Published 23 April 1999 on the now-defunct gaming website 3DGaming.net.
It’s not very often that a game comes along that makes me oodle with joy to play over and over again. Out of the 30 something games I own, not many have enraptured me the way StarSiege has. The list is small. Very small. Baldur’s Gate and Jedi Knight are pretty much the only other two games on the list.
I won’t mince words: Starsiege owns. It’s not quite MechWarrior 2 or 3, but it’s not quite a first person shooter either. And having been a big fan of MechWarrior 2, this surprises me. Since I didn’t really like Starsiege’s predecessors Earthsiege 1 and 2, I thought Starsiege would clone the MechWarrior games, and much to my surprise, Sierra has opted to not do such a thing and instead created what feels like the first robot simulation fps game. And it’s a helluva lot more fun to play than Dakota’s toaster.
It’s hercs. They have big guns. They shoot people. They’re very big and heavy. And they make a lot of noise. Come on, this is an age old idea that’s been around since before you were born. So anyone who says this game is a brilliant star in the sky and is revolutionary, come over here so I can give you a smack down on the way this world turns, cause buddy, you got it all wrong. Remember: the whole reason it’s fun is cause we’re killing one another with really big toys. Boys with toys, that’s what makes this world a better place. And hercs are always fun. Even when you name is ‘Activision without an awesome license.’
MercWarrior 2 is still the king. This is a step down but with better graphics. No more disappearing mountains and flames. Now they stay put. Gourad shading is officially a thing of the past. So, no, along with the ‘two armies at war who band together to fight a common enemy’ crap that we’ve seen in a thousand and one different movies, there’s about as much originality in this as there is in sex; there is none.
Teddy kicks some dusty
Cybrids are all rusty
All Fall Down!
Let’s get this right out: it’s so friggin addictive. Not like a craving for chocolate at 2 in the morning type thing, I mean like ‘give it to me give it to meeee!’ type addictive. The type of addictive where the CD doesn’t leave your CD-ROM drive type thing. I cannot stress enough how much this game has me in its grasp. It’s quite amazing. I always believed that gameplay can rise above anything. Shitty graphics, bad sound, piss poor multiplayer. Anything. But gameplay is a combo of everything working in perfect syncopation. And Starsiege does just that.
There’s nothing exceptionally new and amazing about Starsiege, since we’ve seen this all before. The story is practically ripped directly from a certain George Lucas movie, with a slight twist of course, and the mechs were renamed to HERCS to avoid confusion with Hercules I suppose, and they’re small as hell either way, but still, it’s pretty damn fun, like good cheese.
Have you ever played a game where you could never get past a certain area because of the difficulty of the mission? Yeah, bring back those memories you have of Commandos, because they’ll come into play here. The keywords here are porn and patience, and you to have these both in this game. Well, not really, but some missions are so frustrating that the porn helps to get over it. Really.
Let’s get onto the hercs. There’s an assload of them here. Each one has different pros and cons.
Here’s a list to make you happy.
Apocalypse: Used by both the empire and rebels. This is the heavy attacker d00d. Very fun for offensive missions.
Knight Apocalypse: 10% faster than the Apocalypse. Like a Voodoo 3 3000 to 3500. Except more fun.
Basilisk: For empire use only. Offensive attacker. Not quit as powerful as the Apocalypse.
Knight’s Basilisk: Same as above but with the capacity to store a larger shield generator.
Emancipator: For missions where stealth is a plus, use this bad boy. He’s not very strong, but like the scout in TFC, he’s the one you want capturing the flag.
Gorgon: Slow but powerful. Really powerful. Avoid getting into its sights at all costs.
Minotaur: This is the midway vehicle. Something to use if you prefer a good ‘overall’ vehicle.
Knight’s Minotaur: Same as above but with a slightly faster top speed and acceleration.
Olympian: Light but slow. 6 weapon mounts. I’ll see you online. I’ll be in this. And you’ll be dead. This herc is awesome. There is simply no other way to put it.
Talon: A supped up version of the emancipator. Slightly more powerful, but slightly slower. Never let this thing get into a combat situation, otherwise it’ll be more dead than David Caruso’s film career.
Knight’s Talon: Same as above with a faster top speed and improved acceleration.
Avenger: John Deere would love this thing. It’s a tractor-trailer from hell. The front of the thing even says ‘Danger’. Unfortunately the armor on this thing sucks, and it can’t carry very powerful weapons.
Disruptor: It’s slow. But I will say this much. Stay the hell away from its cannon.
