A Dark Day for My Computer...
Dark Colony is the latest in a string of real-time strategy games to hit the market. In the near future, humans will colonize Mars in order to extract a precious gas called Petra-7. The problem is, a group of refugee Roswell-type aliens has also laid claim to Mars and are not happy about the filthy humans trying to pollute their atmosphere with oxygen. What's more, 60 million years or so ago, Mars was inhabited by an extremely advanced race which left some ruins and artifacts around. Finally, Mars is populated by a number of indigenous creatures which roam around aimlessly. And we thought all Mars had was maybe some microbes!
Dark Colony's game play is much like other's of its genre. Players build a base, build a unit to collect the 'money', and build fighting units for attack and defense. Base construction is fairly limited in Dark Colony. Only four buildings may be constructed, and 2 of those may later be upgraded. All base construction is centered around a concrete spire, which severely limits design. Once the four buildings have been constructed and the two upgraded, that's it. You are also limited to the one concrete spire, which means that if you are on a large map, it can take ages for a new unit to get to the front line.
The unit mix is about average. Standard infantry, heavy assault and artillery units are available. A disappointment is that each side has only one air unit, which is pretty weak. I would expect that in the future, the air war would be just as important as it is today, especially on a planet with weaker gravity such as Mars. I was disappointed to see that the two sides in this game, Humans and Grays, are extremely similar. The only differences between the two sides are the unit pictures and the fact that Humans fight better in the day while Grays fight better at night.
The artifacts left behind by the ancient race that once inhabited Mars are a nice touch. It helps to compensate for the sameness of the two forces. The graphics are also nicely done. I especially enjoyed the nighttime effect with colors becoming faded gray and the units viewing radius decreasing.
The computer's AI plays a very aggressive game, which is a welcome change from the type of AI which just sits there fortifying until you come and attack. The player's own units are actually quite stupid. If you have a group of units standing on sentry, and a group of enemy attack, perhaps half of your forces will engage the enemy while the rest just stand there and do nothing to help. You must make sure all nearby forces help when you are under attack, otherwise your troops will just stand around while the soldiers just next to them fight the attackers.
Perhaps I'm griping, but the amount of headache a documentation error can cause is like a bad joke. No one laughs and no one appreciates the time that was wasted on it. The box of Dark Colony spells out its system requirements pretty plainly and accurately. In fact, I think it is without error except for one small point, the mouse. The Dark Colony documentation says Logitech users must have driver version 6.42 or higher. Don't believe it! You must have version 7.2 to run this game. I didn't know this and so through an odd set of circumstances, my DirectX was messed up and it took 4 hours to fix it. Bottom line, get a new mouse driver.
As real-time strategy games go, Dark Colony is a little below average. If it had come out 2 years ago, before Warcraft and Command & Conquer, it would have been something special. Unfortunately, it fails to distinguish itself from the other games of its type already out there. It really has little to recommend it when compared to the other real-time strategy games out there except for its aggressive AI.