Look at the state of this country, and the government is to blame for it all! Now it's not like me to start a political rant at the beginning of a review, but I have my reasons for this outburst. How many times have you thought that you could run the country better than some of today's hapless politicians? Well, now you can get first-hand experience of running not only a country, but a whole planet courtesy of Maelstrom, Empire's brand new simulation.
PAS Systems have spent the last two years developing Maelstrom and have tried to achieve maximum realism not only in terms of the mechanics of running a government and fighting a foe, but also in terms of the interaction between people and factors in the game.
As in real life, Maelstrom features a galaxy that is never constant: its characters have moods, its technology is fallible, its leaders are whimsical and its masses unpredictable.
Maelstrom provides you with all the tools for interacting with an entire galaxy while controlling your military, secret intelligence network, research and mining operations.
You were once an officer of rank in the Syndicate forces. You were given a one-man's mission to investigate the planet Harmony for a possible take-over. Knowing the explosive composition of Harmony's surface, you were looking for a means of take-over other than a space-
During the flight, second thoughts entered your mind. Though you were not of the highest rank, your knowledge of the Syndicate's methods of colonisation turned you against them.
Harmony is a peaceful mining community and it bothered you that you were helping the Syndicate usurp the government, as this would've meant killing innocent miners and their families. When you reached Harmony, you detected and joined the people of the planet.
The people, pleased with this transition, appointed you to the position of Overlord. This puts you in charge of all operations. You must stop the Syndicate before they capture Harmony and change the galaxy in a ruthless dictatorship.
Syd Mead is the man who inspired Maelstrom. Syd is a world-
This is not Syd's first game though, because back in October 1993 he had a hand in producing CyberRace on the PC and Macintosh for Cyberdreams, the company behind the highly successful Dark Seed.
It's quite a hard task to find a game that you can compare Maelstrom to, as it contains a lot of different gaming elements. The closest game that I can think of is Virgin's Dune 2, which received 81 per cent back in September 1993 and was highly acclaimed by critics and punters alike.
The gameplay consisted of constructing new buildings, repairing any existing and damaged buildings, scouting out new areas of land, mining and destroying the opposing forces.
Dune 2 is one of those games that grows on you, if you stick at it. There's plenty of depth and challenge in Virgin's strategy game and it's quite well executed. Dune 2 was a good attempt at a difficult genre to succeed with.
If you're looking for an orchestral atmospheric sweeping soundtrack, layered with ear-enlightening sound effects, then don't buy Maelstrom because the sound is virtually non-existent. I'm not saying that Maelstrom particularly needs amazing sound, but a slight touch of music here and there would've gone a long way to improving the game and giving it that much need shot of atmosphere.
The only sound effects you'll hear are a few beeps and bangs and even they aren't exactly awe-
Maelstrom isn't the sort of game that requires state-of-
The only section where you get lots of visuals is when you're talking to various people through the Televid screens. This is used for contact with all the important people in the galaxy, including your cabinet on Harmony. In addition to talking to these people, you can also view their personal files for background information.
I suppose the only section of graphics worth mentioning is when you select the sector map or when an event occurs and you get a short animation. The sector map gives you a comprehensive representation of the entire galaxy, all presented inside a 3D grid.
It's handy for finding those planets, but once you've found them there isn't a lot more the map can do, so it seems that this is quite a superficial addition that really isn't necessary.
The animations are quite nice, but they're definitely not integral to the gameplay and seem to have been put in Maelstrom so that you forget about all the other "basic" graphics.45%
Maelstrom is an incredibly in-depth strategy game and one which seems to have more bad points than good. For instance, because it is so open-ended you don't actually have much idea of what you must do.
When things like battles and the event animations do start to happen it does get slightly more interesting, but these events won't hold your attention for long. The game is supposedly very realistic in terms of interaction between people and factors, but total realism isn't always a good thing in computer games.
If you are a fan of this genre then you will definitely need a hard drive unless you've got the patience of a saint. It all comes on six disks ad has loads of annoying swaps which constantly interrupt the game.
For a product that has taken two years to develop, I expected to get a lot more. Maelstrom is just so-in-depth that it actually makes the game not very very exciting, not very entertaining and not much fun.
If you're looking for a decent strategy game then take a look at the excellent K240 or Dune 2, but I would only recommend Maelstrom to the die-hard fan.