Knight’s Disruptor: A slightly faster version of the Disruptor.
Dreadlock: Here’s the gist of this herc to get you in the know: take a bulldozer, give it armor, weapons, and make it ram opponents. Another first from John Deere. The Dreadlock is extremely useful for ramming opponents and then firing at them at close range.
Harabec’s Predator: Awesome acceleration mixed with medium powered weapons and a small sized herc make for an awesome vehicle of destruction.
Myrmidon: Stay the hell away from this thing. It can take such a beating that all the p1mp daddies of the world would be amazed. Anyone who has the balls to take on this thing better hope it misses when it fires; otherwise, it’ll be having flambé ala herc for dinner. Skapow.
Knight’s Myrmidon: Same thing as above but with a slightly faster top speed.
Paladin: The midget hercs. I hate these guys. These are the guys who are outfitted for defense, not offense. It’s fairly fast and can use fairly powerful weapons. Another must have for the prepubescent boy in you.
Knight’s Paladin: Isn’t this becoming amazingly predictable? Despite that, this one moves a bit faster too.
Now for the Cybrids:
Adjudicator: This thing looks like Godzilla. No really, it does. This is sort of a mid range herc.
Platinum Guard Adjucator: Same as above but with a better reactor and faster top speed.
Executioner: Slow and deadly. Like your mother in law.
Platinum Guard Executioner: You know, I really don’t know why the Cybrids love to give their hercs these huge drawn out names. And much to my surprise (insert neat Batman action word of choice) the platinum version comes with a faster top speed and acceleration.
Goad: Remember that cool bike that Ben rode in Full Throttle? You do? Well guess what the Goad looks like? Neat huh? This Cyrbrid herc can be banged like a door and can only mount two weapons. This is the Cybrids’ version of a reconnaissance vehicle, because, after all, if it looks like a motorcycle, it’s gotta move like one too.
Shepherd: Buy one now and it comes with a free sheep. This bad boy is the midway herc of the Cybrids and is the equal of the humans’ Minotaur.
Seeker: I can’t describe this mec, er, herc (damn, always misspelling that) any better than the manual did: Shoot and Scoot. Yah, it’s corny as hell, but that’s essentially what this mec, er herc, is made for.
Bolo: Fast, great weapons, but the shielding isn’t all that swanky, so get yer buttocks in an out like a quickie in your dads car. Just don’t tell your dad.
Recluse: A more supped up version of the Bolo, the recluse lays a lot of mines and makes missions more difficult. Prepare to be nudered.
I feel it is my duty to mention the manuals. Whoever managed the product, have a cookie, because I love you. The manuals are gorgeous. And to make the game even cooler, there are two of them, like the hot twins next door. One is entitled: Starsiege Compendium: History of the Conflict and is at least 100 pages and contains info on the history of the imperials, rebels, and cybrids. Included in it is astounding artwork of the main characters of the conflict, the vehicles, the many different worlds, production art, paintings, and quotes.
This is a prime example of how to immerse the player in the world of the game. To those who don’t want to go out and purchase EarthSiege 1 and 2, the compendium will fill you in. It’s that good. The second book that comes with Starsiege is the pilot guide, which teaches you how to drink and drive in a herc. And how to demolish an entire city in the span of five minutes. Explained are also the commands and other neat stuff that comes jam-packed with every bite. What a lucky charm.
One Laser, Two Laser, Red Laser, Blue Laser
When Toaster smokes our Mom all smelly
And stomps our Dad to bloody jelly
Save one, Save Two, Save Red, Save Blue
For Me, For You.
The graphics in Starsiege are nothing to ramble on about for pages, but they are decent. If you’ve played Tribes, then you’ve seen these graphics before. Except now the OpenGL ships with the game and works right. How is that possible? Someone must have slept with the right person at Dynamix I guess. The detail in the hercs are about as amazing as a pop tart.
Most of the time you can see polygons breaking apart, especially in the cybrids, who look like a collection of polygons stuck together with Elmers superglue. When I moved up close to a herc I noticed that they were detailed, but not the way I expected. It looks like someone took the skeleton of a herc and painted all over it in browns and greens and reds. Kinda like that mig jet toy set you had back in highschool that you blew to kindom come when you set the garage on fire.
Of course, no one knows for sure how it started…
The resolution options are as about as exciting as Dee from ‘What’s Happening,’ and just as hip. If you synch the refresh rate to you your monitor, you can run the game at the same resolution as your desktop. Why this is so necessary I don’t know. Apparently it’s better to see little hercs than big hercs. That’s like saying a small twinky is better than a big twinky. What?
