Colony Wars


since 3095 AD, the Earth Empire has spread throughout the universe like a sickness. No planet or lifeform is immune to this disease; indeed, vast tracts of the universe have already been rendered sterile by it’s progress.

The Empires power is formidable. Dedicated to sustaining life on Earth, it has colonised planet after planet with scant regard to the freedom of the local population or the well-being of the environment. Vicious methods are employed in the pursuit of  this relentless expansion; this has resulted in widespread famine, drought and death.

The League of Free Worlds exists to offer resistance and hope.

Colony Wars is a space combat simulator, though I would have probably classed it more of an arcade space shooter, for the PlayStation 1. It was released in 1997 by Psygnosis in the EU ans US. It would then be released in Japan in 1998 but by Artdink, who did the localization.

In Colony Wars you play the part of an unnamed pilot in the League of Free Worlds who fights against the Earth Empire and it’s Colonial Navy.

::Gameplay::
Because of the non-linear story of Colony Wars, the game features a massive array of missions to play which are split into acts. There are multiple ways you can win or lose an act. So even if you do badly in an act you are not guaranteed to lose. The same goes for if you perform admirably in an act you are not guaranteed to win the act. This is because in each act there are key battles that affect the story arc depending if they are won or lost.

For example if you are successful at the key battles in the Gallonigher System you will move onto the Draco System. Fail the key battles in Gallonigher you will move onto Diomedes System. This is not a game over scenario, unless you are defeated in any act of Diomedes, but another branch of the story. This, in turn, will alter which of the possible five (six if you count the secret) endings you will get.

In simple terms, because it gave me a migraine trying to type that lot, it gives the game a great degree of replay value.

Difficulty in the game could be described as variable. This is due to how the mission structure has been laid out. With some missions been a walk in the park, while others are ‘kick you in the back-side till you cry’ hard. Thus requiring you to get familiar with the various crafts and weapons available in the game. And, again, brings a great deal of replay value into the title.

::Controls::
Colony Wars offers one of the biggest selection of controller options available on any PlayStation 1 game. You had the choice of the original PlayStation controller (SCPH-1010), Analog Joysticks (SCPH-1110) and Dual Analog controller (SCPH-1180). You can even use the analog sticks on the DualShock (SCPH-1200) with this game. Though force feedback is obviously missing due to the game been released before the DualShock.

If I am honest I would say it’s best to go with analog controls. Digital controls don’t give the precise movements you need to properly gun down the enemy fighters. There also seems to be some noticeable input lag when using the d-pad compared to the analog controls, this was tested with the numerous controllers I own.

On the flipside primary and secondary weapons selections seems fluid and responsive. As does firing your weapons at the enemy. Throttle control is immediate and really responsive. Which is handy because there has been more than one occasion where I have had to slam into reverse thrust because I was about to hit another ship, carrier or station.

::Graphics::
I feel the graphics are the only real let down of this title. It’s not because they are bad but simply because they have not aged very well. Even after a year from its initial release they seemed tired and shabby compared to other titles.

While the particle and lighting effects look nice on the PS1 hardware the textures are a different matter. They look dull, grainy and boring. There are also times where textures seem to flicker. Though this issue could be more to do with the engine rendering the scene, rather than the textures themselves.

Still I can’t help but feel disappointed with the overall graphical appearance of Colony Wars.

::Sound::
Sound is thankfully an area that is not lacking in this game. With a musical score that wouldn’t go amiss in Hollywood films. The music is grand an epic in places and subtle in others. It helps to set the mood of the story. While the sound effects are will defined and each volley of fire sounds like it’s been fired from a real weapon. Rather than the generic pew pew sounds that you find in some.

The only real problem I have with the sounds comes from the narrators voice. It seems like they have tried to go for someone that sounds like James Earl Jones. But he sounds very distorted and loud. As if the actor they found could only do the voice if he did it quietly. So they have had to amplify it in order to make it audible. It kind of spoils the cut scenes slightly for me. Not enough to ruin them but just enough to spoil them slightly.

::Final Thoughts::
Its easy to dismiss Colony Wars as a Star Wars wannabe game, which most of my friends at school did. The story features a similar struggle between a ragtag, yet organised, band of freedom fighters against an evil empire. However as the Colony Wars progresses you soon realise the games story is epic in it’s own rights. With some nice twists and turns, especially in one mission where you fly an enemy fighter in a convoy which you find out is actually a funeral precession.

The five endings mean that game game has a nice amount of replay value. As trying to get the “good” ending is a real challenge because every mission in the last act is pretty much a key mission. Which means failure in any of the final act missions will results in the not so good ending. Which, oddly enough, is actually the cannon ending as Colony Wars: Vengeance carries on from this ending.

