Kill the Voraptoid Guano Bastards!
I love a good space opera. There's something about that sense of
adventure, of facing the unknown, of fighting in a glorious battle that sets
the stage for a great story. A recurring theme of the space
opera is that of humanity engaged in a desperate struggle against
the evil aliens. Forced Alliance chooses to draw upon
this common story to serve as the backdrop for its combat. This
time, it's the evil Voraptoids threatening peace and harmony in
the universe. Fortunately, the plot manages to develop beyond
the basic 'save the human race' deal. The gimmick in Forced
Alliance is that the player has the ability to influence the
plot as the game goes on; which allows the game to become a
little more interesting.
Choose your own adventure!
The plot of Forced Alliance
does start out in a very unoriginal way. You are a cadet in the Earth navy and
are in training at a military base. There is also (big surprise) an abusive drill
sergeant to whip you into shape. Maybe the game designers figured that this game
would seem out of place if the sergeant didn't tell you what a sorry excuse for
a pilot you are (or maybe you really do suck).
After you graduate from the academy, you begin the regular
missions. Eventually, you rise through the ranks, which
is where Forced Alliance begins to get interesting.
Unlike most flight sims, where rank is little more than a word
next to your score, rank in Forced Alliance means power.
From time to time, you will be presented with decisions which
alter the plot line. The higher your rank, the more frequent and
more important these decisions become. I found this system to be
something of a relief from the linear or unordered missions many
games of this genre utilize.
In need of a tune-up...
The ultimate focus of a space
combat sim is, of course, combat. It is in this area that Forced Alliance
comes up way short. In combat, the graphics looked fairly dated for an action
game. Most objects in space looked chunky and fairly ugly, even on the highest
detail setting. Unfortunately, nothing is Gouraud shaded, which makes spacecraft
look like boxes with unrealistic lighting.
It was also fairly difficult to control the ship properly, both with
a joystick and with the keyboard. Despite four different options
for joystick sensitivity, I found it very difficult to make small
changes in direction. These control problems, along with the poor graphics, made me feel like
I was flying a broken down bus.
Once back aboard the station, you may notice other problems. The first problem is the color depth. In a number of the scenes, the graphics are quite noticeably dithered, which
makes things look blotchy, instead of sleek and high tech. Another problem is the interaction with other characters.
While the dialog helps make the game more complete, the acting leaves much to be desired. Instead of using actual video, the game's designers opted to go
with computer animated people. Unfortunately, none of the characters' lips match the words
of the bad actors doing the voice-overs. Unless you're a big fan of martial arts movies, this might drive you a little buggy after awhile.
All in all, I'd have to say that Forced Alliance is a mixed bag. If
you are very serious about graphic quality, you will want to stay away from
this one. Advanced space sim players will be annoyed by the jerky controls and
limited selection of ships. On the other hand, the branching plot line of Forced
Alliance makes it more interesting to those who value story over action.
Although Forced Alliance does not have multiplayer, the branching missions
help to increase its replay value. If you demand the highest in graphics and
flight control, you might want to consider either X-Wing
vs. TIE Fighter or Privateer
2 instead. But if the plot and ability to influence it is important to you,
then you will probably like Forced Alliance.