As for the world outside the hercs, well, it’s gosh dang pretty to look at, but the hercs don’t interact with it too much. Best example. When in the training missions, which by the way are completely useless, I noticed that it was snowing. And not a single snowflake slid off the canopy glass. Not a single one.
I ask now that you turn your little gaming wheel back about two years ago to when a game known as Need for Speed 2 SE came out. It supported Glide and in each level some kind of neat little effect would splash itself upon the windshield, rain, snow, even insects! And this was way back when people were still buying 3dfx cards!
And yet two years later this technology manages to vanish? A technology that would suck down maybe 2 frames from the game. Golly gee skipper, what do you think? I think someone isn’t on the right boat Gilligan. And apparently, everyone in the Starsiege universe is an expert tumbler. Every time I show a herc the happy end of my turret and unmake them, they tumble forwards and break apart at the nads.
We miss you Mark Hamill! You know, back in the dark ages of computer games, when my 386 was the best out there, a man known as Chris Roberts (who later did the Wing Commander Movie that apparently no one saw) created the FMV game, and the cinematics were quite good. Then recently, someone decided that ingame engine cinematics were better.
Lemme tell you something, when a person’s lips move but the rest of their face does not, that is scary. Especially when the lips are huge. Yah. Watch the movies in Starsiege, and watch the horror. If you can tolerate the reverb effect of wonder, the movies in the game basically outline the storyline of the game with rendered cinematics meshed with ingame sequences.
Yah. Spiftastic. Except the audio is buggier than a 12 year old can of coke. In all respects, the opening is pretty fun to watch with all the explosions.
Little old Peter
Missing his liter
While Herky plays in the red
Down came the glitches
And burned us in ditches
And we slept after eating our dead.
After having played the MechWarrior 3 demo enough times to send someone into a spiraling ditch of insanity, I have come to the conclusion that 3D sound is the way of the future. In the MechWarrior 3 demo, when I walk on dirt, the sound of my feet hitting the ground sound muffled. When I walk on pavement the noise that emerges sounds heavy and loud.
This is what we here at 3DGN call ‘3D sound.’ And when my herc farts a grenade, you’ll hear it coming. Now, I wish I could say I was talking about Starsiege, because I never once felt that same feeling, that realization of two disctinct sounds emerging from my soundcard and making me feel as if the environment is more real. Not once.
Onto the soundtrack. Have you ever had a dream that was so real you couldn’t tell the difference between the dream world, and the real world? Have you played MechWarrior 2? Then prepare to meet its clone. Except this time it isn’t sheep we’re cloning (unfortunately)… yes, I am talking about CD audio. It’s really good. It has to be; it sounds too much like MechWarrior 2 to not be good.
In fact, I frag Rob every day to this music. What about the non-CD audio sound? It’s like a twisted version of the Sound of Music. It’s bad bad bad. To your left is a3d support, to your right we have Direct Sound 3D, and at your feet groveling like a sniveling bastard child of Santa Claus is Direct Sound (waitasec, how does that at all make sense?) as for EAX, I didn’t see any. Sorry guys. Either way, it’s nothing special.
I feel as if though I should mention the sound in the movies because I’m special. Now, I’m on an MX300, and the opening video reverberates sound like bad whiskey. Essentially, I’ve heard better. Lots better. I have to give credit to the nameless one who speaks at the beginning. This is one F$&*ked up kid! He talks about death and violence, and he’s about 5 years old! He should be promoted to highschool! At least there he’ll have something to do.
The sound in the opening video sounds like someone forgot to fix a toilet. Go ahead and have a peek, there’s this amazing reverb sound, kinda like when you used to take straws into the bathtub with you as a kid.
Empire, Shadows and Smoke, Babylon
We are the light, We are the flame
We are the kingdom come, burn the shadows away
Ahh, how I love this thing. There’s just so much you can do, so many little things to click that make your computer love you. How wonderous. The interface is so easy to get used to that unless you happen to have an intelligence quotient below 10 you’ll love the interface.
The radar is easy to get used to since everything is nicely colorcoded, and the text shows up at the top of the screen to block out the awful voice acting, and the 2D stuff allows you to not only fudge in a lot of heavy artillery into your herc but also choose pilots and read about them (what a concept) and allows you to visit the web site of the rebels and get news feeds and watch recorded battles you’ve had.
Can we say ‘Grotto of Love’? I love the interface almost as much as I love banana and strawberry yogurt.