It’s just a shame that the graphics have not aged as well as the rest of the game. Because they really do let down an otherwise solid game. The gameplay has enough variety in difficulty, situations and ships as not to become stale and boring. The music and sounds are top notch stuff. And the controls, when used with analog sticks, are incredibly responsive and fluid.

So I give this game a 4 out 5 rating. Grab yourself a copy and try out the epic space opera.

Gameplay Video:

-:Notes:-
As a collector you can expect to find this game very easily and relatively cheap. I found my copy on eBay for only a couple of UK Pound, including delivery in an almost mint condition. Just be careful to make sure that the hinges on the PAL case aren’t cracked. As our cases are terrible and the hinges tend to shatter easily.

Also this is one of the first games reviews I have done to include video of gameplay and movies captured directly from my hardware. Something that I plan to do with future reviews. That way you get a true representation of how they actually play on their intended hardware.

Let me know what you think.

CritAnime

I grew up in the magical 8-bit era of computers and consoles. I saw the games crash and saw the recovery from it with the NES. I will always have my trusty C64 in my office and when the need arises I will pop a tape in the Datasette and play some classic games.

With a wealth of knowledge, especially on old-school rpg's, I hope to bring it to you. The viewers of Retroist.com

Latest posts by CritAnime (see all)

Subscribe to the Retroist Newsletter

* indicates required

13 thoughts on “Colony Wars

  1. I remember I got this on Christmas 1997 and played the heck out of it. I didn’t get very far as it was super hard! It pretty complex and impressive for a console game. Reminds me a lot of X-Wing and TIE Fighter PC combat simulators. I had flashbacks when I saw the gameplay video :)

  2. It is one of the best games I have played on the PlayStation 1. It was a really refreshing experience for a game to be so complex and playable at the time. But the graphics do spil it for me though. I do think that they just havent aged well at all.

  3. Kid Ice says:

    Colony Wars is still one of my all-time favorite video games, and IMO the space combat style gameplay has not been done better since. It’s weird that the graphics are seen as a weakness… at the time the game was released I thought it had the best graphics I’d ever seen

  4. The graphics for the time were good. However I don’t think that they have aged well. Though the more I think about it the more I feel this is an anyone issue as later games in the series seem to have better performing and looking graphics.

  5. @CritAnime Friend, I love seeing a new review from you! I’ve never had the pleasure of playing this title…which means after I get paid I need to check out my local comic shop and see if I can’t pick it up! :)

  6. LOVED these games on my PS1. I played all three for hours on end. I’d love to see an HD remake/sequel. Unfortunately the space shooter is pretty much a dead genre, eh?

  7. It’s not dead but it’s certainly not a healthy genre. The last good space combat game I played was X-3 for the PC. There was project Sylpheed for the XBOX 360. And it did kind of feel like I was playing Colony Wars but it suffered from horredous slowdown when combat got busy.

    A HD remake would be awesome. But I am sure Pygnosis got bought by Sony and became Studio Liverpool. So I am unsure we would ever see it resurface.

  8. And yes the sequal you played as what remains of the Earth Empire in SOL. Which is the bad ending in the first game as that shows the League sealing the Empire in SOL and cutting them off from the rest of Humanity.

  9. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Your gameplay capture set-up is terrific, Crit.

    I love seeing actual gameplay like this, and I’ve also never owned a PS1, just rented one for (quite) a while. And it’s funny you mention old-gen graphics cuz the first time I played Silent Hill, it was the best thing ever – in all respects.
    Still is a creepy, haunting game, but I’ll admit playing it again a few years afterwards, the graphics threw me for a loop.
    I’d been playing XBox for about a year and marvelling at its capabilities, but yearned for the scares of SH1.

    Anyway, watching gameplay video of Colony Wars, I can see what you mean. But I also think that immersing oneself in a single console for a bit might allow one to filter out lower rez graphics and take in the still-impressive gameplay.
    Did that with SH1 – and that rather awesome intro sure helped set the mood:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eds1ivwq1oc

    So now, yeah, I might also get myself a PS1 (cheap, nowadays) and grab this nifty and complex space combat sim.
    And maybe spring for the original Silent Hill, if I can break a few piggy banks (not-so-cheap that one).

    Great review, CritAnime!

  10. Great game. Funny because I owned the French version and found it had the best dubbing ever. It’s actually the narrator’s voice I remember the most fondly in this game (probably better than the original version for once, alas they didn’t keep the same actor for the sequel).

Leave a Reply