Oh Wow! It Moves Funny!
Wing Commander, Descent
Freespace, X-Wing, and finally Independence
War. That’s the order, from most ‘arcade’ to most ‘realistic.’ On what factual
basis is that order derived? Except for the space shuttle, we have no bloody
idea how any sci-fi device should behave in zero-g. In fact, there is no real
difference in realism between Independence War and Wing Commander
other than the currently known number of physical laws they obey. Sure, I-War
has craft that obey the laws of inertia, among other things, but the ships in
Wing Commander might just as well have omni-directional surface propulsion
jets which make them behave like atmosphere fighters. [You geek, Johnny.
~Ed] It’s possible ain’t it? I mean, come on — harder to control doesn’t
always mean ‘realistic’ in a contrived physical setting.
I’ve gotten that out of the way, here we have a pretty darn good game. Independence
War Deluxe is the re-release and augmentation of a space flight combat game.
You’re in command of a corvette in an interstellar battle for either freedom or
unity. In the future, some Earth colonies want to secede. Earth thinks everone
should be in one happy empire. There is a war, an Independence War. It ain’t much
of a plot, but plot isn’t really the focus of this space game, unlike all the
other games mentioned earlier. Nope, the focus of I-War Deluxe lies squarely
on the actual gameplay, especially the flight mechanics.
Truly ‘realistic’ or not, I-War has you piloting a craft which actually
succumbs to most of the known limitations of space-flight, most noticably inertia
(F = ma). As Newton put it, a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted
upon by another force. Stop your engines and you still fly forward. Turn to the
left while thrusting, and you strafe that way for a while before your actual heading
matches the nose of your craft.
Aside from the flight dynamics, I-War also maintains a simulation feel
by giving you a detailed level of systems control over your craft and plenty
of different viewing options, much like Starfleet Academy.
In fact, I-War Deluxe is great medicine for all of those who were disappointed
with the arcade nature of Starfleet Academy and eagerly await the more
realistic Klingon Academy.
between planets, engaging super-fast drives and firing a variety of missiles and
guns at your enemies, you are treated to a fairly mixed graphical bag. The geometry
and texturing is adequate, although not exceptional. The space backgrounds are
pretty darn good-lookin’. Sadly, several graphical problems really mar the package.
For starters, I-War, in an obvious attempt to seem less arcade, uses vector
lines for many of the graphics, such as the space debris streaking past your cockpit
or the tail trajectory vectors that come out the back of all craft. The use of
such garish, grid-based visuals really removes the eye-candy appeal. That the
graphics are slow, and the fact that only Software and Glide (3DFX) are supported
(no Direct 3D) doesn’t help either.
As far as the rest of the production values, the sound, music, and voice acting
are all adequate, although not in any way exceptional.
With lackluster visceral appeal, I-War has to rely on the gameplay
mechanics to keep players interested, and fortunately, there is really a lot
here. As far as gameplay goes, I-War is to Wing Commander what
Rainbow Six is to Quake.
For those of you out there who like that sort of complexity and control (I.E.
Falcon 4.0 fans) I-War fills a large
void in the space combat genre. For the rest of you, it might be too much to
Beyond all that though, this is a second release ‘Deluxe’ edition. If you
already have the first release, the included extra ‘Defiance’ campaign, played
from the side of the rebels, is probably not worth the cover price. If you’ve
never played I-War and what I’ve described sounds like your cup of tea,
then for sure, it’s worth it to purchase I-War Deluxe. Unless you really
want to wait for Klingon Academy, go ahead and delve into I-War Deluxe.
If you crave that feeling of ‘real’ space, you’ll probably be captivated for weeks.