There is no generic health meter or numerical value. Instead, there is a graphical representation of how much damage is taken. For you and the enemy. Yellow is surviving, red is ‘Hello! Taking way too much damage’, and if you suddenly find no herc in your box on the top left hand corner, well, guess who’ll be breathing through a straw for the next couple of years. It certainly won’t be the enemy.
And for those of you who aren’t fighter pilots and use non-inverted mice, there’s something wrong with you, which is why you’ll appreciate Dynamix’s having prepackaged Starsiege with several different key bindings for the fighter pilot in you. Although I would like to have the option to tweak the graphics more (when you’re on a 400 mhz cpu you crank up everything as much as you possibly can) similar to the way Unreal allowed me to decide whether I wanted to have it regular or extra strength.
I spent years watching my brother, trying to see a way to beat him
– Cannon on Harabec, 2829
File this one under good to go. Someone send Dynamix some flowers. This is such a nice setup that I have to make my love for them be known. To have an ingame broswer for games rocks. Which is why Half-Life is so damn cool. And this is why Tribes and now Starsiege 0wn. Go into options, set up what you want, name, etc, and then go find a game, and kick some toaster ass.
For those of you who made customized hercs, well… what can I say… someone’s not too bright. There’s a wonderful little bug (note the cyanide laced sarcasm) that prevents those of us who know how to make our hercs the ultimate machines of destruction and death from using them online. But outside of that, multiplayer is extremely fun. I actually found this more enjoyable than most other games such as Quake II, because you have such a vast amount of time to plan out your actions ahead of time and think about what is the best option of attack.
And as for you CTF junkies out there: To quote the 80’s: it’s rad. And when you’re in a big herc, and you happen to be used to Quake II style lag, well, grab a leg and begin humping, because the lag here is cool! If you’re stacked with big guns that go boom, and you happen to be around another herc, when the lag hits, (and you’ll know it due to the fiber optics connection wire image, which, well, for me, I know what that is, but for the dialup population, hey, one day you’ll know freedom) fire in a circular pattern all around your screen. There’s a very good chance that when the lag ends, he won’t be too happy anymore.
If head cheese had a sense of humor it would play this game. It’s that good. Like a good twinky. Let’s get something clear though. It’s not a sim, it’s really not. Otherwise my keyboard would be filing charges of abuse against me. I’ve always felt that what makes a simulation a simulation is that sims have about 40 gillion keys that need to be pressed just to move forwards. But in Starsiege I just need to press the forward key. Which is why I don’t really consider this a sim, despite what Sierra and Dynamix want us to believe.
Infact, I would say it feels more like a shooter, since you can move your mouse around and fire with it and can be a fighter pilot like me and invert the mouse. With Starsiege, it’s as if though someone let a deathmatcher (of Half-Life of course) wreak havoc with a simulation. It just didn’t feel like a real simulation of me sitting in a herc and killing other hercs. There are many reasons why I feel this way about Starsiege. Perhaps because there wasn’t enough focus on sound.
Perhaps because most hercs are about 3-4 stories tall, and the hercs in Starsiege look like midgets out of Time Bandits. Perhaps it’s because the graphics weren’t as good as they could have been. I don’t know. But the gameplay is the key factor here. It saves the day. Without it this game would be about as fun as Sin would be on the Doom engine (well, at least then my videocard wouldn’t burp 10 million times every time I load it up), but the gameplay saves the day here. Without it there is nothing.
I’ve always believed that gameplay can rise above everything else. If the sound sucked, and the graphics were about as magnificent as mud, and the gameplay was awesome, I’d still play it. It’s hard to explain what makes it so damn cool. Maybe it’s the hamsters, maybe it’s because I’m sick and tired of Quake II style corridor shooters, who knows, but all I know is, I had a blast reviewing this game, despite the flaws that make me want to poke Dynamix over and over again with a cattleprod. So what do I say? Despite the nagging flaws this game is very friggin fun! Which in my book is all that counts.
Quick Peek: It’s the first of a new breed of herc sims, this time in the Earthsiege universe.
Pros: Killer gameplay, decent graphics, stable OpenGL and Glide support, awesome multiplayer.
Cons: The 3D sound bites. The graphics could be a helluva lot better.
Value: It’s fun. The gameplay is rock solid, and it’s a nice change of pace.
End of the Line
System Reqs: Pentium 166, 32MB RAM
API’s Supported: OpenGL, Glide, Software
Hype Level: 7/10
Overall Grade: B
Recommendation: If you want to take a break from the recent flood of generic shooters, make your way over to Starsiege. You won’t be blown away, but you will have a good time.