level the deliberate elements of plot are spiced up with random, and often deadly, encounters.

The ugly
The parallels between Hard Nova and MegaTraveller are not restricted to plot, they share some annoying graphical problems too. When you wander around a building or planet surface, all you ever see is a head's down view of tiny people on a map. While efficient, this is hardly atmospheric. Life gets a little easier when you shoot or talk to another person as a static picture appears. But these pics aren't that great and they lack animation, so they do little to redress the imagination deficit. Pastel shades dominate the colour scheme, but fit the genre badly, being far more reminiscent of a trip to Laura Ashley's than the outer spiral arm of the galaxy.

The display, constructed of clear and easily-learned icons should make the game a swift player, but once again the visual side of the game mars the show. The icons themselves are obvious, but the sprites that show your team - either racing around a planet in the hovercar or hurtling through deep space - are pitifully small and painfully hard to control. This robs the game of its action element because you have to move pedantically in order to avoid error.

The bad
Hard Nova the idea sounds fine, yomp across the stars seeking a few thrills and the occasional fire fight. Hard Nova the reality is sadly different. The graphics present the major problem, shattering illusions of far flung worlds rather than fostering them. If you find these problems of sprite size and control tolerable, then the many plots layered throughout the planets of the four systems would provide enough intrigue to keep you locked in. It would prove hard though to ignore the interface through which these strange new worlds can be explored.

Hard Nova provides the flexibility that MegaTraveller needed, but graphically it fares far worse. Here both atmosphere and action are impeded. Hard Nova could have been a hard-core space tale, if another graphic system has been used; but as it stands all the good design in the galaxy, all the plot twists in the universe, can't balance the scales.

Harte Männer, harte Nova!

Hard Nova logo

Dank der vielen PC-Umsetzungen kommt man jetzt auch am Amiga immer öfter in den "Genuß" von Games, die vor dem Zocken erstmal installiert werden müssen - selbst dann, wenn man sie nur von Disk spielen will. Aber hier lohnt sich die mühselige Prozedur wenigstens!

Hard Nova ist eines dieser Weltraum-erforschungs-Rollenspiele, bei denen mehr gequasselt als gekämpft wird. Dabei würde man hier dem Heldenpersonal auf den ersten Blick soviel Gesprächsbereitschaft gar nicht zutrauen: Man übernimmt nämlich den Part eines mit allen galaktischen Wassern gewaschenen Weltraumsöldners, der zusammen mit seiner vierköpfigen Crew für Ruhe und Ordnung in vier Sternensystemen sorgen soll.

Anfangs ist der Chef (es darf auch eine Chefin sein) nur mit seinem blauhäutigen Kumpel A'Kri Janr unterwegs, der Rest der Mannschaft sammelt man dann nach und nach ein. Es empfiehlt sich dringend, hierbei möglichst viele verschiedene Rassen zu berücksichtigen (Bremaren, Daratoren, Roboter, Menschen), denn deren Fähigkeiten im Umgang mit Bordkanone, Steuerknüppel, Computer usw. unterscheiden sich gewaltig voneinander.

Das Spiel erinnert in vielerlei Hinsicht an seinen inoffiziellen Vorgänger "Sentinel Worlds I", der bisher aber noch nicht vom PC umgesetzt wurde. Man ist abwechselnd im All und auf den zahlreichen Gestirnen unterwegs; der Weltraum (-kampf) und die Planetenoberflächen werden in einer 3D-Ansicht von schräg oben gezeigt, die Städte und Räume sieht man aus der Vogelperspektive.

Es gibt überall viel zu erforschen, man kann seine Leute mit dem Hovercraft auf Erkundungstour schicken und die Eingeborenen auf den diversen Planeten nach Informationen ausquetschen (notfalls hilft man mit dem Blaster nach...). Zwischendurch gönnt man sich eine Partie "Zero-G Roulette", ja, es ist immer was los mit der harten Nova!

Für die Gespräche stehen zwar nur vorgefertigte Antworten zur Verfügung, trotzdem kommen oft recht witzige Unterhaltungen zustande - natürlich nicht auf "Ultima"-Niveau, aber immerhin. Die Kampfsequenzen, bei denen man vorher die Taktik festlegen darf, sind ebenfalls nicht zu verachten: Gekämpft wird überall (im Weltraum, bei Hovercraft-Ausfl:Ugen, in den Städten) und mit allen möglichen Waffen (und Rüstungen) vom Stilett bis zur Laserkanone.

Auch wenn dem Game gelegentlich anzumerken ist, daß das Spielprinzip nicht mehr das Jüngste ist, so kommt der Spaß trotzdem nicht zu kurz. Die Story taugt was, es gibt viele nette Einzelheiten und Handlungsmöglichkeiten (Kommunikation mit anderen Raumschiffen beispielsweise), und die Präsentation ist ebenfalls nicht schlecht.

Die farbenfrohe Grafik und der Sound haben bei der Umsetzung zwar ein paar Federn lassen müssen, zum Ausgleich wurde die Benutzerführung (Maus, Tastatur) geringfügig verbessert. Kurz und gut, Hard Nova ist keine wirkliche Novität, aber ein hartes Stück Software! (mm)

Hard Nova logo

Employing a story line that would turn Rip van Winkle into an insomniac, Hard Nova follows the adventures of freelance mercenary Nova and his alien side-kick A'kri Janr. Whilst working for the Starkiller Mercenary Group, half of your elite team have been wiped out in a freak space accident when a stray asteroid hit your ship trapping two of the crew inside. With the vessel hull breached, the whole craft blew and only your quick thinking and instinct for survival got you and A'kri to the escape pod in time.

The game and its galaxy are divided into four Systems all of which are linked by three star gates, or teleportation holes in space to you, chum. Nova and A'kri are caught in the middle of an inter-world invasion in a free-for-all over the possession of mineral rich planets. With a new ship you scourge the stars replacing your crew and trying to stay alive.

Manifesting itself in the form of a strategy-cum-RPG, Hard Nova does little to get pulses racing. Combat and movement are in one of three forms: by foot exploring the bars, clubs and space stations, by hovership skimming over the planets surface and by space travel. Every form of transport involves a separate on-screen control system and an antagonistic foe - just point and click with the mouse.

All the worlds can be explored and interaction with most creatures is possible (if rather unrewarding!) and is vital to glean the information necessary to progress further.

The graphics are very simple and tiny undefined sprites do not make things easy to look at. A combination of keyboard and mouse control furthers your frustration as the game crawls along like a snail through glue. The foot patrol sections are particularly dull as Nova and A'kri adopted a two-man team giving you the option of changing personae between them. They wander around the flat mapped screen at a painstaking pace collecting info, money and weapons.

Unfortunately, the constant disk access makes the game almost unplayable on single drive machines and, although there's a lot to explore, few people will have the patience or willpower to carry on.